Portraiture in 18th Century Britain

Ref: C3746791

Portraiture was the most persistently popular genre of art in eighteenth-century Britain. But what forms did it take? Why did it flourish? And what business strategies did portrait painters adopt? We will explore how the genre evolved through the work of figures such as Godfrey Kneller, William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, and Thomas Lawrence. This course will follow a broadly thematic approach, covering topics such as the conversation piece, celebrity, and family portraiture.

Course aim

To enable students to explore a range of eighteenth-century portraits, by artists such as Kneller, Hogarth, Zoffany, Reynolds and Gainsborough, within their social, historical, economic and artistic contexts.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers

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

  • demonstrate a broad knowledge of eighteenth-century British portraiture and its relationship to debates in contemporary society
  • recognise and analyse the major stylistic and artistic developments in British portraiture in the period
  • identify key features of the work of three leading portrait painters from the period
  • look at examples of portraiture from this period and comment on them

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

Apart from a personal email address and internet connection to access the online classes, nothing else is required. Suggestions for further reading will be given at the start of the course.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Portraiture in 18th Century Britain


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

Not sure or have further questions? Contact courseenquiries@wea.org.uk

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