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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   

Select the Lecture below – Click again to close :        Select images to enlarge

Friday 23 April 2021 – The Two Gustavs – Mahler and Klimt

Lecturer: Gavin Plumley

Gustav Klimt and his colleagues broke away from the Imperial-endorsed art institutions in Vienna in 1897 and founded the Succession. That was the same year that Gustav Mahler arrived to take charge of the Opera House in the city. This lecture asks what fundamentally links and, indeed, divides Klimt and Mahler.

Friday 28 May 2021 – The Genius of Antonio Stradivari

Lecturer: Toby Faber

Two hundred and fifty years after Antonio Stradivari’s death, his violins and cellos remain the most highly prized instruments in the world. Loved by great musicians and capable of fetching fabulous sums when sold, their tone and beauty are legendary. Every subsequent violin-maker has tried to match them. Not one has succeeded. How can that be?
This lecture explores that central mystery by following some of Stradivari’s instruments from his workshop to the present day. It is a story that travels from the salons of Vienna to the concert halls of New York, and from the breakthroughs of Beethoven’s last quartets to the first phonographic recordings. Toby Faber’s book, “Stradivarius: Five violins, one cello and a genius”, was described in The New York Times as ‘more enthralling, earthy and illuminating than any fiction could be.’
The lecture is illustrated with pictures of violins and of key individuals and locations, as well as with some short musical recordings.

Friday 25 June 2021 – The Extraordinary Life of Misia Sert – Queen of Paris 1877 to 1950

Lecturer: Julian Halsby

Misia Sert was a virtuoso pianist of Polish descent who hosted an artistic salon in Paris. She was a patron and friend of numerous artists, Toulouse–Lautrec, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, and Renoir who wanted to paint her nude. She knew Debussy and Ravel who dedicated several pieces to her. A close confidant and friend to Coco Chanel, Misia was at the heart of modern art and music in Paris.

Friday 23 July 2021 – Provenance Matters – Mass Faking of the Russian Avant-Garde

Lecturer: James Butterwick

This lecture takes us through the huge surge of interest in the Russian avant-garde. Previously unknown artists became famous and much sought after by the new Russian-buying public. However, with it came an industrial scale level of faking of their pictures, often with the connivance, unwitting or otherwise, of Western and Russian experts. This lecture will examine the evidence for and against such paintings including attempts to “sneak them under the radar” through Western institutions, as well as attempts to use the Western judicial systems and fake news to help “legalise” the works.

Friday 24 September 2021 – The Bayeaux Tapestry: 950 years of propaganda, intrigue and spin

Lecturer: Timothy Wilcox

The Bayeux Tapestry is instantly recognisable and one of the most outstanding cultural objects to survive from the early Middle Ages. Long admired for its vivid narrative, today it is the unanswered questions that most intrigue modern audiences: was it made in England or France? Was it stitched by men or women? This sparkling lecture looks not only at its creation, but also at its more amazing afterlife.
Displayed by Napoleon to bolster French ambitions for a new cross-channel invasion; cherished by Victorian embroiderers as an icon of women’s heroic joint efforts; hunted down by Hitler, who was outwitted by bureaucratic obfuscation.
A fluent French speaker, Timothy Wilcox brings a lifetime’s interest in Anglo-French relations to bear on a famous object set to become even more celebrated as it enters its next, surprising chapter.

Friday 22 October 2021 – Master Drawings Close Up

Lecturer: Susan Owens

What is silverpoint drawing? How can you tell the difference between a quill and a reed pen? This lecture looks in detail at the materials and techniques used by some of the greatest masters, including Leonardo and Raphael. It also explores innovative contemporary drawings made by laser-cutting, pricking, rubbing and tearing.

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.