NICHOLAS FRIEND MA (Oxon), MA (Cantab), FRSA, Founder and Director of INSCAPE Fine Art Study Tours Ltd, and co-Founder of Friend&Friend Ltd has been teaching adults in galleries, museums and country houses for over 30 years. He has taught for the Wallace Collection, the National Gallery and Sotheby’s, and has conducted many tours at home and abroad. For 25 years he directed Cambridge University’s History of Art Summer School. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Companion of the Guild of St. George.


A Closer Look at the Big Picture
 Thursday 3 September – Wednesday 2 December 

This course has begun but you are very welcome to book for the remainder of the sessions. It is not necessary to have attended the previous sessions in order to enjoy each one.

Difficult though it is, at the moment, to contemplate embarking on buses, underground, planes or trains to visit galleries and museums at home and abroad, we need not deny ourselves the pleasure of seeing paintings up close. Instead, we can simply remain in our chairs, and turn on what is now a familiar piece of kit: a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, desktop, a TV screen or a computer monitor. Four years ago, these devices became portals to a miracle of 21c technology used by many museums worldwide to study their treasures. This technology permits a view, not only of paintings in their entirety, but in their most minute detail as well. Custom-built cameras scan an entire canvas taking thousands of high resolution closeups of the painting, millimetre by millimetre. The results, every brushstroke, even the smallest flecks of paint, can be brought into focus. This technology is not just a step forward, but represents a revolution in optics and opens the door to another dimension in our relationship to art. Whether for the purpose of documentation and analysis, or as a Dionysian pursuit of pleasure, or both, we can now enter a stunning micro universe never seen before with the naked eye.

In this twelve-week course with a short break mid-way through, we study, in greater depth than ever before possible, one magnificent painting per session; each chosen by us as a superb example of a particular artist’s work as well as for its importance to a broader narrative in the story of art. Using comparative images, we will engage with relevant contextual matters – from the life and times of the artist to the constraints of the subject matter and the terms of the commission.

Above all, we will have the unique experience of becoming involved in the very substance of each individual painting. We will be in the clouds, or alight on a leaf or onto a crusty carved capital. The minutiae of every element chosen for representation by the artist will be revealed, whether that of ornament, dress or robe, or the twinkle of candlelight reflected on a wine glass, on the surface of a pond, or in the eyes. Never before has it been possible to come so close to the artist at the precise moment of contact he or she made with the canvas. Never before have we had such privileged intimacy with the very process of creation. We may never look at paintings the same way again, even when we return in person to gaze upon them. It is a humbling and uplifting journey we embark on!

Cost: All twelve sessions £360 or £35 per individual session. All sessions are limited to 23 participants to permit discussion. 

Lecture Archive


We so hope that you will be able to join us! In order to book please follow these directions:

Please telephone the office on 020 8566 7539,

email your choice of lecture to

You will receive confirmation by email.

And we look forward to hearing from you.