A History of Portraiture

10 week course: 5th October - 14th December 2018

Our autumn course will explore the many ways in which the artist has chosen to represent the human image over time. Beginning with representations of rulers of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome we then explore the importance of donor portraiture in the Middle Ages and the revival of naturalism and emergence of humanism during the 1400s which engendered a reawakening of interest in both the human form and character. From masterpieces by van Eyck and Memling in Flanders, miniatures by Hilliard and Horenbout and power portraits at the Tudor Court where the genre was revolutionised under Hans Holbein, we then continue to trace the genre’s development over time with reference to some of the greatest exponents of portraiture in Western Art. These include Titian, van Dyck, Rembrandt, Joshua Reynolds, Gainsborough, Goya and Picasso.

There will be two special guest talks. The first of these is given by painter and National Gallery/Tate lecturer Lydia Baumann who will discuss the work of Lucian Freud (1922 – 2011), one of the greatest British artists of the 20th century.

We are also delighted that Australian-born royal portraitist Ralph Heimans will be coming to discuss his work with us. Ralph Heimans was the only artist chosen to paint an official portrait of The Queen in Her Diamond Jubilee Year, and this now forms part of the permanent collection of Westminster Abbey. He has recently completed an extraordinary painting of Prince Philip (see above) as well as commissions for the conductor and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy; Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex, and HRH Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. He is currently working on portraits of Sir Ben Kingsley and Dame Judi Dench.

Ralph Heimans' virtuosic and life-like works are renowned for their innovative compositions that offer engaging narratives about his subjects and their life stories and whose technique often pays homage to Old Masters such as Velázquez, Rembrandt and Vermeer. In 2014 he was awarded an Order of Australia for services to portraiture

Art History in Focus’s courses are characterised by a relaxed and entertaining learning environment, which often allows for lively discussion. Lectures last two hours with a break for refreshments, and the talks are illustrated by high quality digital images. A study day at the National Gallery is included.

Lectures are on Friday mornings and run from 11.15-1.15; doors open at 11.00

Please note, October 12th and December 7th will be afternoon sessions from 2.30-4.30.There is no class (half-term) on November 9th.


Further Information

Location and Directions
Churchgate House Centre
Downside Bridge Rd
Cobham, Surrey, KT11 3EJ.

To view a map of the Churchgate House Centre location click here

There is free parking at the centre, although if you are unable to find a space you can park in one of the nearby roads or in the pay and display car park on Hollyhedge Road. There is further free parking on the left just over the bridge on Downside Bridge Road.

The course is open for all to join. If you would like to attend please fill in the online booking form. If you would prefer to send a booking form by post please download a copy here.

Once your booking has been accepted, we will notify you by email. If you have not received an email confirmation, please check your ‘deleted items' and 'junk mail' folders. If you have not received a confirmation please do contact us to ensure that we have received your booking.

We regret we are unable to offer refunds on unused course subscriptions, but your place may be transferred to someone else if you are unable to attend (please provide their name in advance, thank you)

A detailed lesson plan will be emailed to all participants approximately one week before the course begins.

Please refer to our Terms and Conditions for booking this event.

Many thanks for your interesting, thought-provoking and illuminating series of lectures. Your conversational and informative style made them hugely enjoyable.”

Mr and Mrs David and Denise Lennox

Read more testimonials and comments


  • Discover masterpieces from Holbein to Lucian Freud
  • Guest lecture by renowned royal portraitist Ralph Heimans
  • Explore works studied in class in a study day at the National Gallery
  • Meet people with similar interests
  • Refreshments included



Booking is now closed.

If you have any questions regarding the course or booking please send us an email or
call on +44 (0)1932 267322

Recommended Reading

Visit the AHF bookstore for a list of recommended books and products to accompany this course/event.


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