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Interpreting Art Short Course

Course description

In this Interpreting Art Short Course we will cover a range of modes and methodologies commonly used to provide meaning and structure to the visual arts. 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.

Some ways of interpreting art 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)

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 attend this course?
This short course is 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. No prior knowledge needed, though familiarity with art history will enrich experience. This could be studied alongside Modern Art History.

Course outcomes
By the end of this course students should:

  • Have an understanding of some of the key methods of interpreting art.
  • Gained an insight into art history and aesthetics.
  • Be able to apply methods of interpretation when discussing art.

Please note: this course is for students aged 18 and older

Clear, easy to understand lessons:

  • Our tutors will explain things in easy to understand, accessible English. If they need to use any special terminology they will make sure they explain what they mean.
  • New methods will be shown to students through live demonstrations, in a way thats clear and easy to understand.

Experience life on campus

  • Network and share ideas with students from across the globe
  • Access the technology and materials relevant to your discipline
  • Shop in our college shops for any materials you might need
  • Ask questions of your tutor in real time
  • Receive feedback and critique on your assignments
  • Experience the many sights of London on your down time

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.
  • We always recommend you attend all of the classes so that you get the most out of the experience!
  • Certificates are great to complement your C

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

  • Art analysis
  • Aesthetics
  • Art history
  • Practical skills


Please bring the following with you to the first session:

  • Notebook and pen
Meet the Tutor:

This Interpreting Art Short Course is designed to acquaint students 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.

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