Welcome! This website has information on courses I'm teaching at the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies, assorted musings on art, and my own photography, art and poetry.  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 Great Old Masters as part of Curious Minds @ Hot Docs.

Please join me for this exploration of six of the most influential painters in the history of western art. 

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne, 1520-22.

Lecture 1: Titian A celebrated master of the Venetian Renaissance, Titian was the go-to portrait painter of princes across Europe, as well as a tremendous innovator in the realm of sacred paintings, presenting Bible stories with an unprecedented naturalism and vivacity. We’ll examine his greatest works and learn how a novel collaboration with a Spanish king led to the birth of a whole new type of picture: the “poesie”, his poetic paintings of mythological figures. 


Caravaggio, Medusa, 1597.

Lecture 2: Caravaggio
Caravaggio’s reputation as an incorrigible bad boy sometimes overshadows his tremendous achievements as a painter whose dramatic use of light influenced generations of later artists. We’ll discover how Caravaggio’s use of models recruited from the streets of Rome shocked church officials, and review some of the theories as to how he achieved his remarkably lifelike results.


Rubens, Samson and Delilah, 1610.
Lecture 3: Rubens
A giant of the Baroque, Rubens combined the vigour of Michelangelo, the colour of Titian and the realism of the Northern European tradition to create a vivacious new style that answered the Catholic Church’s call for paintings to inspire the faithful. In addition to his celebrated altarpieces and regal portraits, we’ll also discover how the landscape paintings Rubens did for his own pleasure influenced the great English landscape painters.


Velázquez, Innocent X, ca. 1650.
Lecture 4: Velázquez
A true “painter’s painter”, Velázquez spent his career at the service of the Spanish court, capturing living likenesses in which he balanced the requisite idealism with bravura brushwork. We’ll look at the breathtaking realism of his early genre scenes, his dazzling portraits of the Hapsburgs and their retinues, and of course the artist’s most famous painting, Las Meninas, an enigmatic work that has inspired artists from Manet to Picasso to Salvador Dalí.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1659.
Lecture 5: Rembrandt
The most renowned of the Dutch Old Masters, Rembrandt’s style evolved from the highly polished manner that won him commissions from Amsterdam’s elite, to a deeply personal approach in which Caravaggesque lighting is combined with a loose yet deft paint handling not seen previously. We’ll analyze the artist’s innovative take on the group portrait (the so-called “Night Watch” ), his poignant self-portraits, the quietly intimate religious scenes painted in his later years, and his highly original approach to print making.


Goya, The Giant, 1814-18.
Lecture 6: Goya
From scathing social commentary to society portraits to paintings that seem to emanate from the darkest recesses of the mind, Goya’s art remains as relevant today as when it was painted. We’ll look at his ground-breaking treatment of topical subjects, his portraits of Madrid’s rich and famous, his two great print series and their highly subversive content, and the haunting Black Paintings, with which Goya surrounded himself in his final home.

The six lectures in this series will all be available to stream until August 26.  Register here.

Art Through The Ages Part I, Wednesdays, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., October 6 to November 24, 2021, format to be announced

This exciting exploration of the Western art tradition from cave painting to the Baroque era provides the “big picture” of art history, making future visits to galleries and museums more enjoyable. 

Discover the distinguishing characteristics and circumstances behind the creation of a diverse range of objects including Egyptian sculptures, paintings from Pompeii, medieval manuscripts such as the Book of Kells, Renaissance art including Botticelli, da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bosch and Durer, and Baroque era masterpieces by artists such as Rubens, Bernini, Rembrandt and Velasquez.

This course is offered through the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies. Registration here: http://learn.utoronto.ca