The National Gallery of Ireland are organising this 8-week course on Tuesday evenings.

Spring online art appreciation course

Join the National Gallery of Ireland this spring on an online journey and explore Great Women Artists from the Renaissance to Romanticism. Running on Tuesday evenings, this fascinating 8-week course will be carried out by art historian and lecturer Jessica Fahy.

Some of the artists that will be discussed in detail include Sofonisba Anguissola, Elisabeth Vigée-Le Brun, Anne Seymour Damer, Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Leyster and Clara Peeters.

Through a series of insightful lectures, Jessica, together with guest speakers will examine how historical women artists succeeded in a male dominated society, and how extraordinary it was to do so hundreds of years ago.

This course will also highlight little-known works from the gallery’s collection. It will provide the opportunity for participants to rediscover old favourites, and learn about works from other great collections of the world too.

In conjunction with the Gallery’s unmissable summer exhibition, Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker, curator Dr Aoife Brady will explore the artist’s fascinating life during week eight of the course.

Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker will open to the public on 6 May 2023. This will be the first monographic exhibition examining the artist’s work in over two decades. Fontana is widely considered the first female artist to have achieved professional success beyond the confines of a court or a convent.

Joanne Drum, Education Officer said: ‘If you are enthusiastic and curious about the history of art, then these courses are for you. Informative and accessible, you can take part wherever you are in the world, and if you miss a session, it’s recorded so that you can catch up.’

Each week, lectures will take place online via ZOOM webinar and will include time for questions and answers. Suitable for beginners and experts alike, these sessions will then be recorded and made available to watch for a two-week period afterwards, to allow for catch-up.

Course Outline:

Week 1: March 21 - Introduction: “Get thee to a Nunnery”

The Renaissance convent was often the only place that a woman could exercise her artistic talent. This lecture will focus on the reasoning behind this, and consider some of the artists from this time that are still known today such as Saint Catherine of Bologna, Plautilla [Pulisena] Nelli and Lucrezia Quistelli.

Week 2: March 28 - In her own Image

Many women artists painted self-portraits, which provide us with a view of the artist through their own eyes, while also reflecting the ideals of the society of which they belonged. This lecture will look deeper into the reasons why women artists seem to have engaged frequently in this genre of art. Artists to be discussed include Sofonisba Anguissola, Catharina van Hemessen, Marietta Robusti.

Week 3: April - Nature and Nurture

In seventeenth-century northern Europe, a lively private market emerged from a growing demand for art among the independent wealthy merchant class. This large competitive market meant that artists often specialised in specific genres and many women artists of this region became experts in still life. Women as innovators, followers, and specialists in this art market will be examined during this lecture, including Gesina ter Borch, Judith Leyster and Clara Peeters.

Week 4: April 11 - The Baroque and the Beautiful

The seventeenth century in Europe saw the reinvigoration of the Catholic Church following the Counter-Reformation. Religious art evolved, in some cases becoming bold and dramatic, or in others, sweet and pure, aiming to move the viewer. Some women artists engaged in these emerging trends, producing works that addressed the same subject matter or style as their male counterparts. Artists to be discussed include Mary Beale, Artemisia Gentileschi and Elisabetta Sirani.

No session on 11 April

Week 5: April 18 - Rock, Paper, Scissors

Not all women artists were oil painters: many worked with other material ranging from pastel to fruit stones to marble. From the perhaps more expected very fine precision work to larger sculptures. Artists to be discussed include Properzia de‘Rossi, Joanna Koerten, Suzanne de Court, Rosalba Carriera and Anne Seymour Damer.

Week 6: April 25 - Revolution and Recognition

From the Eighteenth century, political and industrial revolutions in Europe saw great changes to the way society functioned. A number of these changes benefited women artists, with some permitted to attend and even found academic institutions. Artists to be discussed include Angelica Kauffman, Mary Moser, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun and Adélaïde Labille-Guiard.

Week 7: May 2 - Women Artists in Ireland

During this lecture, guest speaker Anne Hodge, Curator of Prints and Drawings at the National Gallery of Ireland will speak about London-born Maria Spilsbury Taylor (1776–1820), who moved to Ireland with her family in 1813. Her oil portraits and genre scenes depict the well-to-do families, in particular the Tighe family that she and her husband, an evangelical cleric, associated with. Her sketchbooks are full of lively drawings of domestic life and give insight into the occupations and interests of women in the early nineteenth century. Artists to be discussed include Maria Spilsbury Taylor, Susanna Drury and Mary Delany.

Week 8: May 9 - Lavinia Fontana and Conclusion

As mentioned above, in conjunction with the Gallery’s summer show, Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker, curator Dr Aoife Brady will discuss this artist’s extraordinary life and work. Dr Brady and will also explore the unique circumstances that permitted the artist to flourish as a woman painter in the Renaissance period.

Tickets to Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker are available from €5. Children (under 18 years) and Friends & Patrons of the National Gallery of Ireland go free. There is free (ticketed) entry every Wednesday 9.15am–11.30am and €5 tickets every Thursday 5pm–7.15pm. Discounts for online bookings are available. See for information.

Later this year, an eight-week online course titled On the Move: The Journeys of Artists and Artworks, 1650-1950, will run from 3 October to 28 November where facilitator Dr Kathryn Milligan will explore painters who travelled around the world throughout history.

For further information on the above, visit