Royal Portraits

Ref: C2226932

Due to face to face teaching being suspended unfortunately this course is not currently available for enrolment.

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What is the purpose of the royal portrait? From the beginnings in coinage and vellum parchment to the media of today, the development of this iconic phenomenon will be traced, together with its unique attributes. The portrait, unlike other forms of painting and photography, involves three and not two people: the sitter, the painter or photographer and the viewer. Their relationship with each other will dictate the resulting portrait. The purposes of the royal portrait will be explored, ranging from the mass dissemination due to the invention of printing, and the possibilities of propaganda to the wish to be immortalized and to indicate status and power. Some portraits were intended for private purposes and some for public. The great portrait painters will be explored and contrasted, including those native to Britain and those from abroad. The influence of Titian and Holbein will be shown through the work of Van Dyck, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Winterhalter, de Lazlo, Beaton and Karsh.

Additional information about this course

Half term break tbc

Course aim

The aim is to trace the development of the royal portrait and assess its significance and use, since the reign of Richard II, c.1400.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • This course is for anyone with an interest in Art, Photography, Royal History, or simply art and history generally. A visit to an Art Gallery or Exhibition is sometimes included if appropriate and possible.

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

  • Trace the development and purpose of the royal portrait from c. 1400 to the present day.
  • Estimate the influence and contribution of royal portraiture to art history generally.
  • Analyse specific portraits in details, and show why they are significant in the history of portrait painting.

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
  • This is a topic which will encourage comments and contributions from the class, so as to bring about an interaction. Students may bring their own notebooks and even sketching materials and artefacts if appropriate, but the lecturer will provide a good number of handouts.

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
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • There is nothing formal here, but group discussion and individual comments are much valued in the context of this course, as is the recital of experiences from members of the class.

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)
  • The student needs nothing more than a pen, pencil or notebook if wished, and sketching materials also if wished. There is nothing required more than the student's presence and a wish on their part to interact with others.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required
  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • It is hoped that a number of books on royal portraiture, or catalogues from exhibitions can be provided from the local library, or members of the class may bring in their own books etc. to show others. The lecturer will also contribute in this way.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information
  • This course may provide a valuable beginning or stimulus for other courses, including something more formal in the range of art and museology.

Download full course information sheet

Royal Portraits

Is this course right for me? Request more information

Due to face to face teaching being suspended unfortunately this course is not currently available for enrolment.

We are launching a range of online courses shortly that may be of interest to you so sign up here to hear more.


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • 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 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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