A History of Portraiture II

10 week course: 18th January - 22nd March 2019

This series of lectures will continue to explore the fascinating history of portraiture. This is a follow up course to Part I (autumn 2018) but there is no need to have attended the former course to join us this term as each session is a stand-alone lecture.

This course will continue our thematic exploration of the varied ways in which artists have represented the human image over time.  Starting with the delightfully British tradition of “limning” and the exquisite miniature portraits of Nicholas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver, we then move to Renaissance Venice and learn how artists such as Giorgione, Veronese and Titian transformed the genre in the 16th century. This was a period in which some of the most imaginative ways of having one’s likeness recorded appeared - a time when patrons could literally reinvent themselves through the visual image, and in which artists were given the possibility of transforming the genre and creating all sorts of ingenious and unusual variations on a theme.  

Artists too regularly used their own likeness to push the boundaries of technique and style and we explore many intriguing and sometimes enigmatic examples from Dürer and Rembrandt to Courbet, Schiele and van Gogh. Particular paintings in focus during the course will include Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and Sargent’s celebrated Mme X , and there will also be two special guest talks.

The first of these is given by art historian, presenter and author Dr Richard Stemp whose best-selling publication The Secret Language of the Renaissance has received great critical acclaim. Richard will discuss self-portraiture in the work of the 20th century French photographer Claude Cahun, the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and the Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama.  We are also joined by Jacqui Ansell who specialises in the history of costume. Since 1992 Jacqui has used this wider knowledge of cultural history to tutor and write for the Open University and she also lectures for Christie’s, tutoring undergraduates in the fine and decorative arts. She will talk to us about costume, fashion and fancy dress in portraits of the 18th century, exploring the continental influence on British fashion thanks to the Grand Tour and the magnificent costumes worn at masquerade balls in London, as depicted in works by Gainsborough, Reynolds and Batoni.

A study day at the National Gallery is included, giving us an opportunity to take a closer look at some of the works studied in class.

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.

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

Please note, February 8th will be an afternoon session from 2.30-4.30. There is no half-term.


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.

Thank you for the excellent series of lectures. I found them fascinating, stimulating and brilliantly informative. Thank you so much for your insights and inspiration. ”

Mrs Gilly Wilford

Read more testimonials and comments


  • Explore masterpieces of portraiture from Leonardo da Vinci to John Singer Sargent
  • Guest lecture by author Dr Richard Stemp
  • 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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