What Makes a Masterpiece?

Ref: C2423138

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

How do we, as a society, a group, recognise great art?

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers

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

  • Recount the origins of the concept of “masterpiece”, and explain what it means
  • Recount the story of a masterpiece of your choice
  • 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?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?


Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

What Makes a Masterpiece?

Enrolment Conditions

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 enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

  • 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 2021
  • You declare that the address you provide is correct and that you will provide evidence of this and your eligibility to live and work in the UK
  • 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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