How to Read Paintings
Build skills and confidence around interpreting paintings
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What is the course about?
Too often we rely on the gallery wall text or guidebook to tell us what to think about
a painting – we forget that the painter wanted us to look, see and decide for ourselves. This course is about building your confidence in identifying and interpreting the paintings before your eyes; trusting your own judgement about their form and content, as well as what was going on within and around the artist.
Is this the right course for me?
You probably enjoy visiting galleries and museums, or flipping through art books, but need some tools to express what you’re finding and feeling. You would hardly call yourself an art critic or historian, but you have opinions and want them to be informed. You can appreciate how a painting looks, but would like the skills and confidence to delve deeper into the what, where, who, how and why of the artist’s achievement.
Why should I choose this course?
- You’ll be guided by Marie-Anne Mancio, an experienced art history tutor who delivers classes at City Lit, a college for adults in London.
- Rather than throwing you in the deep-end, the course focuses on familiar, non-abstract Western paintings from the Renaissance to the present day.
- Example paintings, many supplied by the National Gallery in London, can be viewed and explored within the course – including works by Titian, van Eyck and Renoir.
- Unlike an art book, this online course can be accessed anywhere and uses videos, slideshows, activities and other interactive elements to provide the knowledge and help you use it.
- You can revisit the course at any time to check your skills before and after viewing any paintings
- Your Workbook provides a personal and updatable record of your developing skills and ideas, which you can apply on all future gallery visits.
How will I learn?
- Friendly, straightforward and expert video guidance from a trained artist and art teacher.
- Step-by-step instruction in key terms and concepts, along with interesting titbits about artists and their works.
- Case studies of various paintings, including those of a contemporary artist, Wendy Elia, who will also feature in a video interview.
- Numerous quizzes and note-taking activities to check your understanding and record your own ideas in your Workbook.
- Start the course whenever you choose and come back to it whenever and as often as you like.
- Learn from the comfort of your own home, or out and about on a mobile device.
What will I study?
- Course Introduction – a friendly video from your course tutor to get you started
- Unit 1: Learning to Look – a step-by-step guide to formal art reading
- Unit 2: Deciphering Meaning – identifying and interpreting signs within the content
- Unit 3: A Time and Place – observing and gauging the impact of context
- Unit 4: The Role of the Artist – getting to know a contemporary British artist
- Unit 5: Practising your Skills – receiving guidance as you apply your skills to a single painting
- How to Read Paintings Workbook – a personal record of your notes and a summary of the topics
“A wonderful resource, particularly if life is very busy. It provides a pleasant and useful break to soak in something you love.”
“There is an excellent selection of paintings. I found myself forced to relook at many and give more thought to what I have seen than what I might have done at an exhibition.”
“A good introduction to art and an inspiration to read more and attend exhibitions, feeling that you know about what you are viewing.”
“Every activity has value; I often go to National Trust properties and tend to wander through. Now I shall have a deeper insight.”