Great Paintings during Massive Social Upheavals

Ref: C2341781

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. Other topics include art of the Industrial Revolution, war art of the First and Second World Wars, and American art 1850-1950.

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?

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

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
  • Explain some of the reasons for encouraging war art

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
  • Examination of reproductions of paintings in slides will be used to encourage informal discussion during the course sessions.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • Examination of reproductions of paintings in slides will be used to encourage informal discussion.

What else do I need to know?

  • Some method of taking notes would be useful.

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
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here

Download full course information sheet

Great Paintings during Massive Social Upheavals

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This course is not available for online enrolment.


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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