Masterpieces: Making and Meaning

Masterpieces: Making and Meaning offers the opportunity to unlock the secrets of ten major masterpieces of European painting, as we explore in depth their imagery and the context in which they were created. The course focuses in turn on individual "masterpieces" in London art collections, by celebrated artists including Holbein, Rubens, Titian, Manet, Hogarth, Turner, Constable, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Students undertake close visual analysis of each artwork in live group discussion. They also analyze the cultural circumstances in which artworks were created, including the role of patrons, art institutions, art critics, and the art market, in order to more fully assess the creative decisions made by individual artists and the impact of their work. The artworks studied are grouped in five themes to promote cross-period comparisons and raise awareness of larger issues: Art and Politics, Art and Myth, Art and Society, Art and Landscape, Art and the Artist.

In addition to studying these historic artworks, students undertake an individual research project, in which they apply their skills in visual analysis and critical thinking to the study of a contemporary artwork that connects with the main themes of the course. Students deliver a 5-minute presentation on their chosen artwork at the end of the course.

Course Schedule

Program Date: March 15 - April 24, 2021

Students will meet online on Saturdays from 11:30AM - 1PM (Eastern Standard Time) with additional asynchronous time requirements of 1hr+ per week.


Course Icon: 

Edouard Manet

Un bar aux Folies-Bergère, exhibited 1882 Paris Salon

(Courtauld Institute, London)


Academic Director

Lois Oliver

Lois Oliver

Dr Lois Oliver serves as Adjunct Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Notre Dame (USA) in England. This course draws on her extensive experience in the art world as a Curator and Exhibition Organiser. Dr Oliver worked at the Harvard University Art Museums before joining the curatorial team at the V&A and then the National Gallery in London. A core faculty member at the London Global Gateway, she is also a Visiting Lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She writes multimedia interpretation for leading UK art institutions including the National Gallery, Royal Academy, Royal Collection, and Tate. Dr Oliver studied English Literature at Cambridge University, and History of Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art, completing an MA in Venetian Renaissance Art and writing her doctoral thesis on The Image of the Artist, Paris 1815-1855.