Painting by Artemisia Gentileschi

"Taking this evening class was one of the best decisions I've ever made." - Angela Hou (Royal College of Art student)

At a Glance

  • Online course
  • Mondays 18:00 - 20:00 (STC)
  • 10 weeks: October to December
  • 2 hours weekly online taught time
  • Tutor: Abi Shapiro
  • Official Course Title: 'Understanding Art'
  • Fees from £120 to £210
  • Imperial College Attendance Certificate (T&Cs apply)
  • Book from 15 August
Booking link

Women have always been part of the art world, not only as models and muses, but as practising artists, many of them celebrated in their own times, but still forgotten or ignored by later art history. On this fascinating ten-week course Dr Abi Shapiro invites us to join her to discover the fascinating history of women in art, from the Renaissance to the present day. As well as discovering some of the great women artists of the past, we will find out how and why women have been excluded from more mainstream histories of art, and at the way women were seen by male artists in the past. 

 The course is organised chronologically and thematically to look at how the role of women have changed in Western art history from the Renaissance period to the present day. In the classes we will think about key issues such as concepts of beauty and femininity, the objectification of women through art, and ideas relating to art and the body, identity, sexuality and motherhood. We will explore the education of women artists and look at how feminist art historians and artists challenged the role and understanding of women in art. Moving to more recent developments we will consider the impact of globalisation of women in the art world.

During the course we will examine the work of some of the better known women artists, but also less well known figures, ranging from Artemisia Gentileschi, Elisabeth Vigeé Le-Brun and Berthe Morisot, to Barbara Hepworth, Louise Bourgeois, Tracey Emin and Lubaina Himid, amongst others.

The aim of the class will be to give you a broad overview of the issues at stake for thinking about the role of women in art history and to learn about some of the key artists who shaped the development of art and its social context since the seventeenth century.

No previous knowledge of art, history, or art history is necessary, and your tutor is an expert at guiding both novices and the more experienced through the - sometimes shocking and sometimes comic - intricacies of modern art. The course is organised to encourage discussion and debate, whilst also allowing us to explore the historical development of modern art, and the ideas and influences behind the work of artists of this period.

Course delivery

This is a live-taught online course 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 will need a suitably equipped and internet-enabled device. Please find full details and instructions below under 'Course delivery'.

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

Provisional Programme

Subject to possible change

Week 1: What is ‘woman’? Why is gender important in art history?

Week 2: Constructing Beauty: Renaissance Ideals

Week 3: Court Beauties: Power and Portraiture in 17th and 18th Century Britain

Week 4: Women at Leisure in 19th Century Paris 

Week 5: Gender and Abstraction in Early 20th Century Europe

Week 6: War, Sex and Surrealism

Week 7: Women’s Liberation and Feminist Art in the 1960s and 1970s

Week 8: Guerrilla Girls or Spice Girls? Postfeminist Art in the 1980s and 1990s

Week 9: Millennium Women: The Female Blockbuster Exhibition

Week 10: Contemporary Art and Global Feminisms Today

All classes last two hours and include a 10-minute break midway through.

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:

  •  Whitney Chadwick, Women, Art and Society. London: Thames and Hudson, 1990

  • Great Women Artists, London: Phaidon, 2019


Your Tutor

Photograph of Abi ShapiroDr Abi Shapiro is a gallery curator, writer and lecturer in art history and feminist theory. Her research interests lie in the study of post war and contemporary interdisciplinary art practices that explore questions of gender, sexuality, space, embodiment, agency, and authorship.

After investigating feminist installation art practice in her own studio work during a Fine Art degree in 2011, she is particularly interested in art making that takes into account the relationship between theoretical, artistic and activist practices.

She completed her PhD in Art History at McGill University on women artists working between installation art, architecture and feminism in the 1960s and 1970s.

Course Delivery

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 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

HoursWeeksStandard RateInternal RateAssociate Rate
 20  10  £205    (Early Bird Rate: £185*)
£120    (Early Bird Rate: £110*) £160    (Early Bird Rate: £145*) 
* The Early Bird rate is available for enrolments made before the end of 30 September for courses starting in October

Rate Categories and Discounts

Standard Rate

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

Internal Rate

  • 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 before completing the online enrolment form.

Associate Rate

  • 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
  • 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
  • South London Botanical Institute Members
  • 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)

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  before enrolling on any course.

Term Dates

HoursWeeksAutumn termSpring termSummer termSummer School
 20  10 12 Oct - 18 Dec 2020 (10 weeks)* n/a n/a n/a
* This is a 1-term course

Enrolment Process

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 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, Dr Abi Shapiro at
  • Questions about your enrolment and payment should be sent to the Programme Administrator,

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.