Seminar: What Makes a Masterpiece

Ref: C3746188

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. We will identify the elements that make a masterpiece and start answering questions such as 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 lecture discusses the idea of the masterpiece, and look into how we recognise great 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

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course

Download full course information sheet

Seminar: What Makes a Masterpiece


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  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2020
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