Languages for All
Short Courses
Your basket
Your account

Six Great Painters of the Seventeenth Century

Course Times & Enrolment

Thursdays from 18th April 2024 (Code AA193-302) Thursdays from
18th April 2024 11:10am - 1:00pm • (10 classes)
LG49, Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Andrew Paterson MSc BFA PhD
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

The 17th century was a golden age of oil-painting, but also a fascinating transitional period in the visual culture of Western Europe. This course offers an in-depth study of the techniques and meanings of the work of Caravaggio, Rubens, Velazquez, Poussin, Rembrandt and Vermeer, and sets their achievements in the context of the religious, intellectual and political life of their period.

Please note, this course includes field trips (visits to the National Gallery of Scotland).

Course Details

Content of Course

1. The ‘Realism’ of Caravaggio, and the Counter-Reformation in Italy.

2. The legacy of Caravaggio, and the early work of Velazquez.

3. The ‘Baroque’ in the early works of Rubens and Poussin.

4. The artist as ‘composer’: the later work of Poussin and Rubens.

5. The first ‘modern’ painter?: the later work of Velazquez.

6. Rembrandt’s Portraiture.

7. A Protestant sacred art: Rembrandt and the Bible.

8. Visit to the National Gallery of Scotland – paintings by Rubens, Poussin, Velazquez, Rembrandt and Vermeer.

9. Vermeer and the Dutch Genre Tradition.

10. Interpreting Vermeer.

Teaching method(s)

Slide lectures (powerpoint) and discussion. Gallery visits to study relevant works at first hand.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Appreciate the creative achievements of each of the six artists being studied, and their innovative techniques;

  • Understand the role of different kinds of patronage in their achievements;

  • Interpret the meanings of key works in the context of broader cultural developments of the period.


Core Readings

There are monographs on all six artists in the Taschen ‘Basic Art’ series, and these are good introductions at a reasonable price. For further reading:

  • Langdon, H., 1999. Caravaggio: A Life. London: Pimlico.

  • Lohse Belkin, K., 1998. Rubens (Art and Ideas), London: Phaidon.

  • Verdi, R., 1995. Nicolas Poussin. London: Philip Wilson Publishers.

  • Clark, T.J., 2006. The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing. Yale: Yale University Press.

  • Brown, J., 1988. Velazquez: Painter and Courtier. Yale: Yale University Press.

  • Schama, S., 1999. Rembrandt’s Eyes. London: Allen Lane.

  • Snow, E., 1994. A Study of Vermeer. California: University of California Press.

Web Sources

Class Handouts

Course schedule, list of recommended further reading, weekly lecture notes, including quotations from primary sources.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.