i Pierre Auguste Renoir, Portrait of Ambroise Vollard, 1908, The Courtauld (London), (Samuel Courtauld Trust), © The Courtauld

An Introduction to Art History


Dr Anne Puetz and Clare Richardson

10 pre-recorded lectures and 5 live Zoom seminars from Monday 4 April to Friday 8 April 2022

This course has now finished

Course description

This course is concerned with the making, materials, representational conventions and the interpretation and curation of Western art.  We aim to discuss examples from antiquity through to the present day, but we are both most at home in the period from the early seventeenth to the late nineteenth centuries and will give particular weight to case studies from this period.

Days 1 and 2 will take a close and critical look at the ‘periods’, ‘movements’ and ‘isms’ by which the history of Western art is conventionally structured.  We shall discuss stylistic developments, and their contexts, and debate some of the problems inherent in periodisation.

Day 3 will introduce students to works of art as material objects and as means of communication with the viewer.  We shall examine how works were made and what important representational conventions they employed.  During the afternoon session, we shall apply our insights to the analysis of a relevant work from The Courtauld Collection possibly via remote access to the conservation studios.

Day 4 will cover some of the range of different approaches to art history taken now and in the past. In our Zoom seminar, we shall use a key work from The Courtauld as a case study of different ways to examine and interpret a painting.

Day 5 will look at the role museums and art galleries play in the understanding and interpretation of works of art.  We shall examine museums’ and galleries’ collecting policies, and display, conservation and interpretation strategies.  Our Zoom seminar will focus on the thorny question of the ‘ownership’ of art.

Lecturers' biographies

Dr Anne Puetz is responsible for The Courtauld’s extensive programme of art history short courses. She is a scholar of early modern visual culture, with a particular interest in 18th– and 19th-century British art, and in the concept of ‘modernity’ in Britain and France. She co-edited a special issue of RIHA Journal, ‘When Art History Meets Design History’ (March 2014) and was Research Curator of The Courtauld Gallery’s ground-breaking Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House 1780-1836 (2001). Anne has written on various aspects of British art and her current research interests focus on eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century ideas about colour and on theories and techniques of reproduction.

Clare Richardson is a paintings conservator whose research interests include painting techniques and pigment deterioration and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Conservation and Technology at The Courtauld.  Prior to this Clare was Head of Painting, Paper and Frames Conservation at Royal Museums Greenwich, and before that she was employed at the Victoria & Albert Museum preparing paintings for the European Galleries and working on Constable’s oil sketches, notably the six-foot Sketch of the Leaping Horse. She contributed to the exhibition catalogue of John Constable: Oil Sketches from the V&A and is working on the publication of her research on the painting techniques of Rubens, 1609-12.