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Interpreting Art Online Short Course

Course description

'What does it mean?' - the one question that can be heard in any gallery or museum on a daily basis. Our access to art has become much easier, but in the age of the Turner prize our understanding of it seems like an increasingly arduous task. This intensive course is designed to acquaint the student with a set of interpretative tools that can be applied in a variety of encounters with art - from the museum visit to the critical essay or written review.

We will cover a range of modes commonly used to provide meaning and structure to the visual arts. Some ways of interpreting which we will study include...

  • Semiotic (The study of symbols, signs and their interpretation)
  • Formalist (Purely visual and stylistic analysis)
  • Historical (Interpretation through context)
  • Political (Examining power structures implied or present in the work)

...And a range of other methodologies

Each session works with concrete examples of art taken from across history, where we apply certain methods of interpretation and discuss their applicability. Examples range from groups such as the Surrealists and contemporary conceptual works, all the way back to 19th Century and Renaissance paintings. With this practical element comes a focus on the theoretical foundations of the methods we use, as well as discussions on the issue of interpretation itself.

On this course, there will be occasional visits to galleries; during the weeklong intensive there will be one each day, and every other session for the evening formats.

Who should take this course?

Suitable for beginners, undergraduate and foundation arts/philosophy/curating students, journalists and critics, people with backgrounds in other humanities or arts areas, arts professionals or administrators.

All our Online Short Courses include:

  • Live online lessons with the same tutors
  • The same course content and learning outcomes
  • Lesson recordings, for review
  • Access to VLE with course content
  • Forums for support
  • 2 weeks online access
  • Certificate upon completion

Further details about preparing for your online course, and the equipment you need, can be found here.

Please note that all courses are taught in UK time. To check and compare times please click here.

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.


Online short course materials

To take part in the Online sessions you will need:

  • An up-to-date web browser (we recommend Chrome)
  • Microphone and headphones (a headset with a microphone function is recommended. The built-in microphone in your device would also be fine)
  • Webcam
  • Strong Internet connection - we recommend a minimum of 2 Mbps download, and 1 Mbps upload, faster if possible. You can test your network speed here -

Please source the following materials:

  • Notebook and pen


Topics covered

  • Art analysis
  • Aesthetics
  • Art history
  • Practical skills


Meet the Tutor:

Interpreting Art equips students with interpretative tools that can be applied in a variety of encounters with art. Each session works with concrete examples of art taken from across history, where we apply methods and discuss their applicability.

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