Course 10: Dr Richard Williams

Art and the Reformation



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

The Reformation ran in parallel with the Renaissance in 16th-   and 17th-century Europe, each exerting a profound effect on the visual arts. Often caricaturing the Protestant Reformation as purely destructive, art history has usually downplayed or overlooked the ways in which it shaped and re-directed the arts. Cranach collaborated with Luther to reinvent religious art so that it avoided medieval ‘superstition’, and other German artists, including Dürer and Holbein, took different approaches in adapting to the changing climate. Bruegel and others developed new, less controversial subjects such as landscapes, still-life, and genre scenes. We can also detect a new ‘Protestant sensibility’ in the art of Rembrandt whose down-to-earth realism contrasts so dramatically with the grandiose works of Rubens, a representative of the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Moreover, the Reformation forced a re-evaluation of the purpose of the visual image, shifting from a religious icon to a ‘work of art’, admired for its beauty. This course looks at the art of Northern Europe from the destruction of a rich tradition of medieval art to the flourishing of new and often very moving works. Visits will include the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings.


Course 11: Caroline Brooke

Art, Money and Power: Medici Patronage in Florence c. 1420–1570


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

The name ‘Medici’ is synonymous with artistic innovation and achievement during the Renaissance in Florence. This course examines the art patronage of more than five generations of the dynasty, from the emergence of the family as a political force early in the Renaissance, to the establishment of the grand duke dynasty that reigned for almost two centuries. It focuses on the commissions of Cosimo the Elder, Piero the Gouty, Lorenzo the Magnificent, and Cosimo I Grand Duke of Tuscany, in order to consider how the political, religious and social aspirations of individual members of the Medici family shaped the cultural and artistic life of the city. The works of major Florentine artists such as Donatello, Fra Filippo Lippi, Michelangelo and Bronzino are examined in relation to the tastes and aspirations of their patrons, as manifestations of civic pride, devotion, and personal ambition. Issues such as familial pietas, the varying fortunes of the Medici bank and the political climate of the period are also considered in relation to the development of Medicean patterns of patronage. Visits include the British Museum, the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum.



Course 12: Dr Cecily Hennessy

City of Splendour: Art and Society in Constantinople


Constantinople was the political and artistic capital of Byzantium for over a thousand years, celebrated for its legendary wealth and ceremony. This course traces its development from the time of Constantine to its fall in 1453, exploring the visual heritage of this renowned city. It was enriched with palaces, adorned with magnificent churches and celebrated as the centre for manuscript illumination and myriad forms of mosaic decoration, wall-painting, metal work and ivory production. Patronage in Byzantium lay often with imperial powers and the aristocracy but also with the Church and monasteries. We discuss this in relation to the complex manifestations of political and religious power in the city and its empire, exploring the major buildings, such as Haghia Sophia and the Kariye Camii as well as the finest examples of artistic production. Visits include a special handling session at the British Library, among others.



Course 13: Dr Lucy Jessop

A vision of a new City: Architecture in London, 1660-1715


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

In 1661, John Evelyn described London as having a ‘Congestion of misshapen and extravagant Houses’, set in a labyrinth of narrow and busy streets, full of smoke and smell. It was not what Charles II and his court were used to, returning to London after many years of foreign exile, nor was it what his people, released from the traumas of the Civil War and the strictness of the Commonwealth, demanded. This course will examine many of the projects for making London and its environs a suitable residence for the restored Stuart monarchy, for rebuilding and developing the Cities of London and Westminster, and for creating religious and public buildings which responded to the dominant issues of the age. These projects were mostly overseen by the vision of one man, Sir Christopher Wren, with the assistance of several close colleagues, including Robert Hooke and Nicholas Hawksmoor. Through contemporary texts, drawings and visits, this course will look at some of London’s best-loved buildings - possible visits include Hampton Court Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, some of the City Churches, and the former Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich.




Course 14: Dr Eileen Rubery

Beauty and Splendour Piece by Piece: The Art of Mosaics from Antiquity to the Renaissance

The fee for this course is £485 as the group will be limited to 10 students; this also includes the cost of course materials/workshops

detail of mosaic head of Angel against gold background
Detail of Abraham and three angels, Byzantine mosaic, Kykkos Monastery, Cyprus

The use of coloured fragments of glass, stone, shells and earthenware to decorate floors, walls and ceilings occurs from the earliest of times.  Mosaics form a robust, flexible and colourful decoration that also, especially when gold or silver is included, glitters and glows in the light, giving a unique impression of movement and liveliness.  We shall consider how mosaics were made and what messages they were intended to convey to the observer.  Starting with secular images in the remains of Pompeii, we shall move on to look at the earliest Christian examples in Rome and Roman Britain, the mosaics of the Imperial Palace and Byzantine churches of Constantinople, the mosaics of the Dome of the Rock and of Christian churches in the Holy Lands, and examples from Greece, Norman Sicily and Renaissance Venice.  We shall see how mosaics were used to create some of the most sumptuous and spectacular celebrations of religious and secular power.  Visits include the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.  There will also be practical sessions in a mosaic workshop, where we will see modern examples and where every student will have the opportunity to make a small mosaic of their own.


Course 15: Timothy Wilcox

Intimate and Bold: Watercolour Painting in England and Beyond



detail of Girtin watercolour view of Appledore across the mouth of a river

Thomas Girtin, View of Appledore, North Devon, c. 1798, © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Watercolour is a medium that achieves an astonishingly wide range of effects and appeals to the professional and amateur artist alike. We will study it in relation to a variety of social and cultural contexts, including gardening, travel and tourism, the rise of exhibitions and the role of artists’ clubs.  Furthermore, rather than thinking of English watercolour painting in artistic isolation and focusing largely on the technical aspects of the medium, we will reconnect it to a continuum involving not just drawing and painting but also printmaking and writing.  From Monday to Thursday, each lecture is concentrated on a single work by a notable English artist, including Paul Sandby, Francis Towne, John Robert Cozens, Thomas Girtin, John Sell Cotman, JMW Turner and Samuel Palmer and explores how watercolour painting can be the focus of a wide variety of analytical approaches.  Watercolour painting is traditionally seen as a particularly English cultural tradition.  The final day will open out the field with a discussion of watercolour traditions in Scotland, in continental Europe and in the USA and will conclude with a session on the international status of watercolour in the modern era.



Course 16: Professor Timon Screech

The Arts of Edo Period Japan: Power and Opposition in the Shogun’s Realm


The Early modern, or Edo Period (1603-1868) was one of the great periods of creativity in Japanese history, coming after some two centuries of civil war. Edo (now Tokyo) was the world’s largest city, and the site of massive production and consumption. Other metropoles, such as Kyô (now Kyoto), Osaka and Nagasaki developed their distinctive styles and practices, though much dependent on Edo. This course will consider the visual make-up of the whole Shogunal state, and as such will go beyond the standard materials of art historical analysis. We will consider the visual realm in its widest terms, such as urban planning and memorialisation, gardens and open spaces, as well, of course, as castles with their palatial interiors, and more routine decorations in paint, print or carving. The first half of the course will look at the arts of authority, notably the official Kano School, and the religious arts. The second will analyse the perhaps more vibrant popular schools, and the emergence of the world-famous Japanese woodblock print. We will go beyond old-fashioned notions of the Japan of this period as ‘isolated’, and inspect its international dimensions, in links with the Continent (China and Korea) and with Europe.


Course 17: Dr Ayla Lepine

Art and Architecture in Victorian London from the ‘Battle of the Styles’ to ‘Art for Art’s Sake’


Victorian art and architecture had an immense impact on London, leaving us with such diverse structures, collections and art movements as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the Red House, Leighton House and the Aesthetic Movement, St Pancras Station, Goldsmiths’ Hall, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Houses of Parliament and the Albert Memorial.  Examining all of these legacies closely, this course will encourage students to look afresh at nineteenth-century taste and innovation, and question to what extent Victorian art and architecture relied on old traditions to convey modern values. Both in the classroom and in a series of visits to London buildings and art collections, students will consider different approaches to this important period in British history.

Students will have unique opportunities to engage first-hand with the forms and functions of buildings and objects, using collections held in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain and the RIBA to gain in-depth understanding of nineteenth-century art and ideas. Decorative arts, interior design, fashion and the popular press will also be taken into account. By looking closely and applying an array of art historical methodologies, we will engage with fundamental ideas about beauty, labour and commerce when London was at the centre of the world’s largest empire.


Course 18: Martin Caiger-Smith

White Walls and Marble Halls: Contexts for Contemporary Art


Contemporary art in Britain has, in recent decades, extended its appeal to an ever-wider public. In Tate Modern it has a museum space of international standing, yet it is also shown in a range of much broader contexts.  Living artists are brought to engage with the spaces, collections and programmes of many established museums and galleries from the National Gallery to the Freud Museum; they are seen on London rooftops and on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth. New approaches to the display of art question the conventional structures of school, style, medium and chronology. Seeking spectacle and renewed relevance, historic collections are embracing the contemporary; and contemporary art spaces incorporate historical work in their displays and demonstrate a new understanding of historical contexts in which today’s art can be experienced.  This course confronts issues of categorisation, collection, display and interpretation at the heart of the museum and gallery world today.  Where do the boundaries lie between the historic, the modern and the contemporary, between the temporary exhibition and the permanent display, the museum and the street? How do living artists work with (and in) the museum? And what part does context and presentation play in our appreciation of contemporary art?