Portraiture in 18th Century Britain

Ref: C3744490

Portraiture was the most popular genre in eighteenth-century British art. This course will explore some of the forms that it took for different types of sitter. We will consider how and why the field flourished, and the strategies that painters such as Hogarth, Reynolds and Gainsborough adopted; and we will explore how the genre evolved over the period. The course will follow a broadly thematic approach, covering topics including: the business of portraiture; the conversation piece; the great and the good; celebrity; the family; and the British abroad.It is hoped that one session will consist of a gallery visit to London.

Course aim

To enable students to explore a range of eighteenth-century portraits, by artists such as Kneller, Hogarth, Zoffany, Reynolds and Gainsborough, within their social, historical, economic and artistic contexts.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

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

  • demonstrate a broad knowledge of eighteenth-century British portraiture and its relationship to debates in contemporary society
  • recognise and analyse the major stylistic and artistic developments in British portraiture in the period
  • look at examples of art from this period and comment on them

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

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • Verbally in response to questions and discussions in class

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No preparatory reading is required. Some initial suggestions for general reading include: Desmond Shawe-Taylor, 'The Georgians: Eighteenth-Century Portraiture & Society' (1990); Jeremy Black, 'Culture in Eighteenth-Century England' (2006)

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider

Download full course information sheet

Portraiture in 18th Century Britain

Is this course right for me? Request more information

This course has been cancelled.


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 courseenquiries@wea.org.uk

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