Study Days


Each Course is designed to provide a basic knowledge of the subject.  For  availability, email:  or phone: 01372 272235. 

The Development of English Art during the time of the Tudors 

Stranger Painters of the Tudor Court: 1485 - 1558    

Today you mention Henry VIII to anyone and they will probably think of the powerful image painted by Hans Holbein of a luxuriously dressed man standing with his hands on his hips and his legs apart.  That particular painting is in the Walker Gallery, Liverpool and David Starkey once described it as the first portrait of a fat man!  

The Holbein portrait (left) of Henry VIII is in the Thyssen- Bornemisza Museum in Madrid and dates from c 1537.  Henry is in his mid forties and very much as we think of him today.  Painted after the death of his wife, Queen Jane Seymour, it was probably designed to show Henry at his best to any possible future queen.  However, Holbein is famous for capturing the inner personality and there is no shrinking from the hint of the man behind the fancy clothes when you look at that pinched mouth and calculating eyes.  This is a man who will brook absolutely no criticism of anything he does.

The art of illuminator was also high on the king's list of artistic weaponry for the illumination of treaties, letters patent, the painting of miniature portraits and it was the Horenbout family who were invited to court in 1526.  Lucas and his sister Susannah provided the services of illuminator to the royal library.  Susannah became a lady in waiting to Anne of Cleves.  When Lucas died in 1544 another woman artist was invited to fill his place and Levina Teerlinc and her husband came to court in 1546.  Levina would eventually serve Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.  

When it came to the decorating of palaces, artisan craftsmen were invited from all over Europe.  From when he became King's Almoner in 1509 up until the failure to secure a divorce for the king from Katherine of Aragon, Cardinal Wolsey was one of the great patrons of the arts.  Stained glass workers from Flanders were invited to provide the glass for the chapel at Wolsey's Hampton Court.  They same team worked on the windows of King's College Chapel, Cambridge.  Unknown woodcarvers worked on the rood screen of King's College Chapel and here we see references to the love affair and the ill fated Anne Boleyn.  

Interior decoration and the design of luxury items have survived in sketches by the great Hans Holbein the Younger giving us an idea of the display of wealth shown by the social elite.
After the death of Holbein in 1543 William Scrots was invited to become court painter and with the Reformation in full swing in Europe, England was a place of refuge for many artists looking for work.  Other artistic emigres include Hans Eworth who introduced the allegorical portrait to England and was the artist of choice of England's first queen regnant, Mary I.  The illuminator who continued in post was Levina Teerlinc, who during her lifetime surved four of the five Tudor monarchs.  She died in 1576 during the reign of Elizabeth I.

We will examine the role of the official court artist, the individual artists, their place in society and hust how these artists created the Tudor 'brand'.   

Hans Holbein the Younger: His life and works. (1497/8 - 1543)

Holbein was born right at the end of the 15th century and grew up in one of the most turbulent periods of early modern European history.  As more research is done on this giant of the art history world, we are beginning to learn more of his early life in Basel, Lucerne and why he came to England for a period of two years from 1526 - 28.  

1517 is the year Martin Luther nails his 95 theses to the door of Worms cathedral and sets alight the torch of the movement we now call The Reformation.  The 18, or possibly 19 year old, Holbein was in Basel with his older brother Ambrose and associating with the scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam and other humanist thinkers.  The brothers were producing engravings and woodcuts for printers and designing printers' marks, title pages for books, designs for goldsmiths and in the case of Hans Holbein, painting portraits.

It is not until his return from Basel in 1531/2 that Holbein rises to the rank of court artist, thanks to the patronage of Thomas Cromwell and Anne Boleyn.  He paints many portraits of members of the court, some of which are now lost and only known through reference in inventories.  One of the rare surviving portraits of one who fell from grace is the portrait of Thomas Cromwell now in the Frick Collection, New York .  

This has been placed opposite another who 'disappointed' the king and was executed, Sir Thomas More.  These two portraits have been sourced from Wikipedia.

This day course will track the development of the artist and how the revolution in religion appears to have affected Holbein's work as he sought to convey the truthful personality in the portraits of those he painted; the surviving designs for loving cups such as the ones designed and created for Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour; his relationship with members of the Hanseatic League and his neighbours who have been immortalised in both large and miniature portraits.

The Art of Illumination at the Tudor Court: 1526-1558.

Much of the work of the miniaturists (or limners as they should more properly be called) is anonymous, but there are various works attributed to artists such as Lucas Horenbout and his sister Susannah, Hans Holbein,  and Levina Teerlinc.  We will look at how these exquisite portraits and paintings were executed and how the miniature portrait of the monarch was used in in treaties, legal documents, the designers of the title pages for the first two imprints of Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer and the illumination of the Crampe Ring Prayer book.  The illustration is a page from the Crampe Ring manuscript commissioned by Mary I.  The manuscript is a treasure of the English Catholic Church and held in Muniment Room, Westminster Abbey.
The manuscript sets out the service for the Sovereign's laying on of hands in order to cure the King's evil and the service was reinstated when Mary I came to the throne in 1533.
We will examine the various manuscripts commissioned by Cardinal Wolsey, an illuminated Book of Hours with covert notes scibbled in the margin by the king and Anne Boleyn.  We will also discover how the individual portrait developed from that of the patron included within an illuminated document such as the psalter commissioned by Henry VIII from the French artist, Jean Maillard, into individual images. During the latter part of the 16th century these came to be used as diplomatic tools and lover's gifts.   
Photograph : a page from the Crampe Ring Manuscript, held in the Munument Room, Westminster Abbey. Copyright Melanie Taylor.

 Nicholas Hilliard, miniaturist to Elizabeth I:
Image copyright V&A

Nicholas Hilliard (left - image copyright of the V&A and sourced from Wikipedia) was England's first home bred artist who won international fame.  We will examine his life and work and consider his artistic relationship to Elizabeth I. 

 The Elizabethan age was a time of exploration and Hilliard painted many famous people of his day.  Unfortunately, there are very few of his miniatures where the identity of his sitters are known, but where they are we are able to put faces to well known names such as Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, in addition to those of Sir Christopher Hatton, Robert Dudley and Elizabeth herself.  

Our exploration of Hilliard's work will include an analysis of individual portraits, an explanation of the symbolism contained in  them, including a suggested interpretation of the miniature of a young man holding a hand coming from a cloud with the mysterious motto 'Attici Amoris Ergo' . 

European Art & Ideas 

Art & Patronage in Renaissance Italy: 1350 - 1500. 
Sculpture and architecture changed in the aftermath of The Black Death, but why did this event have such an effect on civilisation?  By exploring the events of the period and looking at the  who commissioned art and sculpture, we will build a picture of what life was like during the early Renaissance and why art became so important as a political and religious tool.  We will examine how surviving documents of the ancient world were reinterpreted and became the movement known as 'humanism'.  How this movement influenced all aspects of life including sculpture, painting and architecture.  The patrons of art were the rich and powerful and we will look at who they were, what they commissioned artists to paint and sculpt for them and why.

1350 - 1550.  The Exchange of Ideas between Southern & Northern Europe: Giotto & Van Eyck to Michelangelo & Hans Holbein the Younger.
We will delve into the work of the Italian masters starting with Cimabue & Giotto up to Michelagelo and Titian and compare them with the works of The Master of Flemalle, JanVan Eyck, Van der Weyden up to Hans Holbein the Younger and Francois Clouet, both court artists.  We will examine the works of these great artists in the light of the politics of the day; how they were considered by society and how they reacted to the interchange of ideas.    

 The difference between the Northern and Italian artists was so profound that Michelangelo was moved to say, 
    "....  Italian painting was devout, but would not cause the worshipper to shed a tear, whereas the work of the Flemish painters could move them to shed many."
Comparing the work of artists from both areas and looking at the history of the time we will endeavour to come to some explanation for the differences between Northern & Southern European Renaissance art.

 Italian High Renaissance & Mannerism 1501 - 1600.  
How and why did artistic influence shift to Rome?  Looking at the patrons and the political events of the time, we will explore how art changed.  The physical and spiritual exploration of the world and religion was documented in the art of such artists as Titian, Raphael, Veronese, Giorgione, Sangallo, Bramante, El Greco and, of course, Michaelangelo.  However, art was changing from the salutation of the glory of God into a luxury consumer item, so we will examine how and why this was so and why the subject matter was moving away from the religious into allegorical and historical subjects and pandering to the "Male Gaze".