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Lectures

Until further notice lectures will be presented ONLINE via Zoom.
Access details for these ONLINE lectures will be sent to members via email.
Lectures start at 10.45am   

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Friday 26 November 2021 – ‘Pickled for Posterity’: British Art and the Second World War

Lecturer: Monica Bohm-Duchen

“What did it look like? They will ask in 1981, and no amount of description or demonstration will answer them.
Nor will big, formal compositions like the battle pictures which hang in palaces; and even photographs, which tell us so much, will leave out the colour and the peculiar feeling of events in these extraordinary years.
Only the artists with his heightened powers of perception can recognize which elements in a scene can be pickled for posterity in the magical essence of style” (Sir Kenneth Clark, 1942).
In marked contrast to most of the art produced under the dictatorships, most British art produced during World War Two (primarily under the auspices of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee, headed by Clark) was low-key and understated, the artists being more concerned with creating an unsensational record of the war in its more intimate aspects than with nationalist rhetoric, and with celebrating the quintessentially English qualities of stoicism and resilience. As much emphasis was therefore given to the Home Front as to the war in Europe and beyond.
This illustrated lecture will also address a less familiar area of British cultural history: namely, the wartime activities of émigré artists from Nazi-occupied Europe who sought refuge in Britain in the late 1930s.
Particular emphasis will be placed on their anti-fascist imagery and on the work they produced in the British internment camps for so-called “enemy aliens”, set up in 1940, mostly on the Isle of Man. It will also look at the work of British POWs such as Ronald Searle, who managed to produce some extraordinary images in captivity, and the British artists who were present at the liberation of the concentration camps.

Friday 28 January 2022 – Furniture of the Common Man – Vernacular furniture

Lecturer: Janusz Karczewski-Slowikowski

A look into the lives of ordinary people through their furniture. Most furniture in museums and books is representative of the wealthier social classes and so tells us little about the living conditions of the ‘humbler classes’. Vernacular, in the sense of ‘every day’ and ‘common’, furniture was seldom ‘crude’ or ‘primitive’ and often displayed as much sophistication in construction and design as more costly items. This lecture focuses on the period 1600-1800 but also looks at earlier and later items.

Friday 25 February 2022 – Wonder Workers and the Art of Illusion – the history of magic through art and pictures

Lecturer: Bertie Pearce

From the beginning of time the fascination with magic and the impossible has been widespread. Egypt was the cradle of magic. Sorcerer Priests used scientific principles to create illusions for the edification of worship and to hold power over the people. Where there was power there was magic. Then there is the age-old skill of sleight of hand, which proves that ‘the hand is quicker than the eye’. Magicians were known as ‘Jongleurs’ lest they be sentenced to death for ‘witchcraft and conjuration’ under the edicts of Henry VIII.
With the emergence of the Music Hall, Magic gained a new respectability and audiences flocked in their thousands to watch the extraordinary feats of The Great Illusionists. This gave birth to legendary tricks such as pulling a rabbit from a hat and sawing a lady in half. And if magicians guarded their secrets with their lives, how was the Magic Circle formed ? – Home to 10,000 secrets.
Even Today in our super technical age of ipods and broadband, the wonder and surprise of magic are as popular as ever, not forgetting the Harry Potter craze.
‘Wonder Workers and the Art of Illusion’ is a whistle stop tour of the history of mystery from 3000 BC to the 21st century and be careful! – you might be amazed and bewitched.

Friday 25 March 2022 – Sacred Art of Ancient China

Lecturer: Jon Cannon

Join me to tour the religious art and architecture of China. We will see examples of work of the great faiths that dominated the history of that great civilisation, including the ancient, indigenous Confucian and Taoist traditions; the image-rich Mahayana version of Buddhism that has been hugely influential in the country for two thousand years; and the distinctive Chinese responses to Christianity and Islam.

At the heart of this rich, and often precociously humanistic culture lay a series of concerns of truly ancient origin: the maintenance of harmonious relations between men and Heaven; respect for one’s family, including the spirits of one’s ancestors; and the role of the Emperor as the fulcrum of life in the ‘central Kingdom’, a role as much spiritual as secular.

During the lecture we will visit mountain-tops decorated with Confucian calligraphy; some of the oldest wooden buildings in the world — the Buddhist temples of Wutaishan, built in the eighth century and with their decoration and sculpture intact — and Mandarin’s gardens, their design infused with symbolism from Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian traditions. These between them comprised the ‘three teachings’ (San Jiao) encouraged by the imperial Chinese state.

Even today, Beijing’s layout is recognisably that of a sacred city designed around the palace and sacrificial altars associated with the imperial cult: we will see what remains of these, and ponder the role of religion in China’s modern, secular and rapidly developing state. By the end of the hour, you will have a clear and vivid idea of the enormous significance of religion for the Chinese arts.

Friday 22 April 2022 – Van Gogh and Gauguin in Arles

Lecturer: Stephen Duffy

The extraordinary story of the nine weeks that Van Gogh and Gauguin spent together in Arles in southern France in 1888 is one of the most famous in the whole history of art. So many powerful emotions are swept up in it – friendship and rivalry, ambition, jealousy, contempt and admiration – while of course it also led to some of the most celebrated paintings of early modern art. The encounter between these two tempestuous characters, including the episode of Van Gogh cutting off his ear, forms the subject of this lecture which also places the artists’ stay in Arles in the context of their careers and within the wider history of late nineteenth-century painting.

Friday 27 May 2022 – Passionate Potters

Lecturer: Julian Richards

William Morris led a revolution against the products of the machine age. The first of our ‘passionate potters’, William de Morgan, was a friend of Morris who rediscovered the secrets of Near Eastern lustre glazes. In contrast, the eccentric and argumentative Martin Brothers created a range of elaborate salt glazed pots unparalleled in their imaginative breadth. Sir Edmund Elton, the ‘potter baronet’, made pots which combine startling glazes with exotic forms. And finally, Bernard Leach, the father of English studio pottery, not only married the arts of Japan and England but created a legacy that is still alive today.
This lecture explores the lives of these truly passionate potters and celebrates their extraordinary and beautiful creations.

Friday 24 June 2022 – The Ballet Russes

Lecturer: Jennifer Toynbee-Holmes

When Diaghilev created ballet in the west in the early twentieth century, he brought extraordinary revolutionary energy from Russia. By bringing together talented artists of different disciplines; choreographers, dancers, musicians, designers and painters; Fokine, Nijinsky, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Picasso and Coco Chanel to name but a few, Diaghilev fused the latest in art, music and dance in spectacles that dazzled and astonished audiences around the world.
The dream Diaghilev created of dance joining hands with the other creative disciplines to create a total work of art changed the course of ballet forever.
Using stills and video clips we take an exciting look at the Ballets Russes that dominated the ballet stages of the world from its explosion in Paris in 1909 until Diaghilev’s death in 1929.

Friday 22 July 2022 – The Valois Dukes of Burgundy

Lecturer: Carole Petipher

Few dynastic families in western Europe wielded such power or wealth in the late Middle Ages as the Dukes of Burgundy. With territories stretching as far as the Low countries, theirs was a sumptuous court to rival all others. But they would prove dastardly as well as dazzling and nothing would stop them from their ultimate goal .

In this lecture Carole will follow their rise to glory and creation of their own superpower and consider the associated trappings of such a flamboyant lifestyle; such as art, fashion and gastronomy.