Previous courses

  • The History and Meaning of Portraiture

    25 April – 4 July 2017

    This course will examine the changing face of the portrait from the 6th century to the present. It will look at how and why its meaning and function have mutated and why artists are still drawn to this medium despite the advent of photography. It will also explore whether a portrait has to convey an accurate likeness and how artists went about trying to convey “character”.

    Lecturer: Leslie Primo

  • Creation

    15 February – 28 June 2017

    This inspirationally compelling new course creates strength and variety from the vastness of its subject: the Creation of the World and everything in it as encountered by artists and writers throughout the centuries. Now we can read, look at, see what they saw from hill-top, valley-side, shore-line, doorway and windowsill across land, sea and sky: the Earth, and human life in all its glory and diversity. Each week’s programme names just some of the featured artists and writers.

    Lecturer: Graham Fawcett

  • The Art of South East Asia: From Ancient Civilisations to Contemporary Living Arts

    27 April – 25 May 2017

    This course will introduce the art and architecture of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Java, Bali, Burma and Thailand. It will explore its sacred art, examine carvings, symbolism and iconography that express fundamental religious beliefs. Contemporary art will be shown in the form of painting, especially in Vietnam, influenced first by China then France during the colonial regime.

    A glimpse of colonial architecture in Indochina will enrich your understanding of the fusion of East and West and glorious weaving traditions will also feature throughout the region. A look at sacred dance will reveal exquisite rituals and dance dramas that have evolved and survived to reveal the soul of the people and the role of dance today.

    Lecturer: Denise Heywood

  • The Arts of Christianity

    10 January – 14 March 2017

    No single theme has so preoccupied the western artist as has Christianity. It is the only one of the world’s great monotheistic faiths to allow, indeed to encourage, representation, and the history, narratives and practice of the Faith are richly reflected in its art. Cherubim and chasubles, Passion and pilgrimages, Samson and St. Lucy – this course explores a range of Christian themes, some of the devotional and other forms in which they were expressed, and the experiences and ideas which inspired them.

    Lecturer: Nicole Mezey

  • Ceramics - Masters and Makers

    12 January – 9 February 2017

    Ceramics, one of the most enduring of the decorative arts, has been important in European culture for both utilitarian and artistic purposes. This programme looks at materials and techniques and explores some of the key aspects of production in the history of European culture. We will look at the stunning refined tin glazed wares produced in Italy during the C16th, the pioneering development of factories at Meissen, Sevres and Wedgwood and the explosion of production and creativity that occurred in C19th Britain.

    Lecturer: Ian Cox

  • How London Became the Greatest City on Earth

    26 October 2016 – 8 February 2017

    More than any other country on the planet, Britain has pooled its constitutional, financial and cultural forces within its capital. This 12-part series of lectures and accompanying walks will explore how, over 2,000 years, London has dealt with six of those forces: the monarchy; the law; religion; finance; entertainment; and education. The story of the Reformation, of constitutional monarchy, of Shakespearean theatre, of the public school, of the common law, the story of Britain… They can all be told through London’s unique collection of buildings.

    Lecturer: Harry Mount

  • The English Country House in English Literature

    21 September – 19 October 2016

    In this series, you will explore the way in which the English country house has been portrayed in English literature. By studying various authors, the architecture and household roles of the country house underline characterization, scene and mood and how this in turn shaped our view of the country house in English visual culture.

    The authors’ personal experiences will be examined and considered for the value of the country house in terms of plot. Used as a vehicle for gathering a group of characters together under one roof for a defined space of time, the country house has long provided a convenient setting in which, as Blake Morrison has commented, tensions can develop, love affairs begin and catastrophes unfold.

    Lecturer: Jeremy Musson

  • Out of the Darkness

    22 September – 20 October 2016

    Symbolic, illuminating, awe inspiring – the mastery of light has been a vital tool of the western artist. This course looks at such forms as stained glass, the natural light of Constable, the brooding emotion of Rubens and the reflections of Impressionism in an attempt to understand the fascination of light and its immense possibilities for the artist.

    Lecturer: Nicole Mezey

  • The Iconography of Mythology and Symbolism in Art: Secrets of the Old Masters Revealed

    27 September – 6 December 2016

    What do all the signs and symbols in paintings mean, if indeed they are there, and why is there an enduring fascination with Greek mythology in the visual arts?

    It can all seem somewhat impenetrable. This course will delve into what these hidden meanings really are. You will see how the iconography of mythology can reveal the hidden codes and identify the seemingly mysterious figures in great works of art. It aims to look at the stories which are often re-told in secular Italian and Northern Renaissance painting around, 1400-1600, and also in French Baroque painting. Most often the stories came from antique literary sources which have survived through the middle ages and were the preserve of the rich and cultured.

    Lecturer: Leslie Primo

  • The Jazz Age

    27 October – 24 November 2016

    At the end of the Great War, the Western World attempted to forget the recent past by launching into a hedonistic decade characterized by cocktails, dance crazes and the jazzy Art Deco style. For those who could not afford Haute Couture and luxury liners there was the glamorous escapist world created by the new Hollywood studios and their European counterparts. Another and quite different response to the war was what Jean Cocteau called “The Call to Order” – a desire to return to the timeless values of Classicism. This course will explore the arts and lifestyles of the fascinating and ultimately doomed period between the wars.

    Lecturer: Patrick Bade

  • How Homer Became Great Art – The Iliad

    20 April – 22 June 2016

    From great aerial sweeps to close-ups so vivid you can reach out and touch them, Homer’s Iliad gives you a charmed life in the midst of battle and a god’s-eye-view of the action, the city, the plain, the fields and mountains, the Greek ships at anchor, and the cast of thousands. This is a massively impressive and moving epic poem in its re-creation, unparalleled since, of the legendary city of Troy and everything that is said to have happened there. Small wonder that art has taken the story to its heart. Hot on the heels of the ancient painters whose scenes glow like eye-witness testimony, we find Botticelli, Caravaggio, Claude Lorrain, David, De Chirico, Flaxman, Fuseli, Giulio Romano, Il Padovanino, Il Pinturicchio, Ingres, Angelica Kauffman, Leighton, Moreau, Rubens, Tiepolo, Tischbein and others queueing up to catch our breath. Their imaginings of the epic’s drama stand beside fine translations of Homer’s Iliad in English.

    Lecturer: Graham Fawcett

  • The Magnificent Age: Art, Life and Baroque

    22 September 2015 – 21 June 2016

    When Martin Luther published his 95 theses in 1517, it was not only a challenge to the perceived corruption of the Catholic Church, it was an act which prompted the transformation of the religious, socio-political, and artistic landscape of Europe. One of the most dynamic styles to emerge in the wake of the Counter-Reformation, the Baroque lasted a century and manifested differently in Italy, Spain, and France, where it produced the most extraordinary artists and architects including Caravaggio, Bernini, Velasquez, Poussin, and Borromini.

    Lecturer: Dr Marie-Anne Mancio

  • Europe of the Empires: The Arts of the Nineteenth Century

    23 September - 21 October 2015

    13 January – 10 February 2016

    18thC Age of Reason, Europe 1780-1850, 19thC Queen Victoria, Europe 1850-1914.

    From the collapse of the ‘Ancien Regime’ and the ravages of a 25 year war, the “Long 19th Century” took us to the outbreak of a very different war in 1914, in a very different world. This course examines the expression of change in the arts – from Goya in Spain, Blake in England and the Impressionists in France. As Empires expanded we will look at the impact of trade and new materials and of new and exotic influences on artists from Delacroix to Picasso.

    Lecturer: Nicole Mezey

  • The London Course: Exploring Growing Village Suburbs

    4 November – 9 December 2015

    10 February – 16 March 2016

    Kensington, Paddington, Chelsea, Islington, Hampstead, London Underground

    The growth of London in recent centuries entailed the swallowing up of small villages deep in the countryside. This course will examine what have now become extensive London boroughs. Each which will be described in lectures followed by walks through these historic areas and each should be treated as an integrated pair of topics.

    Lecturer: Geoffrey Toms

  • An Introduction to Opera

    14 January - 11 February 2016

    Monteverdi, Gluck, Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, 19th century French opera, Verdi, Wagner

    This course will look at the development of the operatic art-form from its first origins to its culmination in the works of Wagner and Verdi in the 19th century. Its aim will be not only to introduce opera, but also to put the operatic works in historical context. In each lecture a particular era or movement will be examined and combined with an historical overview, a detailed look at the work of selected composers and a focus on three particular operas. The course provides a taster of the operatic genre both helping the newcomer to start exploring one of the world's great art-forms, whilst offering new historical insights for the more established opera lover. To encourage listeners to explore further, lectures will conclude with a short recorded operatic extract, and suggested listening lists will be provided for those who wish to explore further at home.

    Lecturer: Robert Hugill

  • The Silk Road Then and Now: Past and Present Culture

    18 February – 17 March 2016

    Han dynasty, Silk Road in Taklamakan and Gobi desert

    The Silk Road has held a fascination for travellers since the early Christian era, and many traders, religious pilgrims and conquerors have passed through the settlements and towns that stretch from Central Asia to the East China Sea. Along the various routes that make up the network of the ‘Silk Road’ - itself a misnomer - flourished an exotic mixture of cultures from Arabic, Turkic, Iranian, Indian, Mongolian, Chinese and Tibetan sources.

    The richness of cultures is evident in spectacular sites ranging from abandoned cities and fortresses, Buddhist cave sites and Islamic mausoleums along the many trade routes that made the Silk Road network. The Taklamakan and Gobi desert regions yielded many artistic treasures to 19th and 20th century European archaeologists who explored - and plundered - many sites for their uniquely preserved artefacts. The research that came from these items revealed much more understanding about the relevance and significance of the Silk Road and its place in the economic history of the region.

    The legacy of the Silk Road lives on through the artefacts, writings, maps and contribution of the many travellers throughout the region over many centuries. However, this legacy may soon be found only in museums and collections, as the rapidly changing landscape of modern technology changes the face of this region.

    The course aims to understand how and why the Silk Road trade network came into being and to explore reasons for the success and demise of its cities and traders in certain areas and eras. It will look at the diverse cultures that practiced different religions and produced exotic items that were traded freely along the routes, and what became of them in later years. It will also analyse how the present era of modernisation is changing the face of the Silk Road; the environmental impact of technological advances in the western regions of China and how they are affecting significant archaeological sites.

    Lecturer: Suzanne Perrin

  • Italian Renaissance Drawing: Design, Form & Function

    1 October – 3 December 2015

    Bramante, Bellini, Pontormo, Carracci, Michelangelo, Raphael

    This course looked at the powerhouse behind the Italian Renaissance – the drawing. Looking at a variety of drawings across 300 years you will see examples of the practise from Verrocchio, Raphael, and Ghirlandaio. There were also individual classes dedicated to Leonardo and Michelangelo.

    The course demonstrated how behind every great Renaissance painting is an equally astounding drawing. Artists were judged firstly not by the quality of their paintings, but by their skill in drawing. We will brought together some of those paintings with their accompanying drawings to demonstrate the importance of drawing upon the Renaissance without which there could be no Renaissance. You will examine how these, at first purely functional objects, were made and how they would eventually be regarded as works of art in their own right. The 8 lectures were complemented by 2 visits to the Prints and Drawings Departments of the Royal Collection, Windsor and the British Museum.

    Lecturer: Leslie Primo

  • Treasures of the Courts

    23 September 2014 - 23 June 2015

    Isabella d'Este, Pope Julius II, Philip II of Spain, Holy Roman Emperor, Jahangir, Mughal Empire, Emperor Go-Yozei of Japan, Charles I of England, Louis XIV of France, Peter the Great, Madame de Pompadour, George IV of Great Britain, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

    Covering 500 years, 38 patrons and several continents, this course is an examination of audacious acts of patronage and how they resulted in some of the finest art collections in the world.

    Lecturer: Dr Marie-Anne Mancio

  • Picturing Dante

    15 April - 24 June 2015

    Dante Alighieri and The Divine Comedy. What Botticelli, Flaxman, Blake, Gustav Doré, Salvador Dalì and others drew and painted when they read Dante, in The Divine Comedy, speaking of what he saw, on a journey no man had ever made before, through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise.

    Lecturer: Graham Fawcett

  • Images of War: World War I – Looking Back to the Renaissance

    15 January - 12 February 2015

    A short series to commemorate the art of the Great War, through a very particular view point – that of the connections between the official art commissioned and the influence of Renaissance painting on those commissions. This influence is perhaps not obvious, however it was crucial since the British War Memorials Committee charged with commissioning war art for a Hall of Remembrance, held up Uccello's Battle of San Romano as the standard bearer for the size and scale of new canvases commissioned. Further connections between both periods, will be discussed in relation to sculpted memorial monuments to the fallen of WW1.

    Lecturer: Dr Antonia Whitley

  • The English Renaissance: England Under The Tudors

    24 September 2014 - 18 March 2015

    The Tudors have become the most glamorous and mythologised of English dynasties but they ruled England for barely 100 years. In just 3 generations, this upstart clan not only produced some of the more dramatic personalities and legends of the monarchy but took the country from the Middle Ages into the great artistic "rebirth" of the Continent, from stained glass and manuscripts for Henry VII to Renaissance portraits for his son and grandchildren, from militaristic fortresses to sumptuous architectural stage sets for the choreography of display. In an age of intense religious conflict, church commissions were followed by the destruction of monasteries and their heritage and, as successive rulers impose their allegiances on the people, the arts trumpeted their chosen Faiths. For the monarchy, paintings by Holbein, Horenbout and Hilliard and palaces to overawe European rivals transmitted the Tudor message and became prestige models which transformed the face of England.

    Lecturer: Nicole Mezey

  • An Introduction to British Architectural History

    14 January - 4 February 2015

    Jeremy Musson, architectural historian, author and broadcaster has devised an enjoyable and informative introduction to British architectural history by looking at the works of select groups of influential architects working in the late seventeenth century, the early eighteenth century, the late eighteenth century and the nineteenth century; he uses the work of these architects to help navigate the complex story of architecture in each of these key periods. As a former architectural editor of Country Life there will be an emphasis on country house design, but this will be related to wider themes of public, urban and ecclesiastical work.

    Lecturer: Jeremy Musson

  • The London Course – The Evolution of a Great City

    22 October 2014 - 18 March 2015

    This course took the key essentials and historic landmarks of the growth of London from one to two cities, and then into a world city of millions. The prime aim is to understand the direct legacy which we have inherited today, and literally know where and why the place in which you stand is all created by an evolution stretching back two thousand years, in which the life of London and Londoners has developed. (NB. when reference is made to the City with a capital letter, it is the City of London.)

    Lecturer: Geoffrey Toms

  • The Golden Age of Venetian Painting 1475–1576

    25 September - 4 December 2014

    The century between the advent of Antonello da Messina in 1475 and the death of Titian in 1576 is considered the Golden Age of Venetian painting. What had been a minor regional school achieved international prominence and influenced the future of European art in general for centuries. Central to this achievement was the genius of a succession of painters from Giovanni Bellini and his brother Gentile, Carpaccio, Giorgione, to the great Titian and his younger contemporaries Tintoretto and Veronese. These painters worked in a city undergoing crisis and change: the decline of its maritime empire, the reduction of its monopoly of trade with the East, its near destruction as a state in the early sixteenth century, and the religious turmoil engendered by the Reformation and the reaction of the Roman Church to it.

    Governed by an oligarchy of merchant nobles who elected a Doge, Venice remained politically stable throughout this turbulent period and continued to flourish economically. The state, the lay confraternities (called scuole) and private individuals provided sufficient patronage and support for a brilliant school of painting to develop in both secular and religious art. The cultural context and history of this school will be studied in eight lectures, followed by a full-day visit to the National Gallery to consider first-hand its outstanding collection of Venetian renaissance paintings.

    Lecturer: Dr Michael Douglas-Scott

  • The Golden Age of Dutch Art - Dutch Art in the 17th century

    25 September 2013 – 11 June 2014

    Following the National Gallery's Vermeer and Music: Love and Leisure in the Dutch Golden Age [exhibition; 26 June - l8 September 2013], the course will explore the innovations of one of the richest periods in Dutch art. As well as examining genres such as landscape, portrait, flower paintings, and still lives, we will focus in detail on key artists including: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jan Steen, Frans Hals, and Rachel Ruysch and unravel the complex symbolism of the period.

    “I do not believe that so many good painters can be found anywhere else; also the houses are filled with very beautiful paintings and no one is so poor as not to wish to be well provided with them.”
    (Jean Nicholas de Parival, Leiden resident, 1660s)

    Lecturer: Marie-Anne Mancio

  • The London Course

    2 October 2013 - 25 June 2014

    London during the life and times of Samuel Pepys, William Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer. This programme provides major insights into three great periods of London's history centred on three literary geniuses.

    Lecturer: Geoffrey Toms

  • Art and Revolution – Politics and revolutionary artists

    22 April – 24 June 2014

    Contemporary artists all over the world are currently engaging with politics. But there are precedents where artists reflected and defined the cultural language for some of history's great turning points. This course looks at the art, music, and literature that evolved from several major revolutions and the responses to them.

    Lecturer: Marie-Anne Mancio

  • How Homer Became Great Art – The Odyssey

    14 January – 18 March 2014

    Homer’s Odyssey, one of the greatest epic poems ever written, tells its story as a film would, in non-stop episodes of action and flashback. Its pages are alive with the dramatic adventures of the Greek hero Odysseus (also known to us as Ulysses) who, ten years after the end of the war at Troy, has still not come home to the island of Ithaca. In fact, his life has been locked into a wandering voyage made thrilling by danger and enchantment in spectacular encounters with the elemental and supernatural worlds.

    Artists ever since have loved The Odyssey with graphic energy and their imaginings illuminate the finest translations of this poem into English. Classical Art’s visions of the poem when it was new create exciting contrasts with paintings, watercolours and drawings by Pinturicchio, Titian, Brueghel, Rubens, Poussin, Claude Lorrain, Angelica Kauffmann, Fuseli, David, Turner, Ingres, Corot, Leighton, Waterhouse, Matisse, Chagall and di Chirico, and exquisite sets of illustrations by Flaxman and Flint.

    Lecturer: Graham Fawcett

  • Introduction to Japan: Japanese Architecture, Gardens and Tea Culture

    6 – 20 March 2014

    An introduction to the History and Culture of Japan: its Architecture, Gardens, and Tea Culture through the changing social structures of the eras from 10th – 19th centuries.

    Japan’s rich and varied culture combines intrinsic beliefs of Shinto – ‘the way of the gods’, and the imported beliefs from mainland China of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. These influences created a rich and exotic culture that found expression in the temples, palaces, tea houses and living spaces of the various classes, that culminated in the cultural pursuits of the Edo period (1603-1868).

    The Tea Ceremony was a formalised ritual and entertainment that involved host and guest in the appreciation of tea, a calm atmosphere, a beautiful garden and surroundings, and followed a graceful code of conduct and social etiquette that is still practiced today.

    Lecturer: Suzanne Perrin

  • Dürer and Renaissance Venice

    24 September 2012 - 26 November 2013

    Albrecht Dürer was one of the very first northern artists to respond to Italian Renaissance art. After learning all he could from imported prints and books he resolved to cross the Alps to study Italian art at first hand. Rather than travelling to Florence or Rome, however, Dürer stopped and stayed in Venice. On his arrival the Venetian artists received him with great honour but combined with some jealousy. The technical brilliance of his graphic work had made a big impact in Italy, yet his paintings were said to lack such qualities as the deep, rich colour for which Venetian art was renowned. Dürer was determined to 'stop the mouths' of his critics, as he wrote in a letter to his friend in Nuremberg, before returning to effect a revolution, a 'renaissance' in the arts back in Germany. Close links between Venice and Germany had been long established and this course will examine this direct cultural cross-fertilisation, focusing on works Dürer produced in Italy under the inspiration of Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione and others, together with the influence Dürer's work had upon them. The relationship between Italian art and other German painters such as Cranach or sculptors such as Riemenschneider will also be covered. Exploring such connections and interconnections enables us to recognise and appreciate the international and multifaceted nature of Renaissance art.

    Lecturer: Alison Meek

  • The Art of the Table: Feasts and Fantasy

    14 - 28 November 2013

    At the heart of the home, whether rich or poor, is a fascination with food, and this shared experience not only provides the perfect opportunity to flaunt wealth and status through elaborate artefacts, but also illustrates shifting fashions and styles of eating. Through the centuries food and its rituals have provided a consistent theme for artists to celebrate, to analyse their world and even to develop complex ideas of morality. For the medieval and Christian world, bread and wine are the emblems of faith, in 17th century Spain and Holland still-life painting captures the prosperity of the age, and in the 19th century the informality of cafes and bars illustrates the arrival of a new social and urban order.

    Lecturer: Nicole Mezey

  • How we lived then: Life and Love in Late Medieval Art

    3 – 31 October 2013

    While primarily religious, medieval art teems with information about ordinary life from birth to death and every stage in between. Saintly figures jostle a supporting cast drawn from all walks of life and engage in activities that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. We explore the diverse, charming world of late-medieval imagery and consider the society it brings to life and the cultural messages it carries.

    Lecturer: Nicola Lowe

  • Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art?

    3 October 2012 - 5 June 2013

    Through lectures and guided gallery visits, this course will demystify the challenging world of contemporary art and encourage debate. It will explore why artists began using unconventional materials and processes; how to look at conceptual art; where contemporary art is displayed and what it all means!

    Lecturer: Marie-Anne Mancio

  • The History of British Art

    23 April 2013 - 25 June 2013

    This course explores the history and development of British art from Holbein to Hirst. It will discuss portraiture, landscape, politics, and patrons  through the work of British favourites like Hogarth and Gainsborough, Turner, the Pre-Raphaelites, the Bloomsbury set, Hepworth and Moore, and the controversial Young British Artists.

    Lecturer: Marie-Anne Mancio

  • The London Course: Out and About in London’s Summer

    1 May 2013 - 26 June 2013

    This programme provides major insights into the constant changing face of attitudes to life throughout the centuries. Each separate lecture is a broad view of a particular theme coupled with a closely connected visit to a place of outstanding attraction.

    Lecturer: Geoffrey Toms

  • Dramatic Encounters

    15 January 2013 - 19 March 2013

    The story of an unforgettable meeting is always a gift for artists and writers alike. This well-illustrated weekly series will bring us face to face with paintings, poetry and fiction in which fame, beauty, myth, history and the human spirit bring people together in such dramatic circumstances that they, and we, are left thinking that never before have we seen, or read, anything quite like it.

    Lecturer: Graham Fawcett

Receive information about
future courses

Please register here to receive information and updates about our future courses and study tours.

  • The London Course: London in the 18th Century

    26 September 2012 - 20 March 2013

    The recovery of London after the Great Fire expanded at a rapid pace. As the city at the heart of the Age of Enlightenment, it was a consumer society par excellence with wealth and squalor side by side. It was a rough and ready time, elegant and refined: a time of passionate preaching and riotous disorder. This is the time of Robert Adam, Canaletto, William Hogarth and the Mob, and the course will illustrate the life that Londoners lived in every stratum of society.

    Lecturer: Geoffrey Toms

  • Renaissance Art at the Crossroads: Italy and the Netherlands

    25 September 2012 - 27 November 2012

    The impact of Netherlandish painting, founded by Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, was so profound in Italy that it changed the direction of Italian Renaissance art.

    From Filippo Lippi to Raphael, Italian painters switched from egg tempera to the Netherlandish technique of painting in oils, adopted the northern approach to portraiture, emulated the depiction of light, texture and other illusionistic effects, and even copied landscape backgrounds from imported northern altarpieces. In the 15th century this influence travelled almost exclusively in one direction from north to south.

    However, in the 16th century this direction was effectively to reverse as the works of Michelangelo and other Italian masters caught the imagination of Netherlandish artists and their patrons (from Gossaert ultimately to Rubens). In studying this cultural cross-fertilisation in the 15th and 16th centuries this course draws on more recent scholarship that has caused a major re-evaluation of Renaissance art. Cutting across national boundaries and the boundaries existing in traditional art history the course tells a newly-emerging story, with even well-known art works being seen from a fresh perspective.

    Lecturer: Richard Williams

  • Courts and Monarchs

    4 October 2012 - 28 February 2013

    Courts can be defined as ruling dynasties, their households and palaces. Until 1918 they were keys to power and creativity, and to the growth of countries, cities and armies. Dynastic marriages helped create Spain out of Castile and Aragon, Britain out of England and Scotland. In the nineteenth century the Prussian monarchy and army conquered or united Germany, as the Piedmontese conquered or united Italy. For four centuries the Ottoman dynasty and its servants united the Balkans the Middle East and North Africa in the Ottoman Empire. In Courts and Monarchs Philip Mansel focuses on the dynamic role played by courts in Europe and the Middle East, particularly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Europe continued to be linked by networks of courts, and court cities, until 1914.

    Lecturer: Philip Mansel

  • The Garden of Earthly Delights: Medieval Gardens and Their Meanings

    11 October 2012 - 15 November 2012

    The garden in medieval Europe was more than just a space where nature was cultivated and enjoyed. It was a cultural concept that existed as powerfully in the mind as it did in reality; a potent allegory for contemporary ideas about good and evil, filtered through a Christian consciousness. This course of 5 lectures explores the complex and sometimes contradictory range of meanings carried by the garden in medieval thinking. Sources are drawn from a wide range of medieval and early Renaissance imagery and include expressionistic Romanesque sculpture, exquisite illustrated manuscripts, glowing stained glass, sumptuous panel paintings and tapestries, backed up by references to contemporary music and poetry and a fledgling theatrical tradition.

    Lecturer: Nicola Lowe

  • Love, Marriage and Desire in Art

    19 October 2011 - 27 June 2012

    The course looks across the centuries at how artists have explored the enduring themes of Romantic Love, Marriage and Desire in their works.

    Lecturer: Marie-Anne Mancio

  • London Country Houses

    25 April 2012 - 27 June 2012

    Fine architecture and fascinating families in the great residences of what is still countryside in London today, coupled with the splendid further survival of the designers’ best work in the heart of London.

    Lecturer: Geoffrey Toms

  • Hidden Venice

    29 May 2012 - 26 June 2012

    Seen from the air, Venice may seem compact enough to be explored high and low in a weekend. Besides, thanks to Canaletto’s clarity and the occasional signs to San Marco and Accademia, we think we can home in on all the treasures with a guide-book and a map.

    So how do you account for the feeling that the “real” Venice is the one you see when you’re lost? Exactly. But how can you find it on purpose? With a tip-off or two, it’s easy to find because in this labyrinthine city the unknown is often one small bridge away from the famous. Hidden Venice takes the wraps off five of these quite well kept secrets, each of them easily missed and all of them guardians of art.

    Lecturer: Graham Fawcett

  • Talking Pictures, Sounding Sense

    24 April 2012 - 22 May 2012

    When narrative in literature and poetry has the capacity to inspire the eye and ear with equal force, composers and painters alike are found rushing to re-deliver that impact in the language of paint and music. This is how it looks, they say, or, this is how it sounds; and what they say suggests that music and art created from the same poem or story can often reward our attention to both of them at once. Talking Pictures, Sounding Sense will offer some striking examples of this from both art and music. Here are five especially memorable moments when painters and composers (sometimes more than one of each) have met like moths round the candle-flame of the same narrative.

    Lecturer: Graham Fawcett

  • The World's First City: The Legacy and Life of Victorian London

    28 September 2011 - 21 March 2012

    How did people live in the great Imperial City? 1837-1901 was a period of radical change: suburbs, industry, commerce, speed, immigration and new lifestyles. Despite the emergence of a solid middle class, there were appalling divisions in the class structure. But so outstanding was progress that much of Victorian achievement remains the infrastructure of London today.

    Lecturer: Geoffrey Toms

  • Look Here Upon This Picture, Then on This

    1 - 29 November 2011, 21 February - 20 March 2012

    Hamlet’s demand to his mother, that she hold his dead father’s picture in one hand, and new husband Claudio’s in the other, becomes our cue: Look Here Upon This Picture, Then On This is a weekly opportunity to compare works of art from the world’s great gallery of homage to Shakespeare’s plays. Here, in painting after painting, artists have felt driven to recreate the enduring charisma of the Bard’s most famous characters and so celebrate the dramatic turning-points in the plays which changed lives then and have done so ever since for theatre-goers and readers alike. Opera and music will make guest appearances each week too.

    Lecturer: Graham Fawcett

  • The Giants of the Baroque

    17 January 2012 - 14 February 2012

    In the first half of the seventeenth century the style that appeared in Rome would dominate European taste for the next one hundred years: the Baroque. Among the painters, sculptors, and architects of the Roman Baroque, six were particularly influential: Annnibale and Agostino Carracci, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Gian-Lorenzo Bernini, Pietro da Cortona and Francesco Borromini. Their careers were propelled by popes and cardinals born into powerful families: the Farnese, Borghese, Pamphilj, Barberini, and Chigi.

    Lecturer: Marie-Anne Mancio

  • The Thread of Life

    27 September 2011 - 25 October 2011

    From earliest antiquity to the present day, artists have depicted women spinning, weaving and sewing indicating their intimate association with textile arts. But how close is this to reality? Why does the image persist in the face of social change? Is the distaff an emblem of empowerment or imprisonment? Using examples that range from the Paleolithic Venus of Willendorf to Vermeer’s Lacemaker and today’s mass media we unpick the tangled threads of this ubiquitous motif and explore its complex range of meanings.

    Lecturer: Nicola Lowe

  • Revelations

    22 September 2010 - 29 June 2011

    The Latin word revelation means 'unveiling' and specifically the unveiling of truths concerning destiny and the intentions of the gods. Man has sought revelation since the earliest times and has used an infinite number of ways to achieve it including augury, astrology, starvation and drug use.

    In this fascinating and far-reaching series of lectures, we'll study the nature of revelation in the ancient and modern worlds and the look at the arts it has inspired.

  • The Model and the Muse

    29 September 2010 - 22 June 2011

    With its rich, diverse and cultural history, London has attracted artists, musicians and writers from all over the world for centuries. And each one has left an extraordinary record of the London they knew.

    In this unique series of lectures, walks and visits you’ll discover the historical significance of the artist's subject matter and how the great artists, in their own style, depicted the grandeur and miniscule intimacy of life in a great world city.

    Lecturer: Geoffrey Toms

  • The History of Modernity: From Bars to Stars and Stripes

    31 May 2011 - 28 June 2011

    With everyday subject matters, innovative painterly styles, and a new approach to spatial relationships, the 1860s heralded the beginnings of modernity and a new role for the modern artist.

    In this provocative and illuminating series of lectures we’ll deconstruct the work of 19th century artists such as Courbet and Manet - considered to be the first modernist painter - through to the works of Rothko and De Kooning in 1950s America.

    Lecturer: Stephen Nelson

  • Transforming the Masterpiece

    15 February 2011 - 15 March 2011

    By sifting through centuries of great European art, Transforming the Masterpiece will find answers to the question: what exactly have artists been letting themselves in for when they rework in visual imagery some of the greatest poems and stories ever written?

    Is it an act of homage, or rivalry, or translation, or all three at once? And when a poet takes on a painting, is the artistic challenge the same, only in reverse?

    Each of the sessions will start by looking through a handful of paintings, holding them up in turn next to the story or poem which inspired them all, and then, by giving even closer attention to one of them, decide whether it is worth more to us as a version of the original or as a masterpiece in its own right.

    Lecturer: Graham Fawcett

  • Archaeology at the British Museum

    27 January 2011 - 10 March 2011

    With over 8 million objects from every culture, the British Museum is one of world’s leading national museums. But with over 70 galleries to choose from it's easy to miss some of its less well-known, yet still fascinating, treasures.

    In this series of tours, we take the time to look at some of these objects and artefacts in greater detail and focus on the museum's outstanding archaeological materials in the Roman Empire, Roman Britain and early Britain and Europe galleries.

    Lecturer: Geoffrey Toms

  • Town and Country: The Life of an Italian Prince

    21 September 2010 - 8 February 2011

    What transformed the daily life of a Renaissance Prince from the misery of a dank castle to a civilised environment full of light, culture and the arts?

    In this rich and varied series of lectures, we’ll unravel the lives of ten great families, whose histories take us from the late 15th century to the mid 17th century and from the city to the country. You'll have the opportunity to study Italian gardens, art, architecture and sculpture, as well as gem collecting, music and poetry.

    Lecturer: Nick Ross, Federico Botana and Dan Evans

  • Picturing Dante

    26 October 2010 - 23 November 2010

    The Art of Dante's Divine Comedy. Described by T.S. Eliot as 'the highest point that poetry has ever reached or ever can reach', Dante's epic poem Divine Comedy, describing a journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, has been a rich source of inspiration for generations of artists, poets, sculptors and illustrators.

    In this series of lectures we’ll discover how Dante's poem has influenced the likes of Botticelli, Salvador Dali, John Flaxman, Gustave Dore and William Blake; and how Dante’s tales of love and the grotesque has influenced their work.

    Lecturer: Graham Fawcett

  • Three Ways Of Looking At The World

    23 September 2009 - 9 June 2010

    How humankind has searched for ways to explain and understand the world, its inhabitants and its place in universal order.

  • Exploring London

    30 September 2009 - 23 June 2010

    The London of Charles Dickens, The Archaeology of London and 'The Silvery Thames' - a celebration of the many faces of London's great river.

  • Study Days

    21 September 2009 - 15 February 2010

    Istanbul, City of the World's Desire: the story of Constantinople from its founding by Constantine the Great, its life as the capital of the Byzantine Empire and its renaissance as Ottoman Istanbul. Art goes to the movies: Two study days of lectures and film clips which explore some of the ways in which the film industry has depicted artists and how the visual arts have influenced the design of movies.

  • From Model To Maker

    22 September 2009 - 22 June 2010

    Three linked programmes which examine the relationships between women and the arts. The Muse and the Ideal: How and why women have been idealised in art from the time of Classical Greece and how these ideas have persisted into the 21st century. Real Women: Why artists have chosen to present unidealised images of women and what these images imply. Women as Makers: This programme looks at the art and design made by women who have been working in the visual arts since the 19th century.

  • The Great Collections

    15 September 2008 - 18 May 2009

    London acquired her great public museums and galleries in the 19th century; - The British Museum, begun in the 1820s, The National Gallery in 1840, The Victoria and Albert in 1856 and The Tate in 1897. This programme of linked lectures and visits tell the stories behind the collections and the buildings made to house them.

  • The Art Of Power & The Power Of Art

    16 September 2008 - 23 June 2009

    The visual arts can be expressions of power and authority and of rebellion against authority. This lecture series examines the ways in which art can be used to affirm and undermine power. From displays of cultural supremacy, to social control and manipulation, and international propaganda, art is used to assert the power of nations and cultural groups. It can also be used to criticise and undermine, sometimes using guerrilla tactics to do so. We will explore key moments in our history from the ancient world to the present when art has been at the service of power and revolution.

  • Intolerance

    24 September 2008 - 17 June 2009

    It is becoming a commonplace that religious differences are responsible for some of the insoluble divisions in the modern world. How did these situations arise, were they inevitable or were they the result of political expedience? This lecture series examines ways in which intolerance is fostered and will ask if there can be any solutions.

  • Aspects of London

    17 September 2008 - 27 June 2009

    Geoffrey Tom's programme of lectures and visits reveals different faces of London. Term one looks at Regency London and term two considers great events that have affected the physical shape of the City. Term three concentrates on the city of Wren and his times.

  • Three Artists, Three Worlds

    17 September 2007 - 16 June 2008

    This programme of monthly lectures concentrates on the work of three artists, Donatello, Caravaggio and Seurat. Each one was an innovator and a great craftsman, and broke new ground for art while re- sponding to the social, religious and intellectual climate of his time. 'Three Artists, Three Worlds' will link the careers of these artists and the evolution of their respective visual languages to the very different worlds in which they worked.

  • Roma - From the Fall to Fellini

    18 September 2007 - 24 June 2008

    Roma follows the story and the arts of the city from the late Empire to the 20th century. Few cities have experienced Rome's extremes of fortune; squalor and poverty in the early middle ages and great prosperity in the 8th and 9th centuries as she became the capital of the Christian west. Three hundred years of civil war and the loss of the papacy to Avignon brought poverty again followed by the wealth and splendour of the Renaissance and Counter Reformation. Even after the Church ceased to be a major patron, Rome remained a cultural power house, attracting artists of all kinds from across Europe. She survived Napoleon and the struggle for the unification of Italy to emerge as the capital of the new kingdom in 1870. Since then the city has had many roles, the Holy City, Mussolini's New Rome and the 'Hollywood of Europe' but in every case the past and the present are inextricably mixed, Rome remains the 'Eternal City'.

  • Concerning Belief - The Great Faiths

    26 September 2007 - 11 June 2008

    The late 15th century humanist scholars of Florence arrived at the conclusion that all Faiths were paths to an identical goal and that this truth was actually buried and hidden by the structures of organised religion. 'Concerning Belief ' will work with this premise by comparing the core ideas which inform the great faiths of the world and examining the ways in which those ideas developed in very different ways.

  • Three Aspects of London

    19 September 2007 - 25 June 2008

    Geoffrey Tom's programme of lectures and visits reveals three different faces of London. Term one looks at the city as it was in the time of Shakespeare and the development of the London theatre. Term two uses archaeological evidence to unveil the prehistoric and Roman city and Term three traces the development of suburbia and Metroland

  • Secret Languages - Hidden Meanings in Art

    18 September 2006 - 25 June 2007

    Often the complete meaning of a painting or sculpture is conveyed in details which might seem insignificant to the casual observer. To understand the meanings of these symbols and their origins adds immeasurably to the pleasure of reading art. 'Secret Languages' links lectures with visits to London galleries to study relevant works at first hand.

  • The Serene Republic - The Story of Venice and her Arts

    19 September 2006 - 26 June 2007

    At the height of her power in the 15th century Venice controlled a trading empire reaching from Northern Italy to the Eastern Aegean. This ruthless, wealthy and powerful city absorbed ideas from the east and the west to produce arts and architecture which were uniquely Venetian. 'The Serene Republic' will follow the fortunes of Venice, her rise and fall and the development of her sumptuous and exquisite visual arts.

  • The Development of Christianity and Christian Art

    4 October 2006 - 15 November 2006

    Christianity was one belief among many in the Roman world but by the fourth century AD it had become the religion of the empire and missionaries were beginning to take the Christian message beyond the imperial frontiers. From humble beginnings the Faith evolved complex and sometimes contentious doctrines and rich artistic languages. This short series of lectures examines some of the ways in which Christianity and Christian art developed from the 1st to the 16th centuries.

  • The London Course

    27 September 2006 - 27 June 2007

    Geoffrey Tom's programme of lectures and visits explored three different aspects of London. The 17th century city as it was known and described by Samuel Pepys. The supremely elegant London of the 18th century and in the third term, the Imperial City of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

  • A Handbook for Artists

    26 September 2005 - 26 June 2006

    The artists of the past were trained in the use of a variety of techniques and materials, some are still used but many have become redundant or else are used in quite different ways. This programme of lectures and demonstrations will give you some insights into the ways in which the artists of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the 17th and 18th centuries created their works.

  • The Story of India

    20 September 2005 - 27 June 2006

    In the third millennium BC. the Indian peninsula was home to one of the great civilisations of the ancient world. Fresh ideas brought by subsequent migrating and invading peoples contributed to cultures which were regarded with awe by the Greeks and the Romans. The Hindu and Buddhist faiths fascinated Western philosophers long before the time of Christ and the sophisticated scholarship, technology and art forms generated in the Indian cities had a lasting impact on European thought. This course is designed to give you some understanding of the great cultural and artistic achievements of India and their impact on the outside world.

  • 'All That Has Been, And Is, And Shall Be'

    21 September 2005 - 28 June 2006

    This programme consists of three interrelated monthly courses, each is a separate study of aspects of the female principle in mythology and religion. They may be taken singly or in combination with one or both of the others to build a complete programme.

  • The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

    22 September 2005 - 29 June 2006

    We are accustomed to looking at the history of art as an evolution with new concepts constantly replacing the old. In fact some ideas have constantly informed western art and continue to do so in this century. This course traces some of these themes from their genesis to their modern manifestations.

  • The Arts of Pre Columbian America

    27 September 2004 - 20 June 2005

    Of the hundreds of Indian nations once living in the Americas, many were settled in permanent communities some of which were as large and sophisticated as any in the 16th century world and which shared trade and ideas along a vast network of land and water routes. These were complex social structures with highly skilled artisans, builders, farmers, mathematicians and doctors, an infinite variety of ways of life. This programme of lectures gives a brief introduction to the lost people and the arts of pre Columbian America.

  • The Arts of France

    21 September 2004 - 21 June 2005

    From the 17th century it was Paris which dominated the cultural life of France but long before the country was drawn together under the crown to become the most powerful European state, her provinces were producing rich and varied arts. This course explores the diversity of French art and culture and the ways in which the country came to be the arbiter of taste in the western world.

  • Older Than Time

    29 September 2004 - 22 June 2005

    A language of symbols has existed since humankind first began to make patterns and images and to tell stories. Some of these symbols exist in the arts of every culture and have been adapted and given fresh layers of meaning over the millenia. In this programme we will trace the roots of some of our most universal symbols and the ways in which they have evolved in the more recent cultures and arts of the world.

  • The Functions & Meanings of Architecture

    23 September 2004 - 23 June 2005

    Architecture is the most public of all western arts and was understood from the 15th century to be the central discipline of all artistic development. This course discusses the many roles required of architecture, the meanings of the architectural languages and the contexts in which they were used.

  • Art, Philosophy, Science & The Monastic Orders

    29 September 2003 - 14 June 2004

    It is generally known that the monasteries were the centres of learning in the early Middle Ages and that it was in the monastic libraries and scriptoria that vital texts were preserved and copied. What are less well understood are the roles played by the monastic and mendicant Orders in shaping thought and art in the Middle Ages, not only within the Church but across the wider spectrum of European learning and arts. This lecture series will examine the impact of some of the major Orders on the society of their time and the ways in which they may have contributed to modern attitudes.

  • Europa & The Barbarians, The Foundations of European Culture

    23 September 2003 - 22 June 2004

    The Greeks used the name 'Europa' to describe a vaguely defined mass of land west and north of the Mediterranean. To them and to the Romans the inhabitants were 'barbaraphonai', speakers of babble and inferior in every respect to the civilised inhabitants of the Mediterranean lands. So great was the impact of Greco Roman culture in Europe that it is easy to forget that anthing else existed and to assume that the destruction of the western Roman empire brought any cultural achievements to an end.

  • Born In The USA, The American Century

    24 September 2003 - 23 June 2004

    At the beginning of the 20th Century America was well on the way to becoming the wealthiest state in the world but it was still perceived by outsiders to be a country without any real culture. With very few exceptions, American artists and designers of the 19th century had been measured against their European contemporaries and found wanting. By the 1950s all of this had changed and America was at the cutting edge of the arts; a great dynamo which seemed capable of endless invention. No other country had the social and ethnic mix of the States.

  • The Triumph Of Albion, The Renaissance in England

    25 September 2003 - 24 June 2004

    When Henry VII, the first of the Tudors took the English crown in 1485, the old power structures of medieval Europe were already changing. Constantinople had fallen to the Ottomans in 1453, Italian dominance of international trade and banking was in decline and within Henry's own reign the discovery of the New World would change the patterns of trade and enterprise for ever. Under the Tudors and the Stuart monarchs who followed them, little England became a major player in the emerging political and commercial worlds.