Course 9: Dr Peter Dent

The Art of the Embodied Soul: An Introduction to Sculpture


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 10: Dr Lelia Packer

Bosch and Bruegel: New Visions of Fantasy and Everyday Life



Hieronymus Bosch’s bizarre and unusual imagery makes him one of the most mysterious painters of the Renaissance. His puzzling and often fantastical depictions of religious and genre subjects have led scholars to make a number of far-fetched assertions, claiming that he was a member of a heretical sect or a sexual libertine. In his own time, Bosch’s unique imagery attracted the most noble patrons as well as numerous followers who emulated his style. Pieter Bruegel the Elder most famously adapted Bosch’s visual strategies to produce a novel language for the representation of everyday life. He was one of the first to imbue the depiction of children’s games and peasant festivities with moral and narrative significance, and his landscapes and genre scenes are justly famous for their ability to capture the human spirit. This course will investigate how together Bosch and Bruegel profoundly transformed the course of Northern Renaissance art. Lectures will be complemented by first-hand examinations of paintings, drawings, and prints in London collections, including the National Gallery, The Courtauld Gallery and the British Museum.

Course 11: Dr Richard Williams

Art and the Reformation


The Reformation ran in parallel with the Renaissance in sixteenth-  and seventeenth-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 12: Dr Paula Henderson

Shakespeare’s London: Art, Architecture and Places of Pleasure



William Shakespeare lived in London during the decades before and after the turn of the seventeenth century, a ‘golden age’ for the city. While London had become overcrowded, increasingly squalid and plague-ridden, it was also the epicentre of wealth, opportunity and fashion. Courtiers and aristocrats, aware of the benefits of royal patronage and the amusements of the metropolis, acquired grand mansions, which they complemented with fine gardens and orchards.  Although very little survives, we will create a vivid picture of the ‘flower of Cities all’ by analysing the earliest maps of the city, portraiture, decorative arts and costume, architecture and finally the larger urban landscape. We will also consider the many ‘places of pleasure’ that were enjoyed by Londoners from all strata of society:  sporting grounds, the theatres visited by an estimated 15,000 Londoners each week, the arenas used for the brutal spectacles of cock-fighting, bear- and bull-baiting, and, finally, the public spaces that were so rapidly being swallowed up by development. Visits will include the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Banqueting House, Whitehall, the Inns of Court and the British Library.

You may also be interested to know that Dr Henderson will conduct a new Study Tour to the landscapes of the Cotswolds from 7-9 June.

Course 13: Timothy Wilcox

The Art of Light and Atmosphere: Watercolour Painting in England and Beyond


detail of watercolour of river with beach in foreground and town in background

Thomas Girtin, View of Appledore, detail, 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. Rather than thinking of English watercolour painting in artistic isolation and focusing largely on the medium’s technical aspects, we will reconnect it to contemporary contexts of drawing, painting, printmaking and writing. Watercolour painting was of significance to a variety of social and cultural practices, including gardening, travel and tourism, patronage, the rise of art exhibitions and the role of artists’ societies. We will study these rich and varied contexts in conjunction with major works by outstanding English artists, including Paul Sandby, Francis Towne, John Robert Cozens, Thomas Girtin, John Sell Cotman, JMW Turner and Samuel Palmer.  The final day will counter the conventional idea that watercolour painting is a particularly English phenomenon by considering 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 14: Gail Turner

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


This course is an introduction to the extraordinary wealth and variety of the arts in Spain - from the post-Islamic sixteenth 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 seventeenth century. Spain led the Counter Reformation against Protestantism and the Spanish Church commissioned vast numbers of religious images during the late sixteenth and seventeenth 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 Print Room. 

Course 15: Dr Klara Kemp-Welch

Art and Revolution: East European Art from 1917-1989


close-up of an iceblock tied with red cloth
Zofia Kulik and Przemyslaw Kwiek from Activities with Dobromierz 1972-4 © Zofia Kulik and the PDDiU Archive, Warsaw

This course offers a survey of modern and contemporary art from the former Soviet Union and the Central European Soviet satellites. We will focus on the dynamic relationship of artistic practice to the rise and fall of communism in the Soviet bloc. The first part of the course will explore painting, photography, film and design in the decades following the revolution of 1917, mapping the aspirations of avant-garde figures like Kasimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, Sergei Eisenstein, and Dziga Vertov, and the rationale for the introduction of Socialist Realism as official orthodoxy in 1934. In the second part of the course we will focus on the emergence of non-conformist art in the decades following the denunciation of the Stalinist Cult of Personality by Khrushchev, in 1956. Our discussions will include Tadeusz Kantor’s theatre, International Mail Art practices, and the installations of Ilya Kabakov, among others, and will explore relevant writings by key dissidents such as Václav Havel. The course concludes with an examination of the seismic transformations of 1989-91 and their implications for cultural life in the ‘former-East’. Visits include relevant displays in London collections and some of the newer galleries showing East European art, including Calvert 22 and Regina London.

Course 16: Dr Matthias Vollmer

The Shadows of the Past: Art in Germany from 1945 to Today



Denouncing avant-garde art movements like Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism, New Objectivity and the Bauhaus as ‘degenerate’, the Nazi regime promoted a ‘true German art’ mostly in the tradition of German nineteenth-century realistic painting. After World War II, West German abstract artists such as Willi Baumeister, Ernst Wilhelm Nay and ‘Wols’ sought to come to terms with the traumatic legacy of the country's recent history. Simultaneously, East German artists like Bernhard Heisig and Werner Tübke presented idiosyncratic interpretations of official ‘Socialist Realism’. In both Germanys artists developed distinctive versions of modern and postmodern art - at times in accord with their political cultures, at other times in opposition to them.

Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer were the first to gain an international reputation. Joerg Immendorf and Georg Baselitz brought about a revival of figurative painting and, after his escape to West Germany, Dresden-born Gerhard Richter together with Sigmar Polke introduced the notion of ‘Capitalist Realism’.  We shall also explore the ‘neutral’ views of industrial architectural forms by Bernd and Hilla Becher and the art of Neo Rauch, ‘the painter who came (in) from the cold’. These complex developments will be examined in the context of relevant political and cultural discourses in post-war Germany.