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Teacher: Rhys Williams

To truly understand and appreciate great works of art, it is best to delve into the lives, work and society of the artists. In this course, not only gain an appreciation of the greatest masterpieces of Western art from 1400-2000AD, discover the very artist behind them; while exploring the intricate link between art, history and society.

Image: Sunflowers (F454) fourth version yellow background,  Vincent van Gogh, Oil on canvas, National Gallery, London, England

Course outline

The course is organised over a series of sessions, focusing on individual artists, specific paintings, and artistic periods. Each week the session focuses on two specific artists and one of their masterpieces, before branching off into the wider art history and social history of the artist and their times. The specific artists and paintings are studied, in-depth, but the purpose of the course is to use these artists and their paintings to discuss wider developments in the history of art and the social history of art.

The specific artists and paintings covered by the course are:

  • Session 1 - Sandro Botticelli -La Primavera
  • Session 1 - Michelangelo - The Last Judgement 
  • Session 2 - Rembrandt van Rijn -The Night Watch
  • Session 2 - Artemisia Gentileschi - Judith Slaying Holofernes
  • Session 3 - Francisco Goya - The Third of May 1808
  • Session 3 - William Blake - Nebuchadnezzar
  • Session 4 - Auguste Renoir - Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre
  • Session 4 - Vincent van Gogh – Sunflowers
  • Session 5 - Pablo Picasso -Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
  • Session 5 - Frida Kahlo - Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird
  • Session 6 - Jackson Pollock - Number 11, 1952
  • Session 6 – Sidney Nolan, The Trial of Ned Kelly

The specific art history periods covered by the course are:

  • Renaissance - 1300 – c. 1602
  • Dutch Golden Age painting – 1585 – 1702
  • Baroque – 1600 – 1730
  • Romanticism −1780 – 1850
  • Impressionism – 1860 – 1890
  • Post-Impressionism - 1886 – 1905
  • Cubism – 1907-1920s
  • Mexican Muralism - 1920s-1940s
  • Abstract Expressionism – 1940s-1950s

Learning outcomes

At the completion of this course you should be able to:

  • have knowledge of the history of art and the social history of art.
  • have knowledge of several important artists and art movements between 1400 and 2000.
  • have knowledge of the development of art within modern history.
  • have knowledge of the wider social issues and social developments which affect art and the history of art.
  • have knowledge of how art and the history of art has shaped history.

Who should enrol

This course has no pre-requisites. The course is designed for anyone who is interesting in learning about the history of art.

Rhys Williams is a graduate of the Australian National University (ANU) and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He is a PhD candidate in the School of History, ANU, working towards a thesis on British Socialism and Australia: 1880-1914. He is a Tutor in History and Political Science.

No dates are currently scheduled.

Teacher: Roy Forward

There’s one thing we all must do if we want to see art, understand it, talk about it and enjoy it, and that is to hold a conversation with it. Sound too much like “I talk to the trees, that’s why they put me away”? It’s worse than that, because we first have to let the art talk to us. Only then can we respond with our questions, deal with our likes and dislikes, relate it to what we know and don’t know, and realise we may need to know more. In this course we practice doing all that and more with many memorable works of art.

This course has a companion course called “How to converse about art”. Each is a complete course on its own and they can be taken in any order.

Whenever possible the works used for illustrative purposes are in the National Gallery of Australia.

Course outline

  1. Let the art begin
  2. We listen
  3. We respond
  4. Liking and not liking
  5. What we know and don’t know
  6. All we could know

Learning outcomes

At the completion of this course you should be able to:

  • Identify the features of a work of art that speak to you in particular
  • Attend to and analyse the experiences the art provokes in you
  • Recognise and work through hunches, flash reactions, initial mistakes etc
  • Respond to how your likes and dislikes are helping, hindering, or changing
  • Remedy the information gaps for a more informed response


No dates are currently scheduled.
Want your writing to leave a lasting impression? Love writing and want to develop your critical and creative skills? Take a look at classical and contemporary writers, illustrative examples, and identify common mistakes writers make which can be easily avoided.

Course outline

So you’ve always wanted to write? Love writing and want to develop your critical and creative skills? Take a look at classical and contemporary writers, illustrative examples, and identify common mistakes writers make which can be easily avoided. This course will cover:

  • Topic 1: Compelling Storytelling: What makes a great story? Where do great story ideas come from? What are the building blocks of compelling fiction?
  • Topic 2: Memorable characters: What makes a character memorable? How do you build your characters, their personality, their psychology, their world? How do they work within the overall cast of characters?
  • Topic 3: Dialogue: How do you write dialogue? How can you use it as a tool to tell the story? What is the difference between dialogue which works well and dialogue which does not?
  • Topic 4: Narrative positions: What point of view works best in which situations? How can you use the past, present and future tense to tell a story?
  • Topic 5: Creating your story world: How do you create a world that readers can engage in? How do you evoke a sense of time and place that supports the story?
  • Topic 6: Plot and structure: What makes for an effective plot? How do you use structure to support your story? What tools can you use to improve story structure?
  • Topic 7: Cut to the chase: writing in scenes: How do you write in scenes? What does it mean to write cinematically? How can you use ‘hooks’ to create momentum and tension and take your readers with you
  • Topic 8: Your writing practice: Why write? What are the things you need to keep your writing practice on track? Where can you go for more support and advice?

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • build on your existing knowledge of storytelling through books, film, TV and other sources
  • bring together knowledge, hints, tips, quotes, advice, and anecdotes from a range of writers and writing resources
  • tap into your creativity and develop a critical approach to improving your writing
  • use interactive workshops and exercises to build your skills and experience.

Who should enrol

This course is open to anyone who has completed some creative writing and wishes to build their creative capacity and develop their knowledge.
No dates are currently scheduled.

From the silent era to the Netflix age, Shakespeare has been a steady presence in films. Adapting and appropriating Shakespeare’s plays for cinema helped validate the medium in the early twentieth century and has shaped the direction of the art-form, spawning some classic films in the process. In turn, cinema has helped keep Shakespeare’s plays vital, introducing them to new audiences and illuminating new meanings in these 400+ year old works.

This course guides students through the history of Shakespeare on film, showing how the history of screen Shakespeare intersects and in some instances impacts the history of film itself. It also explores how Shakespeare films have mirrored or critiqued the world offscreen, reflecting or challenging the political, cultural and gender norms of different eras. Specific films and filmmakers and their reinvention of Shakespeare’s work will be discussed in detail. Finally, the course considers the place of Shakespeare on film today in an increasingly post-film entertainment culture.

Course outline

  • Topic 1: Introducing Shakespeare on film
  • Topic 2: Shakespeare on screen 1916-1955
  • Topic 3: Shakespeare on screen 1956-1989
  • Topic 4: Shakespeare on screen 1990-2020
  • Topic 5: Reinventing Shakespeare: Modernisations and offshoots
  • Topic 6: Reinventing Shakespeare: Foreign language Shakespeare
  • Topic 7: Shakespeare and auteur theory: Filmmaker case studies
  • Topic 8: Shakespeare on film: What is lost and what is gained?

Learning outcomes

At the completion of this course you should

  • Know about the history of Shakespeare on film
  • Understand the relationship between film history and Shakespeare on screen
  • Understand how cinema has extended the afterlife and exploration of Shakespeare’s play texts
  • Understand how Shakespeare’s plays have been used on screen for political purposes
  • Recognise how Shakespeare has helped shape the careers of key filmmakers

Who should enrol?

People interested in Shakespeare, in film history, and/or the combination of these things.

Mon 10 Aug 2020 - Mon 14 Sep 2020

18:00 - 20:00

6 Sessions
14 spots remaining.

Teacher: Rhys Williams

From its origins, in 14th century Italy, the Renaissance produced a revolution in art, society, culture and philosophy, bringing an end to the middle ages. Explore this exciting period in world history, as you delve into major Italian cities: Florence, Tuscany and Venice; and consider how has today's Western society, culture and sense of humanity been shaped by the Renaissance?

Course outline

The course  will focus on the Renaissance in Italy, specifically around Florence, central Tuscany, Venice, and the other major Italian City states. It will explore the spread of the Renaissance throughout the rest of Europe, and the role of artists and thinkers in the development of Renaissance art and art history. The course finishes by considering how the Renaissance shaped the rest of European history, and our current sense of humanity, culture, society, and civilisation.

  • Session 1 - The Renaissance -1300-1600
  • Session 2 - The Renaissance - art and society
  • Session 3 - The Renaissance in Italy
  • Session 4 - The Renaissance in Europe
  • Session 5 - The Renaissance artists
  • Session 6 - The Renaissance and history

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course you should:

  • have knowledge of the history and social history of the Renaissance
  • have knowledge of several important artists and art movements which created the Renaissance, between 1300 and 1600
  • be able to engage with, and critique the development of the Renaissance, through the 1300s, the 1400s, and the 1500s, from the perspective of both social and art history.
  • understand the wider social issues and developments that created the Renaissance in Italy, and the rest of Europe.
  • be able to critically appreciate how the Renaissance has shaped history, and how history has shaped our perception of the Renaissance.

Who should enrol

The course is open to everyone, especially those interesting in learning about the history of the Renaissance, art, and general art history.

Rhys Williams is a graduate of the Australian National University (ANU) and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He is a PhD candidate in the School of History, ANU, working towards a thesis on British Socialism and Australia: 1880-1914. He is a Tutor in History and Political Science.