Our 2017-2018 Lecture Programme

Below is a list of lectures and a brief synopsis of each. You can download a Printable Copy of the lecture programme.

Future Lectures

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8 December 2017

From Magic Lanterns to Metro Goldwyn Mayer: The birth of the Silver Screen and the artists it inspired

Geri Parlby

The moving image has been a powerful source of imagination from the first moment a magic lantern flickered into life in the 17th century.

In this lecture we will be looking at how the Motion Pictures industry first developed throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries and how it then went on to change the face of entertainment and inspire the imaginations of some of the greatest artists of the early 20th century.


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12 January 2018

The Art of the Joke

Susie Harries

Artists have always used jokes to make serious statements - about themselves, about the world, and about the nature of art.

This lecture looks at artists’ jokes – from the margins of medieval manuscripts to Marcel Duchamp’s moustache on the Mona Lisa, from trompe l’oeil to Dutch tavern scenes with coded warnings against the sins of the flesh, from Michelangelo’s self-portrait in skin on the Sistine ceiling to Magritte’s pipe, from Arcimboldo to Banksy . . .


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9 February 2018

Mars and the Muses: The Renaissance Art of Armour

Tobias Capwell

Armour was one of the great Renaissance art-forms, but today it is usually overlooked by art historians, scholars and enthusiasts.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries almost all of the richest, most powerful noblemen in Europe could be counted as dedicated patrons of the armourer’s art. This was an intensely personal art, both expressive and decorative. Its essence was the creation of a living sculpture, a process which demanded not only fantastic skill in the sculpting of iron and steel, but also mastery of all decorative techniques available to the Renaissance metalworker.

The achievements of virtuoso master armourers like Kolman Helmschmid, Konrad Seusenhofer, Filippo Negroli, Pompeo della Cesa and Jacob Halder were not, however, just about splendour and richness. They also embodied more complex messages about status and the social order, divine power, and attitudes and identities.


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9 March 2018

A Bar at the Folie-Bergère

Lizzie Darbyshire

Edouard Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergère of 1882 is one of the most treasured possessions of the Courtauld Collection.

Here we are invited to engage with a young barmaid at work in a fashionable Parisian establishment. A gentleman waits to be served whilst in the background spectators watch the night's entertainments. All seems to be well - but is it? What sort of establishment was this? Who frequented it? What 'entertainment' was provided here? Who was the barmaid - and the gentleman?

Is this a straightforward representation of a contemporary scene or is Manet, often called the godfather of Modern art, playing with accepted conventions to undermine the coherence of the image and its content?

This lecture explores the many different facets of this iconic painting and guarantees you will never look at it in the same way again.


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13 April 2018

Stonehenge and the British Stone Circle: the history, art and archaeology of these great landmarks

William Forrester

Just like any great cathedral, stately home or museum, Britain’s stone circles deserve and reward study.

After putting them in context with other prehistoric remains, we tease apart how and when these circles were made. We examine the many theories of why they were built. Using archaeology and folklore, we consider the most likely options. Were they, for instance, observatories, or cult centres, or hospitals, or highways to the afterlife or even UFO landing sites?! We then trace the history of the monuments up to the present day.

We also consider their place in art – featuring works by Constable, Turner, Henry Moore and others. Though Stonehenge will be the focus of our attention as the most remarkable circle in Britain, we consider the other great examples such as Stanton Drew, Avebury, Arbor Low, Callanish, the Ring of Brodgar and Stones of Stenness. Hence we travel from South West England all the way up to the Hebrides and Orkneys, taking in some of Britain’s beautiful landscapes en route.

As recent archaeology has revealed so much new evidence, this is the perfect time to reconsider this great World Heritage Site. Equally, with two roads passing it and a car park on its doorstep, the presentation of Stonehenge has been called a national disgrace. Soon one road may close and a new visitor centre may be built, meaning that we will see the great monument in a new light.


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11 May 2018

The Mystery of Holbein’s “Ambassadors”

Anthony Russell

Hans Holbein was the first great mainland painter to spend much time in England and he brought with him a sophistication and skill, with far reaching consequences for this island's artistic development.

His Ambassadors is recognised by the National Gallery of London as one of its greatest treasures. It dates from a tradition in the arts when no object was without meaning and symbolism. However, practically all of this meaning has been lost to the modern observer.

This lecture considers the tempestuous circumstances of its creation and the hidden messages concealed within it. The painting tells us much about the state of Europe at the time and the hopes and fears of its major players.


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8 June 2018

AGM & Mille Miglia – cars and culture

Libby Horner

In 1955 Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson won the 1000 mile open-road endurance race round Italy with a staggering average speed of 98.53 mph which didn’t allow them any time for pit stops or culture.

In 2014 Libby, driving an iconic red Alfa Romeo, followed the route in more leisurely fashion.

In a multi-media lecture combining photographs, film, songs, and quotations from writers and poets, she offers a kaleidoscopic view of the cars and characters involved in the race from its inception in 1927, together with numerous detours to sample local food, wine, music, architecture and art.


Previous Lectures this year

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15 September 2017

Dale Chihuly: the world’s foremost glass artist

Charles Hajdamach

American glass artist Dale Chihuly (born 1941) is the superstar of the glass world.

With his passion for glass, his larger-than-life personality, his skills as a natural leader and educator, and his constant exploration of glass's luminous qualities and colour possibilities, he creates glass sculptures which are extravagant, colourful and spectacular.

His glass magic has transformed the studio glass movement and altered our visual perceptions of this extraordinary material forever.


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13 October 2017

Riviera Paradise: A fusion of art, design and pleasure on the Côte d'Azur in the 1920s and 30s

Mary Alexander

Since the C19 English high society had 'wintered over' on the Côte d'Azur, had always left by April. In the early 1920's, however, an intoxicating mix of artists, writers, musicians and international visitors, inspired by a mythological seascape of luminous colours, created a new summer season.

Traditional boundaries were torn down. Matisse, Picasso, Dufy, Cocteau, and Chanel merged the worlds of fashion, theatre and interiors. Cole Porter, Scott Fitzgerald, and the intriguing Gerald and Sara Murphy introduced an American perspective, and attracted an influential new set of discerning patrons and collectors.

We went on 'time travel' to meet them.


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10 November 2017

Architecture, music and the invention of linear perspective

Colin Davies

In his dissertation on architecture, Leon Battista Alberti – the original ‘Renaissance man’ – wrote: ‘We shall therefore borrow all our rules for the fixing of proportions from the musicians’.

It turns out that there is a mathematical link between visible proportions and audible proportions, or harmony, and that Renaissance architects were well aware of this link. They saw it as proof that their architecture could participate in the harmony of the whole cosmos.

One of them, Filippo Brunelleschi, took the idea further in his invention of ‘linear perspective’ and thereby, incidentally, revolutionised western painting.