Weird and wondrous: the strange art of Bosch, Brueghel and the Surrealists

Course Dates: 28/01/25 - 08/04/25
Time: 10:30 - 12:30
Location: Online
Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Breughel the elder – two northern Renaissance artists and a larger group of 20th-century artists known as the Surrealists who share many similarities with the strange and curious subjects that they conjured up to ignite discussion and even outrage.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £249.00 Senior fee £199.00 Concession £162.00

Weird and wondrous: the strange art of Bosch, Brueghel and the Surrealists
  • Course Code: VB564
  • Dates: 28/01/25 - 08/04/25
  • Time: 10:30 - 12:30
  • Taught: Tue, Daytime
  • Duration: 10 sessions (over 11 weeks)
  • Location: Online
  • Tutor: Emma Rose Barber

Course Code: VB564

Tue, day, 28 Jan - 08 Apr '25

Duration: 10 sessions (over 11 weeks)

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

What is the course about?

Bosch and Breughel and the Surrealists, including Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Man Ray, René Magritte, Leonora Carrington and Salvador Dali, are separated in time by 500 years, yet they share a similar imaginative and visual spectrum. While the former painted religious and moralising subjects, the latter conjured fantastical forms and shapes that seem to emerge out of nowhere. But they all possess an interest in dream-like visions, fantasy, the absurd, mythical animals, hybrid creatures and the strange and odd.

We shall explore their art and consider to what extent the artists were reacting to the world around them, or whether their art was simply the product of engaged and vivid imaginations. We shall also consider their artistic influences, and try and work out what people thought of their art at the time they were painting. Would they have said they were mad, rude and reckless? Or would they have admired their innovative and experimental artistic practices?
Bosch and Breughel worked mainly in Belgium and Holland, while the Surrealists were truly international artists, working in Mexico, Paris, New York, Brussels and Prague. The course will look at their work separately, and make comparisons which will reveal their shared body of subject matter and methods to present dream realities and the release of refreshing imagery from the accepted norm. We will also look at the literary culture that might have influenced the artists: the religious writings of northern theologians and the philosophy and political writings of Freud and Marx for the Surrealists. We will also read some of the Surrealist literature, such as the work of Guillaume Apollinaire.

At the heart of their art was a desire to address innovation. All the painters concerned created works that might be completely inexplicable. But that does not matter, for we are looking at imagery that was dictated by their visions and dreams which had no boundaries.

Join us to embrace the weird and wondrous.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

• The art of Bosch, Breughel and the Surrealists and their shared connections.
• Examples of the types, subjects and categories of the art by the artists under consideration looking at what artistic influences they might have shared.
• The culture and geographical locations in which the artists worked and to what extent these extraneous forces influenced their art.

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

• To be able to analyse one work by Bosch, one work by Breughel and one work by the Surrealists
• To be able to make a comparison between a work either by Bosch or Breughel with a work by one of the Surrealists
• Discuss whether the assumed links between these artists have any documentary or historical basis
• List key features of the art of Bosch, Breughel and the Surrealists using general descriptive language and more formal art historical language.

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, and will be invited to take part in group discussion.

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

You will be taught with lecture, slide presentations and group discussions. Handouts will be provided by your tutor to support your learning on the course; these handouts will be available digitally on a Google Classroom; they will not be emailed to you. You will be invited to join the Google Classroom within a week of the course start.

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 provided.

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

Art of the Northern Renaissance
Hell, Heaven and Purgatory in the Middle Ages.

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.