Course overview

Can you read the hidden meanings in paintings? For centuries artists have relied upon symbols to convey their intentions, but how do we find out what lies behind some of the most well-known works of art? In this extensively illustrated study day with WEA tutor David Brindley, we’ll explore the wealth of symbolism in western art from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the Impressionists to Surrealism, and from abstract art to the present and offer an interpretation of the hidden meanings within these pieces.

Course description

Art bristles with meaning - but how do we unlock it’s hidden symbolism? How do we begin to understand the intentions of artists from another age and culture? Have we lost the skill of reading what lies beneath the surface of a painting? We begin by looking at cave and rock art from very early human communities, and consider how this might be interpreted. Medieval and Renaissance artists used symbolism extensively - not only as a means of distinguishing one saint from another, but also as a way to convey deeper purpose. Paintings such at Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait and Holbein’s Ambassadors, both in the National Gallery, are full of hints and puzzles. In the nineteenth century both Constable and Turner address contemporary issues of the threatened countryside and the abolition of slavery in their art. The Impressionists and the Pre-Raphaelites have messages to convey to us in their use of symbolism. And in the twentieth century artists wrestle with Freud’s psychoanalytical ideas, and try to make sense of the world wars. WEA tutor David Brindley brings his extensive experience in art history and religious studies to this richly illustrated study day.

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