We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of New South Wales stands.

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Art for starters European art explained

Wassily Kandinsky Study for 'Painting with white border' 1913, Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased 1982

Wassily Kandinsky Study for 'Painting with white border' 1913, Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased 1982

An introductory overview of European art history, from the classical to the contemporary. Back by popular demand, Art for starters explores how art is shaped by cultural and historical contexts. The scope of the course is limited to key examples of painting, sculpture and architecture in the Western world, providing a starting point for a deeper exploration of the visual arts in Europe, Australia and the wider world beyond.

Liz Gibson currently directs the members’ world art tours and has led many members on colourful adventures through Russia, Germany, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus. Liz's lectures are engaging and thoughtful and her warm hospitable nature makes this course a perfect introduction to art history.

Each lecture includes a 30 minute intermission.

Art for starters European art explained

Saturdays 24 September – 26 November 2022


Centenary Auditorium

Art Gallery of NSW

🛈 Find out what you need to know before visiting

Per lecture

$50 non-member

$40 member

Series subscription

$370 non-member

$280 member

Bookings and enquiries: 02 9225 1878


Transaction terms and conditions, including cancellations and refunds 

If purchasing tickets on behalf of other attendees, the ticket purchaser is responsible for communicating all correspondence from the Art Gallery Society of NSW to those attendees.

  • Introduction

    Consider the architectural evolution of the Art Gallery of NSW. Locate icons of European art within a chronological chart, from ancient Greece to the beginning of the 21st century. Discuss the nature and scope of art and study one work of art in depth to explore a variety of ways of looking, seeing and appreciating art.

    Saturday 24 September 2022 2–4.30pm

  • Pagan beginnings: Ancient Greece and Rome

    Locate icons of European art from ancient Greece to the beginning of the 21st century. Travel through time back to ancient Greece and Rome and explore the roots of classicism in art. Discover why emperors, popes, princes and autocrats have enthusiastically embraced various versions of this ubiquitous style to amplify their power and prestige.

    Saturday 8 October 2022 2–4.30pm

  • Medieval Christendom

    Enter the mystical world of medieval art and discover the art behind the terms Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic. From the moment it became an accepted religion in the Roman Empire, Christianity quickly spread and eventually infiltrating the entire European world. The Church became one of the greatest art patrons of all time.

    Saturday 15 October 2022 2–4.30pm

  • The Renaissance – rediscovering Greek and Roman antiquity

    Discover how artists looked to the words and images of pagan antiquity for inspiration. The emergence of the city state in Italy and Protestantism in the north resulted in the weakening of the Catholic Church’s power and a rise in secular patronage. No longer dwarfed by the divine, man became the centre of the universe, while the status of the artist was elevated beyond the anonymous artisan.

    Saturday 22 October 2022 2–4.30pm

  • The expanding world – 1600 to 1800

    Examine how the explosion of travel and geographic expansion in the 15th century became reflected in the dynamic artistic styles of the baroque and rococo periods. Learn how to recognize these styles and how they reflect the emergence of ‘Enlightenment’ thinking, shaped by scientific discoveries, and religious upheavals.

    Saturday 29 October 2022 2–4.30pm

  • 19th century – Revolution, romance and nationalism

    Find out how to tell the difference between neo-classicism, romanticism, realism and finally impressionism. The French Revolution and its aftermath set in motion profound changes. Napoleon’s fashioning of himself in the image of a Roman Emperor triggered a passion for all things associated with the ancient empire. See how the revolutionary spirit lived on throughout the century and manifested itself in the artistic ‘isms.’

    Saturday 12 November 2022 2–4.30pm

  • 20th century – modernity and beyond

    Discover the meaning of art terms like cubism, expressionism, surrealism, pop art and conceptual art. Explore the impact of the revolutionary fervour and technology advances of the 19th century as it spilled over into the 20th century - paving the way for some of the most radical changes ever witnessed in the way art was created and viewed.

    Saturday 19 November 2022 2–4.30pm

  • 21st century – understanding contemporary art

    For this final lecture on contemporary art, we are joined by writer, curator and broadcaster, Julie Ewington. This lecture includes an introduction to the great diversity in the art of our time and an in-depth study of one work of contemporary art, using a variety of ways of looking, seeing and appreciating art.   

    Saturday 26 November 2022 2–4.30pm