Skip to content

SC2011 How To Read Art (morning)

Ended 16 Mar 2021

Sorry! The enrolment period is currently closed. Please check back soon.

Full course description

Course Overview

This course takes participants around the world through a series of well-chosen art pieces and movements and explores what art history has to tell us about our past. Have you ever wandered through a gallery with no clue what you’re looking at? Have you ever shied away from asking your burning questions about art? Now is your opportunity to discover what art history is all about. Become empowered in your own opinions and your own knowledge of art.


This eight week course will provide a broad introduction to different periods in art history, and through specific case studies, will examine how the wider social and political context of the time influenced each artwork, as well as how we read it today. With case studies ranging from the Renaissance to Contemporary Art in 1960s America, this course will aim to give students the basic skills and understanding to appreciate many different kinds of art, no matter the context. 


The course is designed to foster and encourage interest in the subject of art history, and aims to develop a broader understanding of the importance of art history in the examination of wider social, economic and political context. It aims to encourage personal and professional development of the student by introducing them to the skills needed to foster a lifelong interest in the visual arts. 


Course Schedule 


Classes will be delivered online on Tuesdays 10.30am-12.30pm for eight weeks from 26 January to 16 March.


How to read portraits (Ellen Byrne)
The first class focuses on reading portraits. Portraiture features throughout history, during many different artistic movements. It provides the perfect subject matter for a whistle stop tour through time and an introduction to different movements that we will be exploring throughout the course.

How to read Renaissance Italy (Aoife Hegarty)
The Renaissance class will look at art from Italy during the period 1400-1600. Under the overarching theme of religion in society, we will see how artists manipulated religious topics to portray local society as well as considering the role the church played in everyday life.

How to read the power of art (Aoife)
This class will delve into some of the ways that art has been used for political propaganda throughout history, using the work of French Neoclassical artist Jacques-Louis David (1748-1845) as a case study to demonstrate how art has the ability to convey important messages and information to us all.

How to read the sublime (Ellen)
In this class we will explore the Romantic Sublime, using two artists, Casper David Friedrich and JMW Turner, to discover the theme of the awe inspiring power of nature. How did their painting reflect on society at the time and why effect did the industrial revolution and scientific progress have on how nature was viewed?

How to read Modern Art (Aoife)
We will explore modern art through the eyes of its artists. In the aftermath of the horrors of the battlefield of WWI, we will explore the impact on society through the eyes of the artists. What impact did the machine age have for the ordinary people? What can the colourful paintings of Expressionism tell us about the darkness of the time? How can the fleeting moments captured by the Impressionists show us the dialogue between men and women of society?

How to read Abstract Art (Ellen)
In this class we will examine abstraction in painting, using the Abstract Expressionist movement in New York as a case study. This movement marks a significant point in the history of Western art as for the first time we see the art market being lead by American artists. But how did this come about and why is it important?

How to read Contemporary Art (Ellen)
The 1960s in America brought much activism, an activism which was embraced by artists of the period. Contemporary artists pushed the boundaries of art by creating socially engaged and highly politicised installations and performances responding to the issues that surrounded them such as political and social injustices, representation of artists and exclusivity of the art world. These themes and the unique forms of art making that were being explored have continued to develop into the present day. How did these artists make a difference?

How to read the future (Aoife)
To wrap up this short course, we will consider viewing art in the digital age. What effects does the growth of technology have on viewing art? What does the future hold for art practice and its relationship with the public? Additionally, can we read the signs of our own society in the art produced around us? What does it say about our story?

Course Lecturers

Aoife Hegarty graduated in History of Art from University College Cork (UCC) in 2011 when she went onto study a Masters in Public History in Royal Holloway, University of London. Here, she specialised in public engagement with art and museums. Currently, she is undertaking her PhD in Digital Arts and Humanities at UCC researching museum education, accessibility and outreach. She works in a contemporary Art Gallery as an art mediator.

Ellen received her degree in Fine Art from the Crawford College of Art and Design in 2013. After gaining experience working in an art museum for two years, she completed her Masters in Modern and Contemporary Art History, Theory and Criticism from UCC in 2017. She also lectures on the ACE Diploma in European Art History. 

Entry Requirements

Applicants must be at least 18 years old at course commencement.


Short courses are not assessed. Students will receive a UCC Certificate of Attendance upon completion.

Closing Date for Application

Monday 18 January

Contact Details for Further Information

Regina Sexton, Phone: 021-4904700, Email: