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Art Theory Introduction to Aesthetics Online Short Course

Course description

Behind every artwork there is an idea that defines it on a level above the visual. Philosophers, critics and artists have long tried to define those ideas, inspiring much discussion and creating the field known as Aesthetics. This is the field where the most fundamental questions of art are in constant debate; What is art? Is it actually important, or useful? Why makes an artwork an artwork? What is beauty, and should artworks always be beautiful? Beyond being philosophical inquiries, these are all questions that most art lovers have asked themselves, too.

Thinking about art in this way allows us to put it into a larger conceptual framework, and often leads to questions that extend well outside of art alone. Throughout this course we use the works of artists from all periods, from Ancient Greece to the present day, using their art as ways of exploring the key issues of aesthetics. Each lecture involves a set of images and certain texts that students will be asked to read before each session and discussion is encouraged throughout.

No previous experience is required but some dedication to reading and note taking is needed. This course will interest followers of philosophy, art or any critical creative practice that are keen to expand their perspectives in the world of art.

You should take this course if you want to:

  • Learn about the relevance of philosophy to art
  • Add new dimensions to your art analysis
  • Appreciate the evolution of the concept of art across history

What will I gain from the course?

  • Overview of key issues and questions of aesthetics
  • Knowledge of core ideas from foundational thinkers in the field
  • Practical skills in criticism and applying the ideas we study
  • Feedback on your own art writing and analysis

Clear, easy to understand lessons:

  • Our tutors will explain in easy to understand accessible English, if they use any special terminology we make sure they explain what it is they mean.
  • New methodologies will be explained to you in a way thats crystal clear and easy to understand.
  • We even include live demonstrations of particular techniques so that you can see exactly how things should be done.
  • We also offer a bunch of learning resources for you to access outside of the live lessons. This allows you to ensure you are up to date and you can practice and review the things that are important to you. Practice makes perfect after all!

Live interactive classrooms:

  • We like to do things the right way, that's why all of our online classes are live, you won't find any recordings here (well apart from the recording we provide in case you miss a live session)
  • Expect live interaction with your classmates from around the world, our students come from far and wide
  • Ask questions of your tutor in real time
  • Receive feedback and critique on your assignments
  • Discuss topics related to your course in real time via your microphone and camera or if you're not feeling brave, in the chat box
  • Miss a class? Thats ok you can catch up in a recording which is available for 2 weeks after your course runs

A certificate of completion:

  • You've put the work in so we want to make sure you have something to show for it!
  • As long as you attend a minimum of 80% of your classes, we will provide you with a certificate of attendance.
  • However we always recommend you attend all of the classes so that you get the most out of the experience!
  • Certificates are a great addition to your C

All our online short courses include:

  • Live online lessons with the same tutors
  • The same course content and learning outcomes as our face to face courses
  • Lesson recordings, for review, so you never have to miss a class
  • Access to the virtual learning environment with course content
  • Forums for support
  • 2 weeks online access to the recordings of the live classroom sessions

Please note that all courses are taught in UK time.

Online courses are closed to all new bookings 48 hours prior to the course starting.

Available dates

If no dates are showing then please sign up to our mailing list to find out about upcoming dates and new course developments.


Topics covered

  • The ideas of Plato and his attitude towards the arts; why were artists excluded from his ideal republic? Can art convey genuine knowledge, or is it deceptive?
  • What role does imitation play in the arts? Is it ever possible to create something entirely new?
  • The enlightenment aesthetics of Winckelmann and Lessing; what makes an artwork beautiful? How should artists achieve beauty in their works?
  • What are the fundamental differences between the arts, such as poetry and painting? Does one have an advantage over the other?
  • What role does expression play in the arts? How has expression been defined historically?
  • The modernity of Baudelaire and the Futurists; what is modern art? What does it mean to be modern, and how does an artist do it? Is it important that art is always new?
  • What relationship should artists have to the past? Should we reject the art of the past, or build on it?
  • The critical perspectives of Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin. What is popular culture? Why is it so often defined against fine art?
  • What effect do mass production and media have on the arts? In an age of photography and printing, what importance does the ‘original’ artwork have?
  • Clement Greenberg’s division between avant-garde and kitsch. Why are they opposed? What does it mean to be avant-garde?
  • Is kitsch necessarily a bad thing? How have artists responded to kitsch in their work? Is the divide between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art as simple as we think?
  • …And much more


Online Short Course Materials

To take part in the Online sessions you will need:

  • An up-to-date web browser (we recommend Firefox or Chrome)
  • Microphone and headphones (a headset with a microphone function is recommended)
  • Webcam
  • Strong Internet connection via WiFi or ethernet; 2G, 3G or 4G will not be sufficient

Course Specific Materials

Please bring with you to the first session:

  • A pen
  • A notebook

If you would like to read in advance of or during the course, the following titles are a recommended reading list but please note they are not required:

  • Moshe Barasch, Theories of Art 1 & 2
  • Monroe Beardsley, Aesthetics from Classical Greece to Present
  • Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (essay)
  • Marshal McLuhan, The Medium Is the Message (essay)
  • Clement Greenberg, Avant-Garde and Kitsch (essay)
Meet the Tutor:

This online short course explores the theory behind aesthetics, considering philosophical and thought-provoking concepts on the subject. This course is a great way to look at art in a new light.

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