How to look at Paintings

What do you see when you look at paintings? You may be interested in the physical objects and their materials, how they were made and how they changed over time.

Or you are immediately drawn to shapes, lines and colours painted on the surface.

Maybe you discern forms, figures and places that may evoke some vivid memories.

Paintings may be sources of inspiration or a whirlwind of emotions that can leave you unsettled. You may be captivated by stories of the past, battles and other real historical events, fantastic tales of ancient gods and goddesses, legends of holy people, or moments of ordinary life. 

How to look at Paintings‘ explores all this and more. The course offers a series of lectures on 15th- to 19th-century paintings in the National Gallery. You will discover the masterpieces of the greatest masters, such as Van Eyck, Bellini, Leonardo, Dürer, Holbein, Caravaggio, Van Dyck, Artemisia Gentileschi, Velázquez, Gainsborough, Turner, Degas, Monet. No background knowledge is expected or required: sessions are suitable for both experienced art lovers and absolute beginners or professional practitioners and amateur artists. In particular, you can learn easy and practical methods to:Interpret compositional arrangements

-Understand the interplay between drawing and colours

-Appreciate materials and artistic processes

-Decode hidden symbolism 

-Unravel complex stories 

-Connect with art emotionally.

Dr Carlo Corsato is a highly engaging and experienced educator and teaches both at Morley and the National Gallery. He combines his vast art-historical knowledge with more experimental approaches, e.g. long look sessions, mindfulness exercises, simple drawing tasks and group discussions. (Read more about Carlo at the bottom of this article)

Before the pandemic, ‘How to look at Paintings’ offered a unique, hands-on, immersive experience in front of the original artworks. Carlo is determined to resume gallery visits as soon as the National Gallery can allow on-site group activities. Meanwhile, the course offers all the benefits of blended teaching: you can either join online via Ms Team or Zoom or attend in person at Morley. The online option serves well learners who are not based in London or prefer not to travel. The in-person attendance allows studying images on a widescreen and socialising more spontaneously. Most importantly, the classroom is well-ventilated, social distance is easy to maintain and enhanced cleaning is performed everywhere at Morley.

“The selection of paintings was excellent and once we were towards the middle of the course the more experimental way of investigating was most interesting”; “I did gain the fresh perspective I was hoping for at the start of the course”; “Many thanks for such an entertaining and learning course”.

Former Student

Join ‘How to look at Paintings‘ today!


A passionate and dedicated lecturer, Dr Carlo Corsato has spent over 15 years in adult education, mainly at Morley College.

He has published his research in leading specialist journals and contributed to important exhibition catalogues, including Titian. Love, Desire, Death (National Gallery, London, 2020). His most recent publications include Lives of Tintoretto and Lives of Titian (More of his publications are available here.

Carlo is a leading expert in early-modern Western art and was the recipient of scholarships from prestigious institutions, including the Dutch University Institute for Art History in Florence, and St John’s College, Cambridge.

He is also a highly experienced speaker: he lectured for many institutions, such as the London Art History Society, the universities of Buckingham, Glasgow and St Andrews, the Courtauld Institute, and the National Gallery, where he is currently one of the in-house educators. (Watch ‘Arrows in Art’ as a tester of his teaching.)

Carlo is an energetic, dynamic and highly supportive tutor. His courses are learner-centred and offer hands-on and very engaging learning experiences.

Posted in Art