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Open Arts Objects

The primary sources for Art History include tactile material objects: paintings, sculptures, drawings, ceramics, porcelain, textiles etc. This project from the Open University explores a series of vivid objects from ancient times to the present, showing how each is not merely a seductive or beautiful artwork or artefact, but can also reveal fascinating histories and connections. In short videos on selected objects, members of the department showcase their innovative research to the public; the series sheds light on some of the unsolved mysteries of material objects, exploring what is left out of standard art history textbooks. It also teaches viewers how to look closely—a critical tool for Art History. The objects explored include paintings, sculpture, prints, ceramics, architecture and design, film and video, and installation and performance art.

Watch this short film outlining the Open Arts Objects project

This project is part of the current strategy within the OU to develop a series of public facing initiatives that can help inspire wider and diverse constituencies to enjoy and understand art works and visual culture. We are producing a parallel and linked video project for the OU platform OpenLearn, Travelling Objects which explores a series of objects that have travelled and/or have been used across cultures, borders and geographies, which will be connected to the new BBC series Civilisations. Travelling Objects and Civilisations go live in 2017.

Open Arts Objects is working closely with teachers and communities across the UK to provide teaching support material that can be widely used in schools and community groups. If you are interested in receiving materials to trial at A-level, or would like to join our working group, please contact us at openartsobjects@open.ac.uk. If you have been using our films and support materials in your teaching, we would appreciate you answering a very short survey (6 questions, approx. 5 minutes).

Partake in our Facebook group and check us out on Instagram and twitter (where every Monday when we post an interesting object/work of art at the start of every week for #materialmondays).

Dr Leah Clark reveals the complexities of a small devotional diptych made for the collections of Eleonora d’Aragona, the Duchess of Ferrara.

Professor Elizabeth McKellar explores the central government building in New Delhi built as the Viceroy’s House, which combined both Indian and European architectural traditions.

Dr Judith Jammers discusses how Delacroix combined political realism and Romantic fervour to create what has become the single most familiar image of Revolution.

Dr Renate Dohmen explores the historical contexts and technical marvel of an extraordinary and infamous musical automaton commissioned by Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore in India.

Dr Kim Woods discusses a fascinating brass sculpture from the historic African kingdom of Benin.

Dr Emma Barker explores Caravaggio’s unusual and innovative approach to depicting a story from the Bible.

Dr Leah Clark explains the role of devotional images for Renaissance viewers by exploring a well-known work by Bellini.

Dr Warren Carter discusses a self-portrait by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in which she depicts herself straddling the border between Mexico and the United States.

Dr Xavier Bray discusses two portraits of Prince Baltasar Carlos of Spain.

Dr Veronica Davies examines a catalogue produced for an exhibition of war artists' work at the National Gallery in 1942.