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Art History Weekly Course

THE ART OF PORTRAITURE: Not Just a Pretty Face?

Enter any art museum or stately home and you will be aware, immediately, how important portrait painting has been in Western art since the Renaissance. In London, we even have a major national gallery dedicated to portraits of the great and good.

So enormous was the demand that artists who specialised in the genre often were referred to, disparagingly, as 'phizzmongers' (face-sellers). The quality could be variable!

However, some of the greatest and best known works of Western art have been portraits: Leonardo's Mona Lisa, Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait, Velázquez's Las Meninas, Rembrandt's 'The Night Watch', Vincent van Gogh's Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear.

We will explore some of the finest and most intriguing portraits over the centuries. We will ask: what makes a great portrait? Is it physical likeness, characterisation, psychological insight or the promotion of power and status?

We will examine different forms and poses: the profile, three- quarters, bust length, full length 'swagger' portrait and 'conversation pieces'.

As we move through the centuries there will be plenty opportunity too for discussion of the broader historical context, as well as gaining insights into changing fashions in clothing and beauty.

Join me to discover there is more to portraiture than just a pretty face!