Changing Faces of Portraiture: From Frescos to Finger Painting

Ref: C3744503

A portrait can provide an insight into both the person(s) portrayed and the artistic and sociological context within which it was produced. This course will draw on a variety of well known (and less familiar) images to consider the role of portraiture in Western art from the Renaissance to the present day. The course will start by considering the resurgence of portraiture in Renaissance Europe and go on to study its development over the next few hundred years. Each session will focus on a particular time period and/or subgenre of portraiture, whilst engaging with one or more of the course themes including power and status, identity, and life and death. Artists whose work we will be studying include: Jan van Eyck, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Dürer, Anthony van Dyck, Rembrandt, Artemesia Gentileschi, Velázquez, Thomas Gainsborough, Ingres, Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Lucian Freud and Marc Quinn.

Course aim

This course aims to give students an understanding of the role of portraiture in Western art from the Renaissance to the present day, both in an artistic and wider sociological context.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

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

  • Define what is meant by the term 'portraiture' and list the different genres of portraiture such as group portraiture, self-portraiture etc.
  • Discuss possible reasons for the resurgence of portraiture in the Renaissance.
  • Identify key stages in the development of portraiture over the last 500 years e.g. the increased use of oil paints, the effect of the Reformation in Northern Europe.
  • Outline the effects of the development of photography on portraiture from the nineteenth century onwards with reference to specific artworks.
  • Discuss modern and contemporary approaches to portraiture with reference to artists such as Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Lucian Freud and Fiona Banner.

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
  • Participants will be encouraged to undertake additional activities between sessions such as visiting galleries and researching online. These activities, however, will not be compulsory.

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
  • Participants will encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas with the group. The tutor will be happy to talk to participants on an individual basis after the session ends, if appropriate.

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • All materials will be provided
  • A selection of materials and basic equipment will be provided but you are welcome to bring additional materials with you
  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here

Download full course information sheet

Changing Faces of Portraiture: From Frescos to Finger Painting


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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