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Lectures

Venue: The Beacon, Wantage, OX12 9BX

Lectures start at 10.45am

Coffee served from 9.45 to 10.30

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Friday 24 May 2024 – Music in Art

Lecturer: Sophie Matthews

So many of our historical references for musical instruments can be found in works of art. Not only can these windows into the past show us what the instruments looked but the social context in which they would have been played.
Sophie explores the instruments in selected works and then gives live demonstrations on replicas of the instruments depicted.

Friday 28 June 2024 – T.S. Eliot and Art

Lecturer: Toby Faber

As a pioneer of literary modernism, TS Eliot inevitably influenced his counterparts in the visual arts. He was friends with several artists. Edward McKnight Kauffer and David Jones illustrated his work; Patrick Heron and Wyndham Lewis painted him; Jacob Epstein sculpted him. There are paintings inspired by his poems. And the reverse is also true; The Waste Land famously employs techniques borrowed from modern art.
This lecture will explore some of those connections, while also taking the chance to display some of Eliot’s own artistic creations: the jokey little sketches he included in letters to children.

Friday 26 July 2024 – Marathon!

Lecturer: Rupert Willoughby

One of the world’s most popular athletic events commemorates Pheidippides’s epic run from the battlefield of Marathon to his native Athens. Apart from the amazing courage of Pheidippides, why remember a battle that took place over two and a half thousand years ago? Since the 19th century, historians have argued that it was a crucial event, one that had decided ‘the whole future of human civilisation’. As John Stuart Mill put it, ‘the Battle of Marathon, even as an event in English history, is more important than the Battle of Hastings’. Rupert re-creates the background and the battle itself in thrilling detail. He looks at the various ways in which ancient Athens has influenced our art and culture, and argues that Marathon was, indeed, the battle that saved ‘Western Civilisation’. Eye-opening, edge-of-your-seat stuff.

Friday 27 September 2024 – Henry Moore: From Past to Present

Lecturer: Juliet Heslewood

The British Museum holds some of the most revered art of different world cultures. Early in his career, Henry Moore found the displays in the museum an inspiration – that lasted all his life. Many of these gave birth to his well known monumental works that are essentially ‘modern’ in appearance, if ancient in concept.

Friday 25 October 2024 – Caterpillars, Lemons and Lobsters. Dutch Still Life from 1560-1650

Lecturer: Dan Evans

When it comes to Dutch Flower paintings the only real expert in the field (often literally) is the insect that lives off the stems and petals. As Harry Berger puts it “the caterpillar is connoisseur”. From Meat Stalls to Mince Pies, and Bubbles to Bread Rolls, this lecture will help you to discover the enormous symbolism that is conveyed by simple every day objects, that have been rendered with breath taking accuracy and convey really satisfying moral meaning. Examining works by Aertsen, Claesz, Steenwyck, de Heem, van Aelst and Mignon; we shall explore the corruption of abundance, the mutability and ephemerality of life and the inevitability of death.

Friday 22 November 2024 – Banksy: The A to Z of a Street Artist

Lecturer: Raymond Warburton

Banksy is British, out of Bristol, and emerged in the 1990s with a stencil-based approach to street art. His work pops up in the most surprising places. Most memorable are large rodents, girls with balloons and flower-throwing freedom fighters. Some see Banksy as a prankster but with increasingly serious cultural or socio-political points to make. The picture that shredded itself at Sotheby’s in 2018 is a good example. His installations and graffiti in Gaza and on or near the West Bank Wall are another. Surprisingly, Banksy remains, anonymous to the general public, despite his popularity.

Friday 24 January 2025 – Vauxhall Revisited: London’s Pleasure Gardens, 1660-1877

Lecturer: Jonathan Conlin

Seasonal suburban resorts like Vauxhall provided generations of Londoners with a space to perambulate, flirt, eat and listen to music. This talk begins with the story of Restoration-era Spring Gardens before moving on to Ranelagh and Vauxhall in their Georgian heyday, finishing in the 1870s Cremorne Gardens. It explains and illustrates their multi-sensory appeal, shows how they inspired artists such as Hogarth and Whistler and shaped today’s Proms.

Friday 28 February 2025 – From Crete to Toledo: The mysterious art of El Greco

Lecturer: Isabelle Kent

Domenicos Theotokopolos, better known as El Greco, is often seen as an artist out of his correct place and time. At first glance his dramatic, expressionistic paintings with their sinuous figures seem more at home in a modern art museum than among other Old Masters. In this lecture I will explore how his distinctive style came to be, and how it was received by his intrigued, and sometimes bemused, contemporaries. From his early years painting Byzantine icons in Crete to his studies in Venice and Rome, and finally his decades among the medieval splendour and humanist thought of Toledo.

Friday 28 March 2025 – The Art of the Steal: Nazi looting during World War II

Lecturer: Shauna Isaac

The Nazis looted over 20% of Western Art during World War II, confiscating art from Jewish families and emptying museums throughout Europe. This lecture will provide an overview of Nazi looting by setting the scene in Nazi Germany, discussing Hitler’s obsession with art and how the Monuments Men recovered art after the war. Several landmark cases will be discussed in detail, including Gustav Klimt’s celebrated Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer and the stash of over 1200 artworks found in possession of the son of a notorious Nazi dealer.

Friday 25 April 2025 – ‘The Dancing Faun’: A personal story of a masterpiece

Lecturer: Bertie Pearce

In this lecture Bertie recounts the extraordinary tale of how a small bronze statue, which had sat in his Grandfather’s garden for 40 years, was discovered as a master piece and ended up in the Getty Museum, California. Adriaen De Vries (c.1556-1626) was a Northern Mannerist sculptor born in the Netherlands. A technical virtuoso, he created spectacular bronzes for the most discerning patrons of his time, including the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II of Prague.He excelled in refined modelling and bronze casting and in the manipulation of patina and became the most famous European sculptor of his generation.

Friday 23 May 2025 – William De Morgan, Victorian Art Potter

Lecturer: Matthew Williams

William De Morgan was an intimate friend of William Morris and ‘Ned’ BurneJones. He began his career as a painter; he became a stained-glass maker, best-selling author and one of the most imaginative and amusing potters and tile-makers of the nineteenth century. His work now commands extremely high prices in the saleroom, as does that by his wife Evelyn, herself an accomplished artist. The lecture examines their fascinating and delightful artistic partnership.

Friday 27 June 2025 – The Art of Dining. A look at dining style from Pompeii to the present day

Lecturer: Clive Stewart-Lockhart

Humans have been very good at recording how and what we eat through the ages and this talk looks at these themes starting with the frescoes of Pompeii and Herculaneum up to the modern day. The talk looks at the objects involved with the eating and presenting of food and wine beginning with a banquet in Pompeii where the guests seem to be wearing very little to the present day, where, in many houses, the tables are dressed with little other than a knife, fork and ketchup bottle. Even these, however, can be given a classy upgrade.