Art History: The Birth of the Modern

Ref: C3847035

In his book Modern Art: A Very Short Introduction David Cottington asks a simple but important question: 'What makes art modern?' Following this thought, this course will introduce a diverse range of art and artists in order to start thinking about what modern means, how art has evolved through different eras and ways in which the modern and what went before reflect back on each other. Why did such changes occur? How were both new work and innovative ideas received? Thinking around these ideas we will explore the visual qualities of the art we encounter, why it looks as it does and the aesthetic, historical and personal contexts that underpin this. We will also read around critical debate within art history. Each session will deal with a specific artistic movement or genre, introduce a range of artists and their work, explore the circumstances and place of its making, style, its function and meaning, the life of each artist, then the societies and spheres in which they were at work.

Course aim

This course will introduce and explore a number of artists through their lives and works, as well as examining different art movements and notable critical contributions within the of realm art history to determine some key historical shifts in 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:

  • Demonstrate an appreciation for and understanding of different forms of art within its historical frame, particularly late C19th / C20th / modern art
  • Situate different kinds of artists and artworks within their stylistic, historical and cultural context
  • Explain important artistic techniques and approaches using accurate and appropriate terminology
  • Identify and distinguish art by particular artists and from distinct movements and periods
  • Demonstrate some independence in learning through analysis and research using skills built and developed here

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

This course will be taught online using a combination of Zoom and the WEA's online digital learning platform Canvas, both of which you will need to be able to access through the internet and email. A selection of learning resources will be provided, including images and reading for each session.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Art History: The Birth of the Modern

Is this course right for me? Request more information

This course is only available as part of this programme.


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

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