Welcome! This website has information on courses I'm teaching at the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies and assorted musings on art.  Click on the labels at right to find particular topics. Thanks for visiting, and if you'd like to get in touch, it's isherwood dot barbara at g mail dot com.

The Influencers: Six "Old Masters" You Should Know Wednesdays, January 10 to February 28, 2018, 11:00am - 1:00pm

Rembrandt, Woman Bathing in a Stream, 1654. National Gallery, London.

Michelangelo, Titian, Caravaggio, Rubens, Rembrandt and Velázquez — find out how and why these artists came to influence subsequent generations, changing art history.

Michelangelo, Creation of the Sun, Moon and Plants, 1511. Sistine Ceiling.

Michelangelo (1475-1564) was the first art superstar. Equally talented in the realms of sculpture and painting, his magnificent depictions of the human form in motion set standards that challenged and influenced artists for generations to come.

Titian, Noli Me Tangere, 1511-1512. National Gallery, London.


Titian (1490-1576) was the most important painter of the Venetian Renaissance. Celebrated for his vibrant use of colour, Titian was in demand for religious paintings and portraits, but it was his sensuous mythological scenes that made him famous at courts throughout Europe.

Caravaggio, Supper at Emmaus, 1601. National Gallery, London.

Caravaggio (1571-1610) lived a brief and tumultuous life, yet was responsible for a revolution in art. We’ll discover how he brought religious art to life in dramatic paintings so powerful and naturalistic that he sparked a whole new style.

Rubens, Two Satyrs, 1618-1619. Alte Pinakothek, Munich.    

Rubens (1577-1640) is regarded as one of the greatest painters of all times. Discover why he was a favourite at courts throughout Europe, and how he was equally masterful at portraiture, sacred subjects, mythological scenes and landscapes.

Velázquez, Old Woman Frying Eggs, 1618. National Gallery, Scotland.  

Velázquez (1599-1660) was the painter of the Spanish court, known for his bravura brushwork and his psychologically penetrating portraiture. His famous painting, Las Meninas, has puzzled scholars for centuries, but his early bodegónes (kitchen still lives) are equally intriguing.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait with Two Circles, 1665. Kenwood House, London.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) was the greatest painter of the Dutch Golden Age. We’ll look at his masterful prints, his extraordinary series of self-portraits, and discover how his renowned painting, The Night Watch, broke new ground.

This course is offered through the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies. It runs for 8 weeks and costs $325 plus tax. To register, click here.

Fabulous Frederician! The Loveliest Room in Berlin

Golden Gallery, Charlottenburg, Berlin, 1740s.

Rococo may have sprouted in France, but it blossomed in Germany. During the 18th century, France was the leader of style, and for rulers of present day Germany’s many states, decorating in the French style was a way to demonstrate their sophistication.

Golden Gallery, Charlottenburg.
So accepted was the cultural domination of France that Frederick the Great, King of Prussia (1712-1786), could read French better than his native German. When it came time to add a new wing to Charlottenburg, the Berlin palace he’d inherited from his father, Frederick Wilhelm, Frederick the Great hired a team well versed in the style then called “le goût nouveau” or “the French taste.”

Golden Gallery, Charlottenburg.

Supervising architect, Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff (1699-1753), had studied in Paris on Frederick’s tab, while sculptor Johann August Nahl the Elder (1710-1781) had collaborated with noted French designer, Nicolas Pineau. The pair are credited with developing the form of Rococo known as Frederician.

Trellis motif in the Golden Gallery.


While it features the requisite Rococo S and C curves, and of course cupids up the wazoo, what distinguishes the Frederician style is the plentiful references to gardens and nature. Frederick the Great was known for his interest in horticulture, and had his summer palace at Sanssouci designed so that he could walk straight out into the garden.

Cherubs, grapes and birds in the Golden Gallery.


The first thing one notices in the famous Golden Gallery in the New Wing at Charlottenburg is the colour, an extraordinary delicate green that balances the copious amount of gilt stucco. Windows on both of the long sides illuminate the assortment of cherubs, birds, flowers and plants that spread out over the walls and ceiling in delightful asymmetrical fashion.

Candelabra in the Golden Gallery.




Charlottenburg was extensively damaged in WWII and when yours truly visited (June 2017) parts were closed due to on-going restoration work. But the Golden Gallery was what I most wanted to see, and I'm please to say it quite exceeded my expectations. Thanks Frederick, you made my trip!


To find out more about Charlottenburg and the Golden Gallery click here.

18th Century Rich People Problems: A Swarm of Cupids!

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Swarm of Cupids, 1767. Musée du Louvre. Source.

Spring seems like the ideal time to revel in the delightful excesses of 18th century art. Please join me for Art of the 18th Century, an eight week course beginning on Tuesday, April 4, at U of T. More cupids than you can shake a stick at!


Leopard, Meissen, ca. 1750. Hard-paste porcelain. Gardiner Museum, Toronto.

Fragments of the past

Ruins of 12th century church at the Catacombs of St. John in Siracusa