Lecture Programme 2020 - 2021

14 Sep 2020        Who was Bruegel? Discovering the Master through his sons – Amy Orrock

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525-1569) was an undisputed master; his small body of surviving paintings demonstrating his supreme ability to depict the daily life of the peasants with both humour and humility. This lecture will introduce Bruegel as a distinctive artistic voice in the sixteenth century, and consider the ways in which his revolutionary images were transmuted and popularised after his death in the works of his two sons, Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564/5-1638) and Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625).

Amy Orrock is a Curator at Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park. Amy completed her BA Hons at University College London and received her PhD from the University of Edinburgh with a dissertation on Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting Children’s Games. She has published and lectured widely on Northern European art of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and in 2017 co-curated the exhibition Bruegel: Defining a Dynasty at the Holburne Museum in Bath.

12 Oct 2020        Auguste Rodin and 19th Century Sculpture – David Worthington

Rodin is one of the heroic figures of 19th century art history and was internationally celebrated during his lifetime. But after his death his reputation slipped and there were questions about his use of the female image. Now that is very much being reassessed and he is seen as having in one career taken sculpture on a revolutionary path equivalent to what the Realists, Impressionists and Post Impressionists did with many careers. This lecture surveys his work showing why he is one of the greatest sculptors ever, looking at his work in relationship to 19th century sculpture as well assessing his continuing relevance.

David Worthington graduated from Oxford University in 1984 with a degree in Philosophy and Theology, and then studied fine art in London, Barcelona and New York. A maker he also curates and writes about art. He was shortlisted for the Jerwood Sculpture Prize in 2009. David is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Sculptors, and was Vice President in 2010-13. He has carried out public commissions in the UK, America and Japan. His work is in the museum the Creative Cities Collection Beijing China. He has had solo shows at the Lefevre Gallery, Sladers Yard, Horatio’s Garden, the William Bennington

 9 Nov 2020        Wassily Kandinski and the Birth of Abstraction – Natalia Murray

One of the pioneers of abstract modern art, Wassily Kandinsky exploited the evocative interrelation between colour and form to create an aesthetic experience that engaged the sight, sound, and emotions of the public. He believed that total abstraction offered the possibility for profound, transcendental expression and that copying from nature only interfered with this process. Highly inspired to create art that communicated a universal sense of spirituality, he innovated a pictorial language that only loosely related to the outside world, but expressed volumes about the artist’s inner experience. In this lecture we will look at paintings by Wassily Kandinsky and the origins of his first abstractions, as well as other Russian artists, who developed non-objective art in Russia.

Natalia Murray was born in St Petersburg where she gained BA and MA in Art History at the Academy of Fine Arts before taking the PhD course at the Hermitage Museum. At present she is a visiting lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art and a senior freelance curator. In 2017 she curated a major exhibition Revolution. Russian Art. 1917-1932 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and is currently working on exhibitions of Malevich and Kandinsky in Paris.

14 Dec 2020        The Genius of Beethoven – Peter Medhurst

Famously, every morning of his adult life, Beethoven measured out exactly 60 coffee beans for his breakfast.  A man who is capable of such discipline over a cup of coffee, can surely apply that exactness elsewhere in his life; and in Beethoven’s case, it was applied to his compositions. In fact, the detail found in his music is often so subtle, that most people don’t even know it’s there. The lecture explores Beethoven’s genius as a writer of music, at the same time setting his extraordinary story against the backdrop of 19th century warfare, revolution and dramatic social changes. 

Peter  Medhurst appears in the UK and abroad as a musician and scholar, giving recitals and delivering illustrated lectures on music and the arts. He studied singing and early keyboard instruments at the Royal College of Music and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg

 11 Jan 2021        The Studio-Houses of the Holland Park Circle – Daniel Robbins

In the second half of the nineteenth-century an extraordinary group of purpose-built studio-houses were built on the edge of London’s Holland Park. At their centre was the house built by Frederic Leighton from the mid-1860s. With its vast studio and exotic Arab Hall it provided an inspiration to other artists who commissioned houses of their own. Combining domestic accommodation with studio space and space in which to entertain, these houses provide fascinating insights into the wealth, status and taste of successful artists of the period. The lecture explores the houses of the Holland Park Circle to determine why these artists invested so much in the creation of their homes and the uses they then put them to.

Daniel Robbins is Senior Curator, Museums with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and is responsible for two of London’s most significant house museums: Leighton House Museum and 18 Stafford Terrace. Formerly with Glasgow Museums, he has organised many exhibitions and contributed to numerous catalogues and publications around nineteenth-century art, architecture and design, including the authorship of the companion guide to Leighton House Museum published in 2011. He was responsible for leading the award-winning project to restore the historic interiors of the house completed between 2008 and 2010 and is now leading an £7 million refurbishment project addressing the additions made to the building in the twentieth century.

8 Feb 2021          Vaux le Vicomte “Fit for a King” The inspiration behind Versailles– Carole Petipher

French 17th century chateau design owes much to one man; the ambitious visionary Nicolas Fouquet who is still somewhat of an enigma today. He seemed invincible but made one grave error of judgement which was to lead to his downfall. He employed the country’s best talent of the day to commission a spectacular chateau for himself. In doing so he was completely outshining the Sun King; Vaux le Vicomte presented a radical new look for the century whilst Versailles was nothing more than a humble hunting lodge at the time. The story that ensues is legendary. This lecture explores innovative garden design and architecture together with lavish interiors to tell the shocking story.

Carole Petipher is an experienced guide and lecturer on combined history and art tours in France with 20 years’ experience. Having lived and worked on a number of bespoke river vessels and converted barges there she has used them as a platform from which to research her lectures. She uses art in all its guises to explore the characters that shaped France and likes to delve behind the scenes to discover hidden truths.

08 Mar 2021       Mackintosh and the Glasgow Four – Anne Anderson

Charles Rennie Mackintosh is now regarded as Britain’s greatest architect but it is well known that his potential was never fully realised during his lifetime and he ended his days in obscurity. The role played by his wife, Margaret Macdonald, and his collaborators, Francis Macdonald and Herbert MacNair has also been obscured. At the time Mackintosh claimed that while he was talented his wife was a genius. Margaret certainly played an important part in the creation of those wonderful white interiors designed for Vienna in 1900 and Turin 1902. It was Margaret who was largely responsible for the decoration of the furniture – the addition of beautiful beaten pewter panels with distinctive ‘spooky ladies’. The Macdonald girls, who drew on Japanese works of art, the English Arts and Crafts movement and the graphics of Aubrey Beardsley, helped to create the Glasgow style. This lecture will explore the Four’s work in Glasgow, through their major commissions for the Glasgow School of Art, the Hill House, Helensburgh, and Miss Cranston’s Tea Rooms.

Anne Anderson was a senior lecturer in Art and Design History at Southampton Solent University for 14 year. Her book on The Perseus Series was published for the Edward Burne-Jones exhibition (2018). She has held several prestigious fellowships including Fellow of the Huntington Library, CA (2008 and 2018) and Fellow of the Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Library and Museum (2009/10). Currently a tutor for the V&A Learning Academy, Anne specialises in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement.

12 Apr 2021        Thomas Gainsborough – Mark Bills

Gainsborough transformed British art. Portraiture and landscape painting were different things at the outset of his career in the 1740s to what they were at his death in 1788. He took both genres to new heights and remains one of the most beloved figures of British Art. The lecture explores the development of this very British genius through his paintings and his own words and looks forward to the new developments at Gainsborough’s House as it creates a national centre for the artist.

Mark Bills studied at the Slade School of Art and at the universities of Birmingham and Manchester. He was Curator at the Watts Gallery and is now Curator of the Gainsborough Museum and lectures regularly at the Tate, Russell-Cotes Gallery, Museum of London, Guildhall Art Gallery, Bristol University and Mercer Art Gallery. Publications include George Frederic Watts: Victorian Visionary (2008), The Art of Satire: London in Caricature (2006) and William Powell Frith: Painting the Victorian Age (2006).

10 May 2021      Ruskin: His Impact, Achievement and Legacy – David Cross

Arguably the greatest Victorian polymath, Ruskin stoutly defended both Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites. A patient and enthusiastic teacher of drawing, he was a significant collector of paintings and a perceptive critic. A scholar of the northern gothic, he also elucidated the evolution of Venetian architecture. Generous with his treasures, he endowed a museum for working men at Sheffield, supported the Working Men’s College in London and did much to encourage the education of women. In the arts and crafts he advocated high quality workmanship, whilst criticising exploitative industrialists. His books influenced Tolstoy, Gandhi and the founders of the National Trust.

David Cross is an Hon. Research Fellow, Durham University. He is the author of a biography of George Romney and specialises in Lake District artists of all genres. His volume in the national series on public sculpture is Public Sculpture of Lancashire and Cumbria and was published in 2017.

14 Jun 2021        The Bronzes of Ife and Benin and an historical review of the art and sculpture of Nigeria – Richard Thomas

Africa is not generally associated with great art but Nigeria is associated with 3 major artistic traditions; the 2,000 year old Nok terracotta’s of the north, the Bronzes of Ife from the C12-C15 and the later Benin Bronzes. Richard lived in Nigeria in the 1960s, near Ife, and became familiar with the art of Ife and Benin and the role they played in society. The art, the technology (using the lost wax process) and the cultural relevance of the Bronzes will be illustrated and discussed in the lecture.

Dr Thomas completed an MA in Canada in Development Studies, and a PhD from Trinity College, Dublin in History and Political Science. His career as an academic and as a political and institutional analyst in the field of International Development enabled him to travel widely in Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He always sought to understand the arts and culture of the country or region he was living or working in since they illuminate the past and help to explain the present.