Great Paintings in Times of Social Upheaval

Ref: C2345618

A look at paintings that depict important historical events or simply reveal fascinating aspects of contemporary society. This is a history course rather than an art history course but art is very much at its centre. We will look at the "Dutch Golden Age" centred on Amsterdam and the great works of Rembrandt and other artists working there. We will also examine Renaissance Italy, the driving forces behind it, the rivalries and even wars between city states, and the paintings of Botticelli, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian and others who flourished as artists at this time. We'll also look at American art from 1850 to 1950, a period during which the United States moved on from the devastating Civil War, when it was still largely a rural country, to being an industrial giant with a predominantly urbanised population.

Course aim

To look at history through paintings: sometimes great historical events but also simpler, more everyday aspects of contemporary society; and the backgrounds and motives of the artists.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Summarise the differences between Rembrandt's The Night Watch and similar group portraits.
  • Outline the reasons for Amsterdam's prosperity in the 17th century
  • Give examples of some of the strange theories that have been aroused by Leonardo's The Last Supper
  • Discuss why Raphael was so revered in his lifetime and for centuries afterwards
  • Identify some American artists who highlighted divisions in society

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

You will need an internet connection, speakers, a microphone and a webcam so that you can use our learning platform, Canvas, and access a Zoom presentation. If you’d like to understand more about Zoom please visit:

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Great Paintings in Times of Social Upheaval


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2021
  • You declare that the address you provide is correct and that you will provide evidence of this and your eligibility to live and work in the UK
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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