Art and identity: from the High Renaissance to the Reformation

Course Dates: 04/10/23 - 01/11/23
Time: 10:30 - 13:30
Location: Keeley Street
Explore the legendary art and artists of the High Renaissance in Italy and the Netherlands from c. 1490-1540. Consider the role that ‘self-fashioning’ plays in their fame and notoriety through close reading engagement of a combination of images and texts.
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Full fee £179.00 Senior fee £143.00 Concession £116.00

Course Code: VB126

Wed, day, 04 Oct - 01 Nov '23

Duration: 5 sessions (over 5 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarotti and Raphael. . .legendary names and legendary artists of the European High Renaissance. The persistence of their long-standing reputation is such that we do not even question the quality of their art. Why are they so legendary? Was it pure talent or other factors such as the power of the word? In his Lives of the Artists (1550), Giorgio Vasari wrote about these artists in glowing laudatory prose, giving us the concept of the divinely inspired, genius artist. Promoting the idea of the individual artist driven by the concept of humanism, this approach has a weighty legacy in how we view western art.

This course explores the art of these artists in the context of ‘self-fashioning’ and how the mythic status of the artist comes into being. We will discuss these artists in the context of emerging identity and how the artists themselves developed intellectually.

Northern artists, such as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Holbein and Pieter Brueghel will also be covered and we will look at their art in the light of the Reformation and whether a changing religious world influenced the way they painted. We will consider their religious, landscape and portrait painting to see how meanings and changing religious values are conveyed at what has been seen as a turbulent time, where church and liturgical reform were a driving force. We will consider how artists became the visual ‘face’ to self-fashion a new and dynamic religious and political climate. Different types of art such as scenes of everyday life became more common, as the 16th century brought about an increased value on creative ambition and new genres in art.

While art history has its own distinctive visual language, we will see how the written word plays an enormous role in how we assess art and artists through close analysis of works of art and primary texts.

The course also includes at least one visit to the National Gallery.

What will we cover?

• The reputation and perceived legendary status of High Renaissance artists
• Relevant works of art by some of the legendary 16th-century artists from Italy and the Netherlands
• The role of art in history and how the appearance of 16th-century art is shaped by the Reformation.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Evaluate a variety of sources to consider the reputation of High Renaissance artists
• Communicate ideas and join in group discussions analysing works of art
• Think critically about established visual traditions and how they are explored through key historical events such as the Reformation.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This course is suitable for all levels.

You should be able to follow simple written and verbal instructions, demonstrations, hand-outs and health and safety information.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

You will be taught by lecture with slide images and you will be invited to participate in group discussion. There will be homework in this course, in the form of reading. Handouts will be available digitally via a Google Classroom. You will be invited to join the Google Classroom within a week of your course start date.

This course includes at least one visit to the National Gallery, during one of the course sessions. You will need to transport yourself to the National Gallery during the class session. Further information on this visit will be explained when the course begins.

Please note: Museum/gallery-based sessions take place during public access hours. Tutors are not able to control sound levels or behaviours of visitors outside of the course group. Unless you are a wheelchair user, and have confirmed access details with us (as levels of access can vary between galleries), you will need to be able to walk between exhibits and stand for some time while looking at them (you may bring your own portable stool if you have one, but we cannot guarantee access to any gallery stools.) If you feel you may be impacted by these environmental variations, please inform the department on before the course begins, to discuss reasonable accommodations we can make to assist your learning in the museum space.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You might wish to purchase a notebook for taking notes. You might wish to buy some of the books on any reading list given out in class.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

This course is part of a series, the following courses are part of the series on the same day/time throughout the year:
Art and power: from the Counter Reformation to the Baroque
Art and Empire: in the Early Modern Era
Art and Revolution: in the long 18th century
Art and Melancholy from the Enlightenment to the Victorians.

Emma Rose Barber

Emma Rose Barber is an art historian who has been teaching adults for over 25 years. She specialises in the visual culture of the Middle Ages and the Italian and Northern Renaissance. She has also taught classes on British art and has designed many different courses such as Last Suppers in Florence and Bosch, Breughel and the Surrealists. She has also given lectures on Women and Art. She used to run the history of art department at the British Institute in Florence and works for many institutions such as the Open University, Morley College and the department of continuing education at the University of Oxford. Her book – 111 Churches that you Shouldn’t Miss in London - is coming out in the autumn of 2020. She has spent the last five years with a Mini A-Z looking for churches to write about, many of which can be found on her blog – She is also writing a Cultural History of Wayfaring and writes articles for Selvedge Magazine.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.