The best art history courses, online classes and lectures

Art history doesn't have to just be a subject studied in lecture theatres at university. Whether you want to learn in person or online, there are plenty of courses open to those wanting to learn more about the history of art from around the globe

Published: August 30th, 2022 at 4:10 pm

Art history used to be a subject only known and understood by those who had studied it at university and gone on to become curators, art historians or experts in the field. Nowadays, galleries, museums and art institutions around the world are offering more than exhibitions. Many have launched their own academies, offering courses, tutorials and workshops to art lovers and using the expertise of their in-house experts to help educate us all. Here are some of the best courses available both online and in person for art history lovers.

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The best Art History & Appreciation Courses

The Art Appreciation Course at The Art Institute

An innate love of art can be intensified even further with a little background knowledge, and this course – curated by renowned art and antiques consultant Hilary Kay – is the perfect way to gain a better understanding of western art, from prehistoric rock painting to the contemporary art scene.

The comprehensive course is made up of 12 modules, each written by a specialist in their field. It covers the major art movements and aims to help students think critically and become more art savvy, whether it’s as a means to better enjoy the subject as a hobby, to complement previous qualifications, or as preparation for further study. The broad subject matter and supportive ethos mean the course is well placed to appeal to a broad audience with differing levels of art knowledge. ‘For some students, this course will be a brilliant overview to add to previously gained qualifications,’ explains Josephine van Damme of The Art Institute. ‘For others, it will be those first steps into the world of art to acquire the skills and knowledge to explore this exciting new world further.’

Because it’s online, the learning can be done at home and there’s no pressure to meet deadlines. ‘Students love this flexibility,’ says Josephine. ‘Of course, in the last year, it has also offered students an escape.’ If you’d love to take a journey through the vast world of art history, this comprehensive, expert-taught course is a fantastic place to begin your adventure.

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PRICE: £699

Antiques Roadshow expert Hilary Kay
Renowned art and antiques consultant Hilary Kay has curated this art appreciation course at The Art Institute. Credit: Michael Dunning

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Autumn School Courses at The Courtauld

With an international reputation for the study of art history, The Courtauld has an excellent pedigree, and its Short Courses department offers accessible, intensive options for delving into the subject matter. September sees the rollout of the centre’s Autumn School courses, with three to choose from: Making Sense of the Arts of Islam, Making Sense of Twentieth-Century Art, and Making Sense of Key Concepts of Western Art: ‘Nature’, ‘Life’ and Lifelikeness.

‘Our Autumn School courses are designed for art enthusiasts who lack formal art-historical training and feel they would benefit from a solid foundation in the key concepts, terminologies and concerns of western and Islamic arts,’ explains Dr Anne Puetz, head of short courses at The Courtauld. These expert-led courses offer live seminars over five days, plus a range of pre-recorded lectures, while various materials are available on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). ‘Our courses are distinguished by their ambitious content and by the academic excellence of their lecturers – all recruited from Courtauld staff, alumni and associates,’ says Anne.

PRICE: £195

Painting of Grey Horse
The Courtauld

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Sotheby's Institute Art History Courses

Although many of the Sotheby's courses are built around the concept of art as business, the institute also hosts a series of courses on art history, focusing on different eras or themes. Art History: Key Conceptslooks at broader art theory and how it can be applied to various periods of our history, from cave painting through to the modern age. Art History: Renaissance to Presentexplores the highlights of European and American art over the last centuries and how technical progress has defined each era, while Art History: Egyptian to Popexplores significant artists to illustrate how our art has unfolded from Egyptian symbolism to Warhol's impact on pop culture. Art Now: Contemporary Art Since 1990 brings participants into the present day, looking at today's art world and examining how high-profile events like Art Basel or stunts by Banksy have changed the concept (and industry) of artistic creation.

PRICE: US$1,485

Art History Courses at the V&A Academy

The V&A Academy offers a programme of practical and art history courses, which are changing on a regular basis. Whether you're already involved in the art world or simply an appreciator, the courses will provide a great jumping-off point and will help spark your imagination for further study or thought, combining lectures and Q&A sessions with group discussions and case studies.

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Some courses are set over several weeks, while others take place a few hours a day over the course of a week. Learn about menswear and masculinities, prehistoric textiles, art deco design, William Morris, 20th and 21st-century interior design and the history of glassware now.

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