Understanding Art: An Introduction to Western European Art
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Edgar Degas
At a glance
- Live online course
- 2 hours a week
- Wednesdays 18:00 - 20:00
- 20 weeks: October to March
- Tutor: Leslie Primo
- Fees from £220 to £410
- Imperial College Attendance Certificate (T&Cs apply)
- Book from 15 August
Visiting art museums and galleries is one of the most enjoyable activities in life, but it can be made even more rewarding by discovering some of the stories behind the great works of art, and the ideas that inspired artists in their studios.
On this course we will explore a wide variety of Western European art works, from early Byzantine through to late Victorian art and Impressionism. The tutor will encourage us to participate in discussions on the different varieties of art we will look at, while guiding us to greater understanding of the lives of different artists, their cultural background and their influence on later developments in art.
The programme is broadly chronological, with forays into different geographical regions of Europe, and we will discover some of the key movements in art, the characteristics of different styles and information on specific artists, such as Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and others.
At the start of the course we will think about how to look at paintings and sculpture, and consider concepts such as compositon and iconography, exploring the way saints and ancient Greek and Roman gods were decpicted, as well as the clues artists give us to understanding their works through various forms of symbolism.
The course is aimed at complete beginners and so no previous knowledge of art or art history is necessary. It is also suitable for those who have some background in art and design history or practice.
Online Access to Course
This is a taught live online course which means you will be taught alongside other students on the course by a tutor at a specific time on a specific day of the week. To take part in the course you will need a suitably equipped and internet-enabled device. Please find full details and instructions below under 'Course Delivery'.
Those who attend at least 80% of the course sessions will receive an attendance certificate from Imperial College London upon completion of the course.
AUTUMN TERM (10 weeks from 14 October 2020)
- Session 1 - Iconography of Venus, Cupid & Mars
- Session 2 - Iconography of Adorations & Annunciations
- Session 3 - Iconography: Saints & Sinners
- Session 4 - Byzantine & Gothic
- Session 5 - Medieval & Gothic
- Session 6 - Florentine Renaissance
- Session 7 - Art & Reformation in Northern Renaissance Europe
- Session 8 - The Sienese Renaissance
- Session 9 - Botticelli & Florence
- Session 10 - Leonardo, Projects, Patrons & Peregrinations
*** CHRISTMAS BREAK ***
SPRING TERM (10 weeks from 13 January 2021)
Please note this term there will be no class on Wednesday 17 February 2021
- Session 11 - Raphael and the End of the Renaissance
- Session 12 - The Rise of the Divine Michelangelo
- Session 13 - Titian and the Venetian Masters
- Session 14 - Baroque, Carracci to Bernini - A New Direction
- Session 15 - Northern Baroque in England - Mytens - Van Dyck
- Session 16 - Art in Spain - Velázquez to Murillo
- Session 17 - Art in France - Poussin to Claude
- Session 18 - Neo-Classicism - The Re-emergence of the Antique
- Session 19 - The Dutch Golden Age - Rembrandt to Vermeer
- Session 20 - From the Victorian Age to the Modern Age
This programme may be subject to modification
There is no compulsory reading required for this course, and there is no set course text, but if you would like to read more on the subject we suggest:
- Bell, Julian, Mirror of the World, (Thames & Hudson, 2007)
- Bomford, Dunkerton, Gordon and Roy, Art in the Making: Italian Painting before 1400, (National Gallery Publications Ltd, 1990)
- Bomford, David, Kirby, Jo, Leighton, John and Roy, Ashok, Art in the Making: Impressionism (National Gallery Publication, 1990)
- Brown, Beverly Louise (ed), The Genius of Rome: 1592 – 1623, (Royal Academy of Arts, 2001)
- Bretrell, Richard R., Impression: Painting Quickly in France 1860 -1890 (Yale University Press, 2000)
- Brown, Jonathan, Painting in Spain: 1500 – 1700, (Yale University Press, 1998)
- Bull, George (ed), Giorgio Vasari: Lives of the Artists, (Penguin Books, 1987) Volumes: I & II
- Carr, Dawson W., Velázquez, (National Gallery Company Ltd, 2006)
- Capon, Edmund, Benedetti, Sergio W., Strinati, Claudio, and Vaughan, Gerard, Caravaggio and His World: Darkness & Light, (Art Gallery of New South Wales and National Gallery of Victoria, 2003)
- Dunkerton, J., Foister, S., Gordon, D. & Penny, N., Giotto to Dürer: Early Renaissance Painting in the National Gallery, (National Gallery Publications Ltd, 1991)
- Gombrich, Ernst H., The Story of Art, (Phaidon, 1995)
- Hearn, Karen (ed), Van Dyke & Britain, (Tate Publishing, 2009)
- House John, Impressionism for England: Samuel Courtauld as Patron and Collector (Courtauld Institute Galleries and Authors, and Yale University Press, 1994)
- Jaffé, David, with Ede, Minna Moore, Rubens: A Master in the Making, (National Gallery Company Ltd, 2005)
- Spicer, Joaneath A. with Orr, Lynn Ferderle, Masters of Light: Dutch Painters in Utrecht during the Golden Age (Yale University, New Haven and London, 1997)
- Liedtke, Walter, with Plomp, Michel C., Rüger, Axel, Vermeer and the Delft School, (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001)
- Mac Laren, Neil, revised by Brown, Christopher, The Dutch School: 1600 – 1900, (National Gallery Publications Ltd, 1991)
- Snyder, James, Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, The Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575, (Laurence King Publishing, 2005)
- Sutherland Harris, Ann, 17th Century Art & Architecture, (Laurence King Publishing, 2009)
Your tutor for this course will be Leslie Primo. Leslie is a highly experienced and well-known art historian, who has appeared on television and radio, as well as lecturing at organisations including the National Gallery in London and Wallace Collection. You can read more about your tutor at: Leslie Primo's website
All our online courses are taught live which means you will be taught alongside other students on the course by a tutor at a specific time. To take part in the course you must be able to attend the online session at the time stated for the course description.
All times stated are British Standard Time.
To take part you will need a computer, or laptop, or tablet computer, connected to the Internet. The device you use will also need to have a camera, microphone and speakers. Most devices now have these built in, but if not you might have to buy them from a computer shop and to connect them to your device.
This course will use Zoom as its online delivery method. Zoom is very easy to use and you do not need to set up a Zoom account to use it. Near the date of your first online session you will be sent an email with a web address (or URL) that will allow you to access the course. This is called the Course Link. All you need do is click on the Course Link in the email and you will be asked to enter your name. This is the name that will be seen by your tutor and other students in the class.
Once you have entered your name you might be asked to enter a password to enter the class. The password will be included in the email sent to you. Once you enter the password you will either be taken directly into the class, or asked to wait in a virtual waiting room until the tutor is ready to let you into the class.
We have also produced a Handy Guide to Zoom [pdf] which gives you basic information on how to use it.
All courses lasting two hours have a 10 minute break in the middle. For one hour courses there is no break.
Course Fees and Rate Categories
|Hours||Weeks||Standard Rate||Internal Rate||Associate Rate|
|40||20|| £410 (Early Bird Rate: £370*)
||£240 (Early Bird Rate: £220*)||£320 (Early Bird Rate: £290*)|
|* The Early Bird rate is available for enrolments made before the end of 30 September for courses starting in October only | All fee rates quoted are for the whole 2-term course.|
Rate Categories and Discounts
- Applicable to all except those who fall under the Internal Rate or Associate Rate category, respectively.
- Applies to current Imperial College students and staff (incl. Imperial NHS Trust, Imperial Innovations, ancillary & service staff employed on long-term contracts at Imperial College by third-party contractors).
- Current Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication (CLCC) staff, current CLCC PhD students, Science Communication (Sci Comm) postgraduate students, and students enrolled on an Imperial College 'Language for Science' degree programme should email evening email@example.com before completing the online enrolment form.
- Students (non-Imperial College)
- Alumni of Imperial College and predecessor colleges and institutes
- City & Guilds College Association members
- Members of the Friends of Imperial College
- Francis Crick Institute staff, researchers and students
- Friends of the South London Botanical Institute
- Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
- Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council staff
- Harrods staff
- Historic Royal Palaces staff
- Natural History Museum staff
- Science Museum staff
- Victoria and Albert Museum staff
- Royal Geographical Society staff
- Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music tutors and other staff
- Santander Bank staff (Imperial College Walkway branch only)
- Austrian Cultural Forum staff
- Staff of Exhibition Road Cultural Group (Discover South Kensington) organisations
- Lycee Charles de Gaulle staff
- Tutors and other staff of other universities and higher education institutions
- Tutors and other staff of institution members of the Association of Colleges
- Residents of postcodes SW3, SW5, SW7, SW10 and W8
- Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
- Members of the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI)
It is possible to enrol on many CLCC Evening Class and Lunchtime Learning programmes after the course has started. For non-language courses this is subject entirely to agreement by the tutor. For language courses it is subject to agreement by the language Coordinator conducting level assessment. If you want to join a course late do bear in mind there might be work you will need to catch up on, particularly in language courses.
Applicable terms & conditions
Please read the before enrolling on any course.
|Hours||Weeks||Autumn term||Spring term||Summer term||Summer School|
|40||20||14 Oct - 16 Dec 2020 (9 weeks)* PLUS||13 Jan - 24 Mar 2021 (11 weeks)||n/a||n/a|
|* Followed by the Christmas break|
Web enrolment starts 15 August
Enrolment and payment run through the Imperial College eStore. Please click on the blue booking link on the relevant course page noting below instructions:
- Our rate categories are explained on the course page and your applicable rate category must be selected on the eStore
- First-time eStore users please create an account by entering an email address and password. These credentials should also be used for future bookings. Imperial College users please note the eStore is not a single-signon College system
- The booking process involves entering payment details after your course choice and applicant details are collected via an in-built questionnnaire
- The following email notifications are sent:
|What is sent||When is it sent||What does it contain|
|1. Payment confirmation||Is sent instantaneously following submission of your online application||
|2. Enrolment confirmation||Is sent within 10 working days. Please treat your payment confirmation as confirmation that your applicant details and payment have been received||
|3. Programme information||Is usually sent on Friday late afternoon the week before term starts||
|If you need further help with the above information please ring 020 7594 8756
- Questions regarding the content and teaching of this course should be sent to the tutor, Mr Leslie Primo at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Questions about your enrolment and payment should be sent to the Programme Administrator, email@example.com
If you have enjoyed this course, why not look at other arts and humanities evening class courses at Imperial College. This includes courses on the history of western art from ancient Greece to the nineteenth century, Understanding Modern and Design, the history of film and cinema and Greek and Roman mythology in art. We also run practical courses in art and photography and creative writing classes, and a growing programme of science based evening classes.