Botticelli (Birth of Venus, c.1485) Uffizi, Firenze

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Edgar Degas

At a glance

  • Classroom course
  • 2 hours a week
  • Wednesdays 18:30 - 20:30
  • 20 weeks: October to March
  • Tutor: Leslie Primo
  • Fees from £230 to £420
  • Imperial College attendance certificate (T&Cs apply)
Booking link

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.

Attendance certificate

Those who attend at least 80% of the course sessions will receive an attendance certificate from Imperial College London upon completion of the course.

Course Information

Course Programme

AUTUMN TERM (10 weeks from 13 October 2021)

  • 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 19 January 2022)

  • 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

Additional Reading

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

Photograph of Leslie PrimoYour 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

Twitter: artfirstprimo     

Blog: artfirstprim

Course Delivery: Classroom Taught Courses

Courses delivered in-person in a classroom*

This course takes place at our South Kensington Campus and will be classroom taught.

All courses lasting two hours have a 10-minute break in the middle. For one hour courses there is no break.

Covid-19 and Safe Distancing for Classroom-based Courses

Please be aware of covid-19 safe-distancing requirements and adhere to them. We ask if possible that participants on this course take a home swab test (lateral flow test) before joining each session of the class. Swab tests can be ordered free of charge prior to the start of the course from https://www.gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests or obtained free of charge from many pharmacists.

* In the event of the government or Public Health England requiring further lockdown measures the class will transfer online and any remaining sessions will be taught entirely online.

Course Fees and Rate Categories

HoursWeeksStandard RateInternal RateAssociate Rate
 40  20  £420    (Early Bird Rate: £380*)
£250    (Early Bird Rate: £230*) £330    (Early Bird Rate: £300*) 
* 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

Standard Rate

  • Applicable to all except those who fall under the Internal Rate or Associate Rate category, respectively.

Internal Rate

  • 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)
  • Individuals enrolling under our Friends & Family scheme
  • Staff of the English Chamber Orchestra
  • 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 contact eveningclass@imperial.ac.uk before completing the online enrolment form

Associate Rate

  • Alumni of Imperial College and predecessor colleges and institutes
  • Austrian Cultural Forum staff
  • City & Guilds College Association members
  • Francis Crick Institute staff, researchers and students
  • Friends and Patrons of the English Chamber Orchestra
  • Harrods staff
  • Historic Royal Palaces staff
  • Lycee Charles de Gaulle staff
  • Members of the Friends of Imperial College
  • Members of the Kennel Club
  • Members of the London Zoological Society
  • Members of the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI)
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Natural History Museum staff
  • National Health Service (NHS) employees
  • Residents of postcodes SW3, SW5, SW7, SW10 and W8
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council staff
  • Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music tutors and other staff
  • Royal Geographical Society staff
  • Science Museum staff
  • Staff of Exhibition Road Cultural Group (Discover South Kensington) organisations
  • Students (non-Imperial College)
  • Teachers and other staff of UK schools
  • Tutors and other staff of institution members of the Association of Colleges
  • Tutors and other staff of other universities and higher education institutions
  • Victoria and Albert Museum staff

Late enrolment

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 Terms and Conditions [pdf] before enrolling on any course.

Term Dates

HoursWeeksAutumn termSpring termSummer termSummer School
 40  20 11 Oct - 18 Dec 2021 (10 weeks)*  PLUS 17 Jan - 26 Mar 2022 (10 weeks) n/a n/a
* Followed by the Christmas break

Enrolment Process

Web enrolment starts 2nd August 2021

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 sentWhen is it sentWhat does it contain
1. Payment confirmation Is sent instantaneously following submission of your online application
  • This is a receipt for your payment and includes payment date, order number and course title
  • Confirmation of your place on your chosen course will follow later
2. Enrolment confirmation Is sent within 10 working daysPlease treat your payment confirmation as confirmation that your applicant details and payment have been received
  • Re-confirms your course choice
  • Shows your course's term dates
  • Confirms the day and time of your course
3. Programme information Is usually sent on Friday late afternoon the week before term starts
  • Contains joining instructions for your course, incl. tutor contact details
If you need further help with the above information please ring 020 7594 8756

Any Questions?

  • Questions regarding the content and teaching of this course should be sent to the tutor, Mr Leslie Primo at artfirstprimo@gmail.com
  • Questions about your enrolment and payment should be sent to the Programme Administrator, eveningclass@imperial.ac.uk

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.