Art History: Hidden Meanings

Ref: C2419116

Secrets, lies, love, death, politics, spirituality, vanity – all these and more are represented in paintings, sometimes obviously, often obscurely. We’ll decode the hidden meanings in some much-loved and lesser known works from the middle ages onwards. The hidden meanings of painting will be explored under the headings: Morality and Melodrama , Narrative, Landscape, Portraits, Art as Propaganda, Allegory, Domestic and Genre, Modern Life. Where possible, the paintings chosen will be from London galleries and museums.

Course aim

• To develop the skills of independent judgement when assessing art works • To see beyond the obvious when looking at paintings and interpret the symbolism • To enjoy paintings with more confidence

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is for beginners
  • This course is for improvers
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • Note: Students will not need to a level 2 qualification in English, but they should have English at that level (i.e GCSE grade C or better).

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

  • Understand the reasons and contexts for the use of signs and symbols in paintings
  • Interpret works of art, particularly paintings and sculptures, with more confidence
  • Discuss a range of paintings from different periods in terms of their iconography and symbolism

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • There is no formal assessment. It is hoped that all members of the group will contribute to class discussion.

What else do I need to know?

  • All materials will be provided

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • E H Gombrich The Story of Art is highly recommended. It has real depth but it can be read by people without formal art history training. The National Gallery series: A Closer Look At (based on paintings you can see in the gallery)

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • This course could lead to a range of job opportunities. Follow link to National Careers Service for more details
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here
  • Almost all art galleries , museums and historical houses use volunteers, as guides or general helpers. During the course, information about these opportunities will be provided, as well as information on qualifications in guiding.

Download full Course information sheet

Art History: Hidden Meanings

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This course has been cancelled.


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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