Course overview

The portrait has flourished as an art form from the ancient world to the present day and this innovative course will explore its continuing popularity. We shall study not only the painted face and figure but a variety of formats and formulae, from statuary to pendant medals and miniatures, and study artists as diverse as Holbein, Titian, Gainsborough, Singer Sargent and Francis Bacon. We include a reflection on the place of the photograph in this history of portraiture: was this new invention to prove a help or a hindrance to the creation of the modern portrait? This is a course for everyone who enjoys looking at paintings and no previous reading is required

Course description

Portraits have taken many different forms over the past centuries: idealistic, realistic, humorous, flattering, even ugly! They have been created in various sizes from the miniature to the larger than life size, and in a variety of materials like stone, marble, oils, water colours, pastels, photographs and even fruit! We begin by reflecting on why the portrait has remained such a popular subject over time, and then consider a wide variety of works from the ancient world to the 20C, from artists such as Van Eyck, Holbein and Brueghel, to Gainsborough and Angelica Kauffman, and from Ingres and Singer Sargent, to Van Gogh, and Lucien Freud, not forgetting Cecil Beaton. So come and enjoy this feast of art, to gain a deeper insight into how artists developed and employed new techniques and materials to tempt their wealthy patrons while also creating some fascinating views of the lives of the poorer classes. In particular, the development of photography seemed to sound the death knell for the painted portrait, but in fact gave the artists a new sense of freedom in how their subjects could be portrayed.

What financial support is available?

We don't want anything to stand in your way when it comes to bringing Adult learning within reach so if you need anything to support you to achieve your goals then speak to one of our education experts during your enrolment journey. Most of our courses are government funded but if you don't qualify or need alternative financial help to access them then let us know.

What other support is available?

All of our digital content, teaching and learning activities and assessments are designed to be accessible so if you need any additional support you can discuss this with the education experts during your enrolment journey and we will do all we can to make sure you have optimal access.

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