Masterpieces - Part 1

Ref: C2420900

In the guild system, a masterpiece was the work created by an apprentice or journeyman to mark the end of his training. Thus demonstrating his skills, he became a “master craftsman”. In the 18th century, the word was increasingly used beyond the guild context to denote an exceptionally good work of art. Since then, masterpieces and their creators have had a central place in the canon of the history of art. After a general introduction, you will be invited to select and study some outstanding works of art, from Ancient Greece to the present. We will discuss them in class session after session in order to learn more about key works in the history of Western art. These case studies will also provide some answers to questions such as: What makes a masterpiece? And who gets to decide? Based on which criteria? Is it about technical mastery or is it about some je ne sais quoi? Must a masterpiece be influential and shape the developments of art? What about non-Western art?

Course aim

This course offers to (re)discover great works of art and, in the process, to explore what makes a masterpiece.

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?

  • Progress to another WEA course

Download full course information sheet

Masterpieces - Part 1


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

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