Course 1: Dr Cecily Hennessy

Nike to Angel: The Inception of Early Christian Art


Christian imagery is central to our knowledge and experience of western art during the past two millennia.  This course explores the origins and influences of that imagery as it appears in wall paintings and monumental mosaics, in ivories, metalwork and manuscripts. In order to gain a perspective on its roots and influences, we look at key images and symbols from the pre-Christian world. We analyse their meanings and significance and discuss how they gained new interpretations when borrowed and adapted for fundamental aspects of Christian iconography. We also examine the role of art in religious belief and practice, focusing on key sites, such as Dura Europas in modern Syria and fascinating late antique cities, such as Ravenna, Rome and Constantinople as well as questioning major visual concepts such as the representation of Christ and of the Virgin. It is planned that visits include a special handling session at the British Museum.



Course 2: Dr Janet Robson

The Art of the Friars in Early Renaissance Italy (c.1250-1470)


The new mendicant orders of Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinian Hermits and Carmelites (otherwise known as the Friars) were the leading patrons for religious art in early Renaissance Italy, where their monumental churches dominated the city skylines. With their new saints and their engagement with the wealthy urban elite of bankers and merchants, the Friars brought major changes in religious devotion and spirituality. This, combined with the spirit of competition between the different orders, generated new kinds of art works and a rapid development in the iconography and style of altarpieces, fresco cycles and tombs. The Friars commissioned all the leading artists of the day: we will study frescoes and panel paintings in Assisi, Florence and Siena, including works by Giotto, Duccio, Simone Martini and the Lorenzetti; Fra Angelico’s frescoes in San Marco, Florence; Piero della Francesca’s Legend of the True Cross fresco cycle in Arezzo; and the Brancacci Chapel in the Carmine. The course will include visits to the National Gallery, The Courtauld Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum.


Course 3: Gail Turner

The Arts in Spain in the 16th and 17th Centuries: Patronage by Church and State under the Habsburgs


detail of head of Velazquez painted portrait of Pope Innocent X
Diego Velazquez, detail of Pope Innocent X, 1650, Galleria Doria Pamphilj

This course is an introduction to the extraordinary wealth and variety of the arts in Spain - from the post-Islamic 16th century to the end of the Habsburg era.  Spain’s vast empire attracted talented artists, architects and sculptors from all over Europe.  Italian and Flemish prints were often the initial inspiration for many artists of Spain’s Golden Age of the 17th  century. Spain led the Counter Reformation against the Protestant movement and the Spanish Church commissioned vast numbers of religious images during the late 16th and 17th centuries. Realism was considered most effective in communicating the Catholic cause. This is reflected in the paintings of Velázquez, Zurbarán, and Murillo, and in contemporary sculptures, some of which even incorporated ivory teeth and glass eyes.  This period saw the origins of the enduring tradition of popular processions, during which life-size images of Christ and the Virgin were paraded round the streets.  Meanwhile the court in Madrid commissioned grand-style portraiture and decorative schemes, demonstrating the  formality and the power of the Habsburg Empire while seemingly ignoring the realities of the impending political and economic melt-down. Visits will include the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Wallace Collection and The Courtauld Prints & Drawings Collection. 



Course 4: Helena Pickup

Power and Glory: The Baroque in England, Italy and France 1600-1715



The Baroque style dominated the seventeenth century, used by Church and State as a propaganda vehicle for the Counter-Reformation and absolutism. The Baroque fused the arts to create theatrical, illusionistic ensembles on a vast scale, which retain enormous power over the viewer today.  This course will cover the genesis and development of the style and explore the masterpieces of its most brilliant practitioners, such as Gianlorenzo Bernini, Charles Le Brun and Sir Christopher Wren. The central focus will be on the architecture of Rome, London and Paris but we will also discuss painting, sculpture and decorative art forms - such as the solid silver furniture commissioned by Louis XIV for his State Apartment at Versailles and the Tijou Screen at Hampton Court. We will also look at how Baroque gardens were transformed into outdoor architecture. Finally, we will consider survivals and revivals of the style. Visits include Hampton Court Palace, where we will tour the King’s Apartment, superbly restored to its appearance during the reign of William and Mary; the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, where Sir Christopher Wren created the most magnificent Baroque vista in England; the Print Room of the British Museum and the National Gallery.



Course 5: Dr Peter Dent

The Art of the Embodied Soul: An Introduction to Sculpture


detail of bronze sculpture of boy drinking head and hand holding bowl
A von Hildebrand, Drinking boy, 1870-3, bronze, photo © The Courtauld Institute of Art

Sculpture has a reputation as a difficult art, but nothing could be further from the truth.  While it certainly makes demands on the mind, it also moves the body.  It can engage the beholder in profoundly physical ways that frame our thoughts before they are even formed.  In this course, we will explore this sensory and intellectual appeal by examining sculptural techniques, the significance of materials, texture, and colour, and a fascinating mythology that ranges from the automatons of Hephaistos, to the tales of Pygmalion and the Golem.  Drawing on the ideas of writers like Pliny, Herder, and Rosalind Krauss, we will investigate different ways of thinking about sculpture.  Above all, we will listen to the voice of the sculptor.  Cellini, Hildebrand, and Louise Bourgeois, for example, have all spoken about their art.  During the week, these ideas and themes will be pursued through a broadly chronological structure running from ancient through to modern art.  There will be visits to the British Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum and Tate Modern, as well as the opportunity to experience public works in situ.  This course is a journey through the art of sculpture: five days, forty sculptures, three collections, and the streets of London.



Course 6: Dr Paula Henderson

Landscape as Art


detail of an engraving with a view of the Latona Fountain in Versailles palace gardens Jean le Pautre, Vue du Bassin de Latone dans les jardins de Versailles en 1678, engraving

Is a garden ‘Art’? Can an historic garden be analysed in the same way as a painting or a building?  In spite of the fact that gardens are the most fugitive of art forms, they were often created by artists, architects or designers and they generally conform to the ‘style’ and aesthetic of a particular period.  The study of gardens – through their remains or contemporary visual images and descriptions – provides insights into the culture in which they were created, into the economics of labour and land use and into the social hierarchies and behaviour demonstrated by their use (aspects that are part of the expanded interests of art historians as well).  Gardens reflect and are revealed in literature, drama and painting. Yet, experiencing a garden was and is different from other art forms, incorporating all five senses and movement by the viewer: gardens have always been ‘performance art’.  Lectures on the art historical analysis of gardens will be complemented by visits to the National Gallery, the Museum of Garden History and important historic gardens, including a full-day outing to Rousham and Stowe.



Course 7: Mehreen Chida-Razvi

Painting for the Emperor: The Creation of a Mughal Style



detail of a mughal miniature with the head of a man wearing a turban and a flowering tree on the left
Sa'di in a rose garden, detail of a Mughal miniature, early 16th century, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, Washington D.C
Tracing their lineage from both Ghengis Khan and Timur, the Mughal dynasty which ruled over most of South Asia from 1526 to 1857, created one of the most luxurious empires of their time. As an Islamic elite reigning over a local South Asian population, it was important for the Mughal emperors to create a strong visual identity to consolidate their rule. They invested in extensive patronage of the arts and the royal atelier produced magnificent paintings. This course will explore the creation of the distinctive Mughal style of painting, focusing on images produced for the emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. We will examine the impact of Persian, European and local South Asian painting on the Mughal style, as well as the importance of portraiture and naturalism in Mughal painting. In addition, we will investigate how the political and social circumstances of the time, the personalities of the emperors, and the introduction of Christian art to the realm affected the atelier's production. While focusing on works on paper, we will also explore the use of painting on a larger scale as architectural decoration. Visits will include the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum and the British Library.


Course 8: Dr Richard Cork

Making it New: Modernism in the Early 20th Century


This course is now FULL.  Please contact us if you would like to be added to the waiting list.

With seismic explosiveness, young artists across Europe changed the course of painting and sculpture soon after the new century began. A series of revolutionary movements erupted, beginning with Fauvism in France and Expressionism in Germany. The Italian Futurists were the most clamorous but the Cubists in Paris proved the most far-reaching. Then, in 1914, London was shocked by the advent of Vorticism and its rumbustious magazine BLAST. This course explores the rebellious momentum of an exciting period. However, it terminates in the tragedy of the First World War when many avant-garde artists found themselves caught up in a blood-bath. Visits include The Courtauld Gallery’s display of 20th-century art, Tate Modern, the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art and the Imperial War Museum.



Course 9: Dr Natalia Murray

Russian Art 1863-1932: Innovations, Influences and the Roots of Modernity



This course is now FULL.  Please contact us if you would like to be added to the waiting list.


This course will examine the history of Russian art in all its diversity from the first artists’ rebellion against St. Petersburg’s almighty Art Academy in 1863, the blossoming of arts in Russia’s Silver Age, and the upsurge of avant-garde art to its subsequent disappearance after 1932, when Socialist Realism became the only artistic style permitted in the Soviet Union. We will look at the cultural as well as geographical boundaries of Russian art, and its contact with developments in European art as well as the shifts of cultural context, which often occurred through emigration, cultural export, exhibitions, publications, and collaborations.  The complex nature of the Russian avant-garde, its origins and roots, will be examined throughout the course. We will also look at traditional Russian art and icons and their influence on the Russian avant-garde and will discuss the works of Repin, Serov, Benois, Bakst, Somov, Vrubel, Malevich, Tatlin, Kandinsky, Filonov, Rodchenko, Chagall, and Popova, among others.  Lastly, we will examine the influence of political changes in Russia under Stalin on the fate of Russian art. Visits include the Victoria and Albert Museum (Ballets Russes drawings and stage designs); the Naum Gabo archive at Tate Britain; Tate Modern and The Courtauld Gallery.