Portraiture: A History of the Art


We are all acutely sensitive to the human face, where we read the mood, character, and disposition of those around us. Portraits fascinate because they preserve those features over time and space. The best of them have also been magnificent works of art.

Programme details

Thursdays, 11am–12.30pm (UK time)

For those attending in person at Rewley House, registration takes place at 10.30am before the first lecture (13 January 2022). Tea and coffee are provided in the Common Room before each lecture, from 10.30am.

For those joining us online, please join in good time before each lecture to ensure that you have no connection problems. We recommend joining 10-15 minutes before the start time. 


The Greek and Roman Portrait

Hellenistic Greeks produced portrait busts of startling individuality in marble and on coins. The Romans then embraced both practices, thereby enormously enriching the historical record.


The Renaissance Portrait

A delight in images that ‘imitate nature’ encouraged the revival of portraiture, but so did a preoccupation with identity, status, character, ambition, and many other more subtle social messages.


The Baroque Portrait

In the late phase of any artistic tradition, artists appeal to their public through their virtuosity. Since a portrait in paint and stone is necessarily static, now masters sought the spontaneity of a living subject.


The Modern Portrait

Freed from the tyranny of illusionism, modernist fine artists have explored the freedom with which a face can be recreated without sacrificing the likeness.



When artist and subject are one and the same person, a portrait can explore the complex relationship between society and self. Few great painters have resisted the challenge of this most convenient of subjects.


The Printed Portrait

A replicated portrait is a more deliberate and public statement than a unique image. Printed portraits survive from the 15th century, and have been a mainstay of photography since its invention.


Description Costs
Tuition - in-person attendance £125.00
Tuition - virtual attendance £125.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Mr Patrick Doorly

Course Tutor

Patrick was educated at St John's College, Oxford; Stockholm University; and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He was Acting Director of Studies for Art History at the Department for Continuing Education in 2001-02. His book The Truth about Art: Reclaiming quality was published by Zero Books in 2013.  www.thetruthaboutart.org.uk



Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email res-ctr@conted.ox.ac.uk for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

You can opt to attend this hybrid teaching event either online (via a livestream) or in person at Rewley House, Oxford. You will be given the option of how you wish to attend during the enrolment process. You can only pick one option. If your preferred attendance format is fully booked, you can email us to be put on the waiting list.

For those joining us online

The University of Oxford uses Microsoft Teams for our learning environment. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Teams interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

If you have not used the Microsoft Teams app before, once you click the joining link you will be invited to download it (this is free). Once you have downloaded the app, please test before the start of your course. If you are using a laptop or desktop computer, you will also be offered the option of connecting using a web browser. If you connect via a web browser, Chrome is recommended.