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Past Lectures 3/1/24 Clare Ford-Willie Rubens – The Master and his Workshop Rubens was one of the greatest artists of the 17th century, with prestigious commissions from the rulers of Spain, England, Italy and France. His oil sketches are extraordinary and his subject matter from altarpieces and portraits to landscape and paintings of everyday life so wide-ranging. Above all his technique in his liquid and spontaneous oil sketches was influential upon artists to the present day. Many artists worked for him, including Anthony van Dyck, and he was one of the most remarkable and efficient organisers of his large workshop, from his beautiful house in Antwerp, still existing today. 6/12/23 Speaker: Harry Fletcher The Life and Works of Grayson Perry This lecture will show the major influences in Perry’s life and on his works. It will highlight his most important vases, drawings, sculptures, tapestries and his House for Essex. It will also consider his very successful presentations on Channel 4 television, for which he has received three BAFTA awards. Grayson Perry became famous in 2003, when he won the Turner Prize. Ten years later he was awarded the CBE for services to contemporary Art. In 2012 he was made a Royal Academician and in 2018 he was asked to take charge of the 250th Summer Exhibition. In recognition of his design and contribution to the House for Essex project he has been awarded Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 2015 he was appointed Trustee of the British Museum and in the same year he was appointed Chancellor of the University of the Arts London – he has since been re-appointed, such is his success in this position. His Channel 4 series All in the best possible taste won a BAFTA award and lead to the production of six tapestries The Vanity of Small Differences, which have attracted a great deal of interest. He has recently been given the award of Best Presenter on television by the Royal Television Society – ahead of Sir David Attenborough! In October to November 2014 he became the first artist to present the Reith Lectures, which were warmly received. He has curated a very popular exhibition at the British Museum of his own works alongside pieces from the collection and in 2015 he had an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, based on another Channel 4 series, Who are you?. It has just been announced that he has won the prestigious Erasmus Prize, which is worth £127,000. He is the fifth British visual artist to win this award since 1968. Previous winners include Henry Moore, Charlie Chaplin and Ingmar Bergman. He has had a very interesting life, won major awards for his work, and is a warm and flamboyant character. 1/11/23 Tim Schroder City Livery Companies – The Origins of the Great Twelve The livery companies of the City of London are best known today as charitable organisations. But in their early days their focus was on their trades, acting as a cross between modern trade unions and regulators. The companies were (and still are today) jealously mindful of their place within the order of precedence, from the Mercers’ Company at number one to the recently founded Art Scholars at number 110. Within this hierarchy the top dozen, known as ‘the Great XII’ have always had a special prestige. This lecture is told from the inside, as it were. Given by a former Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths’ Company (number five), it explores the mystery of the origins of this order of precedence. Study Day Italian Renaissance Villas and Gardens - Tuscany, the Veneto and Tivoli Lecturer Daniel Evans. Bingham Methodist Centre Tuesday 24th October 2023 10.30 – 3: 30pm Dan is an educationalist with a passion for all things Italian. He has been lecturing since 2001, and alongside his lectures and special interest days he also organises educational study trips to a range of destinations in Italy. 4/10/23 Christopher Garibaldi Treasures of the Turf – The Fine and Decorative Arts of the Turf Treasures of the Turf, looks at the history of horse racing. From the late seventeenth century to the modern period, this lecture looks at the development of the sport in this country through its associated cultural material. Using the wealth of paintings, archive material and decorative art objects associated with and depicting the ‘Sport of Kings’, the lecture takes as its starting point the earliest origins of the sport including the development of Newmarket and the Jockey Club as racing’s ‘Headquarters’. 05/07/23 The Society’s AGM will be held immediately before the lecture. Please be in your seats by 10.30am Rosamund Bartlett Magyars & Gypsies – Liszt & the Hungarian National Style The celebrated pianist and composer Franz Liszt was one of the most cosmopolitan figures of the nineteenth century. Yet with the rise of Hungarian nationalism, he was increasingly seen as the soul of the Magyar people, a position solidified with his wildly popular Hungarian Rhapsodies. But what exactly was Hungarian about these Rhapsodies? And why did Liszt and other composers associate Hungarian music with gypsies? This lecture explores what it was to be Hungarian at the time of the creation of the new capital city of Budapest in 1867, and why Liszt’s much younger contemporary Bartok later challenged his view of the Hungarian national style. 07/06/23 Gillian White Bess of Hardwick & Hardwick Hall ‘Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall’. Bess of Hardwick is one of the most fascinating women of the sixteenth century and her most famous building, Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, survives as a fine example of Elizabethan creativity, magnificence and pride. We’ll examine Bess’s story, her rising social status, her association with Mary, Queen of Scots, her many husbands and her royal aspirations. We’ll also look at her earlier great house, Chatsworth, before concentrating on her surviving masterpiece, Hardwick Hall, its architecture, its interior and its luxurious furnishings. 03/05/23 James Russell Paul & John Nash – Brothers in Art Growing up together in the shadow of their mother's illness, Paul and John Nash emerged as artists at the same time, exhibiting their work in a joint exhibition in 1913. The following year they both enlisted in the Artists' Rifles, and both served on the Western Front before working together as war artists. Both subsequently explored wood engraving and book illustration, but otherwise their art moved in different directions and, while remaining close, they each sought to distance themselves from the tag of 'the Nash brothers'. It could be the plot of a novel, but every word of this intriguing, personal story of brotherly love, strife and competition is true! History of Paul & John Nash 05/04/23 - Please note change of date Joanna Mabbutt The Field of the Cloth of Gold – 6000 Englishmen in France for 18 days – How did they do it? In June 1520 Henry VIII and Francis 1 meet to ratify an Anglo-French alliance and celebrate the betrothal of Henry’s daughter Mary to the Dauphin. The two handsome ‘Renaissance Princes’ are in their 20s with similar reputations in military prowess, sport and patrons of the arts. Both have imperial ambitions and are eager to display themselves as magnificent nobleman and warrior kings. Each brings an entourage of 6,000 to a field south of Calais for 18 days of various events and entertainments staged to display the skill and splendour of each King and country. The logistics of transporting, accommodating, ordering, feeding and watering, protecting and entertaining the English contingent for this spectacular event is staggering and the supply chain, often through the City of London Guilds, is equally fascinating. 3,217 horses shipped across the ‘Narrow Sea’ to Calais; a vast quantity of wood sourced from Flanders and floated along the coast; a huge temporary palace is built on stone foundations with brick and timber-framed walls reaching to 40 feet. Royal palaces were virtually emptied of their silver, gold, tapestries and furniture to decorate the temporary palace, other principal tents and a chapel (with an organ); gold and silver cloth, velvet and sables, jewels and pearls were imported to ‘dress and impress’. How was it all achieved? The history of the Field of Cloth of Gold 01/03/23 John Iddon Lucian Freud – The Art and the Man Possibly the greatest figure painter of the second half of the 20th century, Lucian Freud, also led an extraordinary life, from his family’s escape from the Hitler regime in the 1930’s to his colourful and combative life in London. This talk will look at his unforgettable paintings (many of which have a penetrative scrutiny that is almost the visual equivalent of his grandfather Sigmund’s analysis of patients) as well as his relations with his models and fellow artists. 01/02/23 Prasannajit De Silva. Joshua Reynolds - Grand Manner Portraiture Portraits were the most popular art form in Britain throughout the eighteenth century. This session will explore the fashion for ‘grand manner’ portraits later in the century. 04/01/23 Richard Burnip David Niven – from Extra to an Institution Niven's remarkable career explored, with an examination of his enduring place in public affection. Rising from studio extra to Hollywood leading man, although Niven remained characteristically modest about his abilities they were in fact considerable, as this lecture demonstrates. Particular attention is paid to his military roles, and insights are offered into the huge range of his wartime activities. From his personification of an ideal young subaltern in The Way Ahead, to the reality of being a Lt.-Colonel on Eisenhower’s staff, there was much more to this unique actor than a moustache and a smile. David Niven in 1959, with the Oscar he won for his role in Separate Tables. Photo SchroCat Wikimedia Click here for more on David Niven 07/12/22 Cynthia Coleman-Sparke The Faberge Connection between Russia & England: Edwardian Demand for Treasures from St Petersburg. Our discussion of the House of Fabergé’s British enterprise will delve into Edwardian appetite for objects of fantasy prized by Tsarinas. Most of the firm’s Russian sales ledgers disappeared but those of the London branch, opened in 1903, document royal patronage and a ‘Who’s Who’ guide of Edwardian prosperity. American heiresses and other prominent visitors flocked to the London salerooms while the branch supplied periodic trunk shows to delight buyers on the Continent and as far as Siam and India. The role of the London business cannot be overstated and provides us, today, with insight into a society that was forever altered by the world events that followed. Click for the exhibition at the V&A 02/11/22 Janusz D. M. Karczewski-Slowikowski The Gillows Story and its Furniture The history of this most famous of furniture firms and an examination of pieces which exemplify the styles and techniques associated with it. Click here for Gillows’ history Day of Special Interest The Changing Face of Fashion with Andrew Prince Tuesday 25th October at the Methodist Centre, Bingham Andrew Prince is a jeweller, a subject which has fascinated him since childhood. He began work in Bond Street; private commissions followed which increased as Michael Jackson and Shirley Bassey were seen wearing his jewellery. He was commissioned by the V&A to add to their “Tiaras, Past & Present” exhibition and for the films “Mrs Henderson Presents” and “The Young Victoria”. The creators of Downton Abbey chose him to supply a large collection of jewellery for the third series, some of which he will bring with him. 05/10/22 Charles R. Hajdamach Emile Gallé and René Lalique - Masters of Art Nouveau and Art Deco Glass Exquisitely illustrated, this talk contrasts the achievements of the two great French glass masters against a backdrop of Art Nouveau and Art Deco. The cameo vases of Gallé were the highlight of European glass epitomising the Symbolist movement in France. Lalique had started his career as a jeweller at the time of Gallé’s success but moved into the production of glass by 1910. He used many of the same images as his countryman but transformed them into stylish graphic designs which continue today to maintain the Lalique name in the forefront of desirable glass. Click here for background on Galle Click here for background on Lalique July 6th 2022 Athens and Rome: A Tale of Two Cities Lecturer: Dr Paul Roberts Athens and Rome were two of the most beautiful, powerful and important cities of the ancient world, cities that have framed our modern lives more than any others. Each stood at the centre of its world: Athens the home of democracy, the cradle of the arts, Rome the eternal city, the capital of the world. In this talk we explore the art and architecture of these extraordinary cities at the height of their power. We wonder at their monuments, from Parthenon to Pantheon, from stadium to circus and from theatre to amphitheatre. We admire the products of their craftsmen, from the bronze and marble masterpieces of the Greeks to the fine paintings and mosaics of the Romans, and from the Red figure vases of Athens to the silver cups and cameo glass of Rome. We also look at the people who helped make these cities great. From slaves, who were the engine of both societies to statesmen such as Pericles, Augustus and Hadrian, and writers such as Euripides and Vergil. June 1st 2022 The Splendours of North Africa, Roman and Islamic Art Lecturer: Christopher Bradley Fabulous mosaics, imposing carved monuments and impressive private villas attest to the great wealth of Leptis Magna, Cyrene, Oea, Sabratha and Carthage. They became so powerful that the Libyan Septimius Severus even became Emperor in AD193. The Romans were replaced by the Byzantines, who introduced their own Christian-themed mosaics into North Africa. Islam quickly swept in from Arabia bringing a new architecture and decoration that has remained ever since. Mosques, mausoleums and private houses in Fez, Rabat, Kairuwan and Tripoli often re-used Roman columns, but were lavishly enhanced with ‘Zillij’ tilework and delicate arabesque decorations. May 4th 2022 Three Great Families and their Gardens: A History of the Astors, the Rothschilds and Sackville Wests Lecturer: Caroline Rayman This talk combines the lives of the Astors, the Sackville Wests and the Rothschilds and their family history with the story of the gardens they have all created, despite their very different backgrounds, here in the English countryside. April 6th 2022 The Wind in the Willows Revisited through its Illustrators Lecturer: John Ericson The beauty of Kenneth Grahame’s prose is widely acknowledged but the story is so full of wonderful imagery that it almost demands to be illustrated. First published in 1908 without illustration, the classic tale of Ratty, Mole, and the incorrigible Mr Toad has been in print ever since. What is less well known is that it has been illustrated by more than ninety artists – making it the most widely illustrated book in the English language. However, ‘Willows’ is a far more interesting book than its popular and often young audience might appreciate. It deserves recognition as a novel in which adult readers will find not just humour and entertainment but wisdom and meaning. In this engaging presentation we will revisit the story as depicted by numerous well known illustrators such as E H Shepard, Arthur Rackham, Robert Ingpen, Val Biro and Inga Moore. Where appropriate we will compare and contrast the same scene in the book through the eyes of different artists, a study known as ‘comparative illustration'. We will also explore how the story came to be written for Grahame’s son Alastair and the interesting but ultimately tragic life of Kenneth Grahame. March 2nd 2022 Nicholas and Alexandra – ‘Tyrants and Martyrs of Imperial Russia’ Lecturer: Douglas Skeggs Although it has been told and retold in books and films, no story in the 20th century has caught the imagination more powerfully and poignantly than the tragic life and execution of Nicholas II, the last of the Romanovs. From his childhood where he stood sobbing by his grandfather’s bedside in the Winter Palace as he lay dying from the injuries inflicted by an anarchist bomb, Nicolas’s life seemed to be shadowed by the omens of disaster. At the celebrations for his coronation, the crowd of spectators ran out of control and thousands were trampled to death; when the people appealed to him personally during the strikes of 1905, he assumed the were rioting and had them shot down by the Imperial Guard. Brought up by a powerful, iron-willed father, he was emotionally unsuited to rule the nation and allowed himself to be dominated by his wife who he loved with a passion that blinded him from her short-comings. Determined to produce the son and heir to the Romanov dynasty, Alexandra was easily misled by mystical cults and charlatans peddling spiritual cures so that, when the boy she had craved so long was discovered to be suffering from haemophilia, she fell completely under the spell of Rasputin. Hypnotised by the healing powers he appeared to possess, she allowed this peasant monk extraordinary influence in St Petersburg, encouraging Nicolas to follow his garbled demands as though they were heaven sent guidance. With the war threatening to destroy the nation and the people on the brink of revolution, Nicolas was forced to sign his abdication, the only act of his reign he undertook without the advice of his wife. For a time he was allowed to remain in captivity in one of his own palaces but, with attempts to rescue him mounting, he was moved out east where finally, in one of the most moving and memorable images of the modern world, he and his family were shot in a cellar. February 2nd 2022 Emile Gallé and René Lalique – Masters of Art Nouveau and Art Deco Glass Lecturer: Charles Hajdamach Exquisitely illustrated, this talk contrasts the achievements of the two great French glass masters against a backdrop of Art Nouveau and Art Deco. The cameo vases of Gallé were the highlight of European glass epitomising the Symbolist movement in France. Lalique had started his career as a jeweller at the time of Gallé’s success but moved into the production of glass by 1910. He used many of the same images as his countryman but transformed them into stylish graphic designs which continue today to maintain the Lalique name in the forefront of desirable glass. January 5th 2022 Introducing the Glasgow Boys Lecturer: Julia Marwood Disillusioned with the stuffiness and sentimentality of academic painting, a group of radical young painters burst onto the Glasgow art scene in the early 1880s and set in motion the stirrings of modernism in Scottish painting. Working out of doors in Scotland and France, they painted contemporary rural subjects strongly influenced by Dutch and French realism, especially the Naturalist paintings of Jules Bastien-Lepage and the tonal painting of the American artist James McNeill Whistler. This lecture introduces the characters and their works, and shows how they set the scene for what was still to come – especially the explosion of talent centred on the Glasgow School of Art under Francis Newbery, and the Scottish Colourists.