Centre for Continuing Education

16 Great Masters of Western Art Course

Art History. Explore humankind’s amazing cultural heritage.

Study objects of art and their historical development the smart way with Art History courses at the University of Sydney.

Art history is the knowledge and understanding of the universal and timeless qualities that identify all great art. The more you understand the art of different eras, movements, styles and techniques, the better you can appreciate the diversity of styles and the communality they share. Each class will examine art works made by some of the greatest masters of Western Art and we will explore what makes them the masterpieces we appreciate today.


The course will assist you in understanding better how the artist through their work of art reflects the social, historical and artistic context of their culture while giving their own interpretation. The course will provide the tools to break an artwork down to its component parts so that you may appreciate the skill and imagination that the artist has used in composing it.


Upon successful completion of this course, participants should be able to:

  1. Recognise the individual qualities of each visual element such as line, colour, composition and form, and how artists' use them to express their ideas.
  2. Identify works, their artists and stylistic period, as well as their artistic historical significance.
  3. Use different interpretive frameworks in order to analyse works of art.


This course will outline the works of:

The Florentine artists: Botticelli and Ghirlandaio

Florence was the centre of Renaissance art. The artists such as Botticelli and Guirlandaio helped promote the requirement and concept of western art for generations to come. Ghirlandaio’s detailed and realistic approach to art brings to life the Florentine society during the Renaissance while Botticelli’s beautiful Madonna and Venus revive the classical interest of the humanist circle in Florence.

The Venetian artists: Veronese and Titian

Titian contributed to all of the major areas of Renaissance art, painting altarpieces, portraits, mythologies, and pastoral landscapes with figures. He was mostly known for his remarkable use of colour. Veronese is mostly remembered for the aristocratic elegance of his figures, and the magnificence of his spectacle. His paintings are a feast for the eyes.

Renaissance and Mannerism (15th – 17th centuries)

The school of Fontainebleau, the Burgundy court and the elaborate construction of many of the ‘Loire chateaux’ and the majestic tapestries of “The Lady and the Unicorn”.

The Dutch artists: Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch

Vermeer’s paintings focused on everyday life scenes that convey a serene, timeless sense of dignity. Although Vermeer held nothing original in his artistic interpretation and subject matter, he was extremely skilled in creating superb pieces of art. Pieter de Hooch is noted also for his interior scenes of middle-class families, performing their humble daily duties in a calm atmosphere.

The Spanish artists: El Greco and Velázquez

El Greco was both the quintessential Spaniard and a proto-modern, a painter of the spirit. It was as a painter who “felt the mystical inner construction” of life. He rejected naturalism as a vehicle for his art just as he rejected the idea of an art easily accessible to a large public. Like other great masters, Velazquez was more a creator than a recorder of his epoch, and whatever his subject, whether he as painting gods, kings or aristocrats, dwarfs or artists, his work has continue to live after his death.

The French artists: David and Delacroix

David, the intellectual, state artist who worked for the power of the time, against Delacroix the expressive artist, the artist of emotions through colours. The Renaissance’s paragone reworked hundred years later showing how art can be used as both a political tool or a dissident attitude that will have a lasting impact on the next generation of artists.

The Mexican artists: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

Mexico’s most captivating and provocative artists, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera maintained an astounding relationship. Diego’s art speaks of politics, history, and the worker’s struggle while Frida’s aesthetic gained an international recognition with her colourful but pained self-portraits.

The Australian artists: Sidney Nolan and Grace Cossington-Smith

Sidney Nolan was one of Australia’s most significant modernist artists, best known for his depictions of the history and mythology of bush life representing Australian stories of loss, failure and capture. An important early exponent of modernism in Australia, Grace Cossington-Smith work formed part of the first significant wave of Australian responses to European post-impressionism. She drew her subject matter from the familiar surroundings of her home and her experience of Sydney city life, which she transformed into vibrant images of light-infused colour.

The American artists: Pollock and Rothko

Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko were linked by the desire to find a new means of artistic expression. Rather than including recognizable objects in their work, they used the elements of painting to express emotions. Jackson Pollock chose action painting where the artist’s process and movements are an important aspect of the end result while Mark Rothko’s work is an example of colour-field painting, in which the artist is more concerned with creating an overall field of paint.

Intended Audience

Suitable for those who are interested in understanding more about art history, but have no prior knowledge. It will also benefit those who are familiar with the subject but want to deepen their knowledge. The course offers a variety of artists from different times and different places, to widen the scope of knowledge and to allow each sensibility to be explored through various works of art.

Delivery Style

Interactive workshop


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion

What others say.

  • The quality of instruction and material provided was excellent. The instructor provided very insightful answers to the questions asked during class.
  • Great course for beginners or those with some knowledge wanting a deeper understanding of western artists. The tutor was engaging and knowledgeable. I thoroughly enjoyed this course.
  • Excellent and clear explanation of the work and lives of these great artists.