What makes a masterpiece

Course Dates: 03/10/22 - 05/12/22
Time: 18:00 - 20:00
Location: Online
Look at works of art in the Western canon and ask why we consider them to be masterpieces. What formal qualities do they all share, if any, or is our interpretation of a masterpiece largely subjective?
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 £219.00 Senior fee £219.00 Concession £142.00

Course Code: VB486

Mon, eve, 03 Oct - 05 Dec '22

Duration: 10 sessions (over 10 weeks)

Or call to enrol:020 7831 7831

Lines open Monday-Friday 12:00-18:00

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?

We’ll explore the concept of the masterpiece through looking at images of works in public collections, including the National Gallery, the Wallace Collection, Tate Modern and the V&A. We’ll look at various theories, such as 'Significant Form', to try to explore what makes a work great. Is it merely mastery of technique and form, or is there something else? How comfortable do we feel applying the word to contemporary artworks?

What previous students liked most about their course:
“Interesting, lively and fun which is the very best of learning environments.”
“Increased knowledge of what I am looking at in an art gallery.”


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?

- An exploration of key works from different periods that make us question what makes a Masterpiece?
- We’ll examine how form and content interact
- A comparison of different artworks exploring the same theme
- We’ll ask whether masterpieces always endure over time, or whether fashion dictates their value.

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

- Identify the different art historical styles of the works we’ll be looking at
- Demonstrate an appreciation of composition, form and technique and how this relates to subject
- Demonstrate familiarity with some of the key ideas that inform our appreciation of a great artwork.

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

This is an introductory course.

You should be able to follow simple written and verbal instructions, demonstrations, hand-outs and health and safety information, and an understanding of how to operate basics of Zoom microphone and camera.

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 handouts provided by your tutor; these 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.

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

No, but a notebook might be handy.

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

The rise and fall of the Italian Renaissance
Focus on: iconography
The Renaissance Revisited.

Leslie Primo

Leslie Primo has spent more than 15 years giving lectures to the general public at the National Gallery for the Information and Education departments. During this time he graduated with a degree in History of Art and an MA in Renaissance Studies from Birkbeck, University College of London. In his studies he specialised in early Medieval and Renaissance studies, including, Italian Renaissance Drawing, Art and Architecture in Europe 1250-1400 Art and Architecture in Europe 1400-1500, Medici and Patronage, Narrative Painting in the Age of Giotto, and the work of Peter Paul Rubens focusing on his paintings of the Judgement of Paris, and Greek Myth in paintings. He is also an accredited Art Society lecturer.

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.