Saturday Lecture: What Makes a Masterpiece

Ref: C2420881

A “masterpiece” used to be the work created by an apprentice to mark the end of his training. It now designates an exceptional work of art. Why are some works of art designated as masterpieces? Who gets to decide, based on which criteria and in which circumstances? This lecture offers a reflection on this familiar yet puzzling idea. Based on case studies, we will come back on the origin and history of the concept, its purpose and the ways it has been used and challenged throughout the years.

Additional information about this course

This course is not supported by the Education Skills Funding Agency and does not have a fee waiver but concessions may be available - contact the Branch for further details.

Course aim

The history of Western art is often told as a succession of great artists and works of art: masters and masterpieces. This lecture traces the origin and history of this concept, and reflects upon its importance in the history of art.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

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

  • Recount the origins of the concept of “masterpiece”, and explain what it means
  • Name some of the criteria that make a work of art a masterpiece
  • Discuss and challenge the importance given to this concept in the history of 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
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support 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

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • During the first session you will be invited to name a work of art you think is a masterpiece and you would like us to study.

What can I do next?

Download full course information sheet

Saturday Lecture: What Makes a Masterpiece


This course is funded by the Greater London Combined Authority but is also open to residents of other areas.

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

Not sure or have further questions? Contact

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