Learn how European Renaissance artists, such as Bellini, van Eyck and Piero della Francesca revolutionised painting in the 15th century.
The Renaissance was one of the most dynamic periods in the history of European art and culture, producing remarkable developments in painting, architecture, sculpture, music, philosophy and science. In the hands of a few exceptional figures, the role of the artist began to expand from being artisan makers of images and objects, to that of the multi-talented ‘Renaissance man’, not only changing the way people viewed and depicted the world, but also changing the look and feel of the world itself.
In this module, we examine the meaning of the term ‘Renaissance’, learn about the influence of humanism, the invention of linear perspective, the rise of the individual and the growth of the international luxury goods trade.
Find out more about Stories of art and upcoming modules here
Week 1: The Renaissance
What does the word ‘Renaissance’ really mean?
The 15th century saw new ideas and artistic techniques sweep across Europe. Looking at Italy and Flanders, as well as other European states, we will explore the impact of the rise of humanism and the rediscovery of antiquity.
Week 2: Bruges and Flanders
What made Bruges such a vibrant artistic centre?
Closely linked by trade to Florence, Bruges became one of the leading centres of art patronage and production in Europe. We’ll consider some of the famous artists and artworks that were produced there.
Week 3: Portraits, people and gods
Learn how ideas about individuality changed portraiture.
As new ideas about the importance of the individual began to take root in the early 1400s, different forms of portraiture appeared. We’ll look at the increasing realism and emotional impact of portraits and at depictions of figures from myth, legend and history.
Week 4: Secular and domestic
What can paintings tell us about everyday life in the Renaissance?
This week we look at the growing demand for domestic artworks. Painted objects and decorative furnishings for the home, including ‘cassoni’ (marriage chests) as well as private devotional objects, reveal a lot about household life in the 15th century.
Week 5: Court and state
What was the relationship between art and power?
As the different states of Italy jockeyed for position on the European stage, art and patronage became important weapons in maintaining the relative importance of duchies, dynasties, republics and kingdoms.
Week 6: The artist as 'star'
How did some artists, like Leonardo da Vinci, achieve ‘star’ status?
With his mechanical inventions, anatomical studies, and virtuoso paintings, Leonardo was a remarkable artist. As we bring together what we have learned about the art of the 15th century we will look at the rise of the artist as a 'star performer'.
Jo Walton is an art historian and lecturer specialising in the art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance and on aspects of British art of the 20th century. She has worked extensively with The Arts Society, The Art Fund, and local art groups around the UK.
Can't make Wednesday evenings but don't want to miss out? No problem, you can watch again.
'Stories of art' sessions are recorded and made available to you for one week.
A video of the week's lecture will be uploaded and available for you to watch via your National Gallery account on Friday afternoons, in time for the weekend. Just be sure to watch it by the following Friday lunchtime, as it will be taken down on Friday afternoons.
Recordings are available to participants via YouTube, where they can be watched with subtitles.
Each session lasts for 2 hours and includes a lecture delivered by course lecturer Jo Walton, followed by a short break and further discussion.
Time will be allowed for questions and discussion via Q&A.
Handouts will be available via your National Gallery account on Tuesday mornings.
Optional homework is provided to help you prepare for the following week's session.
This is an online ticketed course hosted on Zoom. Please book a ticket to access the course. Only one ticket can be booked per account.
You will be emailed an E-ticket with instructions on how to access the course via your National Gallery account. All course information including your Zoom link, weekly handouts, and recordings will be available here.
Your link will be valid for the duration of the course.
Booking after the course has started
You are welcome to join the module at any point during its six-week run. However, please note that you will only be able to see the recording from the previous session, as these are taken offline after one week.
Testimonial from a previous participant
"I have so appreciated the way that all the tutors have made art history accessible and interesting in a friendly, down-to-earth way. Where jargon has been used it has been explained in handout glossaries as well as verbally, making it inclusive, whatever the previous knowledge – or not – of the participants. The optional homework on Padlet has helped me see myself as part of a group rather than learning in isolation. It has been something to look forward to each week."