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Past LecturesJuly 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 ArtLecturer: 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.December 1st 2021 Caravaggio: The Master of Light and Shadow Lecturer: Shirley Smith Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was a man out of step with his time. Scorning the traditional idealised interpretation of religious subjects, he took his models from the streets, painting them realistically and heightening the emotional intensity by his dramatic contracts of light and shade. Such a revolutionary style was condemned by many as was his equally dramatic personal life and uncontrollable temper which involved him in endless brawls and even murder. This lecture will study the life and works of this enigmatic man and of his influence on later artists.November 3rd 2021 The Model Wife: Women in Pre-Raphaelite Art Lecturer: Suzanne Fagence-Cooper Who were the women whose faces gaze out at us from the canvases of the Pre-Raphaelites? This lecture explores the private lives of a revolutionary group of Victorian artists, and the haunting stories of their loves – Lizzie Siddal, Janey Morris and Effie Gray. October 6th 2021 The Century of Deception: Hoaxers and Swindlers in the 18th CenturyLecturer:Ian Keable The 1700s was a period when the people of England seemed to be especially gullible. They believed a woman could give birth to rabbits; a man could climb inside a two pint bottle and sing inside it; and where a blond-haired European could write a book claiming that he was born in Taiwan. These hoaxes weren't just written about extensively in newspapers and journals but also brilliantly and amusingly depicted by satirical artists such as William Hogarth and James Gillray. In this entertaining talk Ian demonstrates how 18th century hoaxes are memorable not only for their imaginative nature but also because of the differing motives of the tricksters.July 7th 2021Is it worth it? Fakes, Forgeries and fashion at the Art MarketLecturer: David HaycockIn February 2015 Paul Gauguin’s 1892 painting, Nafea Faa Ipoipo, or When Will You Marry? set a new world record when it sold for nearly £200 million. In this new lecture I explore the dynamics and economics of the art market through history, looking at what sells (and what doesn’t), and why, and how fakes, forgeries and fashion have helped to shape our attitudes to the perennial question of what is art, and who (exactly) is an artist. It covers a broad historical range, from the early Renaissance to the world of twenty-first century contemporary art.June 2nd 2021JW Turner and the Day Parliament Burned DownLecturer: Caroline ShentonIn the early evening of 16 October 1834, to the horror of bystanders, a huge ball of fire exploded through the roof of the Houses of Parliament, creating a blaze so enormous that it could be seen by the King and Queen at Windsor and from stagecoaches on top of the South Downs. In front of hundreds of thousands of witnesses, the great conflagration destroyed Parliament's glorious old buildings and their contents. No one who witnessed the disaster would ever forget it. Based on the acclaimed book of the same name, this talk takes the audience through the gripping hour-by-hour story of the fire with a particular focus on the oils and watercolours produced by Turner.May 5th 2021World Famous Photographs; Images that shaped our futureLecturer: Brian StaterThis lecture examines a series of iconic photographs that are embedded in our collective memory. They range from records of historic events, to fabulous portraits and scenes of emotional release and joy. The talk analyses the power of these images, traces the fascinating stories of how they came to be produced, and places them in the context of our appreciation of art.April 7th 2021Lost on the Titanic. The Story of the Great Omar BindingLecturer: Dominic RileyThe Great Omar was the most fabulous, elaborate and opulent binding ever created. It was embellished with over one thousand jewels, five thousand leather onlays and a hundred square feet of gold leaf, and took a team of craftsmen over two and a half years to make. It went down with the Titanic. This lecture tells the story of the making of the fabulous Great Omar. It is also the story of the renowned bookbinding firm of Sangorski and Sutcliffe - who were known for their elaborate jewelled bindings - and the men that made this extraordinary book. It also tells the moving story of life after the tragedy, and of one young man in particular, who decided against the odds to recreate the binding, a venture which itself is mired in tragedy and which occupied him for the rest of his life. March 3rd 2021“Now You See It, Now You Don’t”Lecturer: Bertie PearceThis is one of the quirkiest lectures you will ever hear. There is a universal delight in being deceived and in this lecture Bertie Pearce takes his audience on a whistle stop tour of art which fools, surprises and amuses the viewer. Beginning and ending with the Belgian surrealist, René Magritte, it encompasses Trompe L’eoil, Banksy, Bridget Riley, Arcimboldo and Escher to name a few. Hold on to your seats and get ready to be visually fried.February 3rd 2021Edwin Lutyens, Architect to Dolls, Dukes and DynastiesLecturer: Nicholas MerchantHere is an architect whose work, over a period of half a century, spanned the globe and the British Empire in particular. Born the tenth child of the erstwhile soldier, turned sporting artist, Charles Lutyens, Edwin was a godson of the famous Victorian artist, Edwin Landseer. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that with this background he should show from an early age an artistic bent. In his case this manifest itself in architecture. After a somewhat rickety start in the offices of Ernest George, Edwin set up on his own at the age of twenty. His friendship and encouragement by the garden designer Gertrude Jekyll was of immeasurable benefit and one sees when one looks at the list of Lutyens’ works that by 1897 (when he was 28) that his order book was full with commissions from the great and the good of those halcyon days before the first war. So it was to continue throughout his career. Aided by his marriage to Lady Emily Lytton and his friendship with Edward Hudson, owner of Country Life magazine, Lutyens’ career continued to prosper. January 6th 2021A 21st Century Renaissance Chatsworth and the Devonshire Collection in the Modern AgeLecturer: Simon SeligmanSince the 1950s, Chatsworth and its collections have undergone a renaissance under the leadership of first the 11th, and now the 12th, Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. This lecture paints a portrait of Devonshire’s treasure house in the modern age, illustrating the extensive recent decorative and furnishing renovations in the house and the restoration of historic interiors, stone work and works of art. The lecture also includes work by modern and contemporary artists in the collection at Chatsworth including Lucian Freud, Elisabeth Frink, David Hockney and David Nash, to Richard Long, Allen Jones, Michael Craig-Martin and Edmund de Waal.Click here for the Chatsworth web site.December 2nd 2020“A Day in the Life of a Picture Restorer”Lecturer: Sarah CoveThis lecture discuss the nature of oil painting materials, from the Middle Ages to the present day, and common problems associated with the ageing and deterioration of, and damage to, easel paintings. These can be on canvas, panel, board or paper in a range of mediums: oil, acrylic, egg tempera, or mixed media. Problems can involve natural deterioration and neglect, accidental damage, vandalism and even war – the most surprising event being a large hole caused by a Turkish cannon ball going through a picture in the 18th century!! Click here to read more about restoration.November 4th 2020“Pompeii and Herculaneum. Their Life and Death”.Lecturer: Dr P. RobertsWe go back in time to learn about the art, people and daily life of the amazing buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.In AD 79 an eruption of Mt Vesuvius destroyed two cities - Pompeii with its industry and urban grid, Herculaneum, smaller and more genteel. They are an archaeologist’s dream, a time capsule of artefacts, buildings and people. October 7th 2020 1st lecture of the new membership year.“Flowers of Impressionist Youth. WW1 and their Remembrance”Lecturer: Caroline HolmesFollowing the end of the First World War in 1918, Monet’s great friend Georges Clemenceau, much to Winston Churchill’s disgust, at the Treaty of Versailles insisted on retribution for the ignominy of the 1870/71 Franco-Prussian War. These two wars frame the dissemination of Impressionism from Paris to its blossoming across the world and the flower of its youth from coming to die on the battlefields of the second. Through paintings and writings we trace the reactions of Monet and Renoir in France and actions of Australian Impressionists such as McCubbin, Streeton and Russell. The buoyant field poppies of Monet’s youth matured into his greatest decoration – Les Nymphéas.4 March 2020“Canaletto in England”by Andrew DaviesIn May 1746 the great Venetian artist Canaletto moved to England. European war had prevented Englishmen from embarking on their Grand Tour so Canaletto reasoned that if they would not come to him, he had better go to them.For the next 9 years he created nearly 150 works of art showing us Georgian England, from the Lord Mayor's show and the construction of Westminster Bridge to the Vauxhall pleasure gardens, Eton College and Warwick Castle.We will revel in the delights of Canaletto's stay until in 1755, he returned home to Venice for good.More about Canaletto’s stay in England5 February 2020“The Borgias, the most infamous family in history”by Sarah DunantMurder, poison, corruption and incest: all perfect ingredients for sensational popular culture. But in an age known for its brutality and church corruption were the Borgias really so bad? This lecture reveals the real family that dominated the Papacy and Italian politics during the last decade of the 15th century: the charismatic figure of Pope Alexander VI, living inside his sumptuously decorated apartments, the career of his son, Cesare, cardinal, general, employer of Da Vinci and the model for Machiavelli’s The Prince, and the journey of Lucrezia Borgia from “the greatest whore in Rome” to a devout and treasured duchess of the city Ferrara. Sometimes truth is more intoxicating than myth8 January 2020 (NB 2nd Wednesday)“The Green Man in art and myth”by David BostwickThe human face, carved as a mask disgorging leaves from its mouth – and known today as the Green Man – is found widespread across Europe as an ornament in medieval churches and secular buildings. It is a motif derived from the art of the pre-Christian past, and is thought to represent a pagan nature god absorbed into Christian imagery. Since Tudor times, actors dressed in leaves, and known variously as Jack-in-the-Green, Summer Lord or Robin Hood, have appeared in May Day celebrations, and are thought to indicate a survival of belief in the old nature spirits and fertility gods. This lecture reveals the fascinating truth. Click here to learn more about the Green Man myth