Our 2020-2021 Lecture Programme

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


With a Little Help From Their Friends: The Beatles and their Artists

Barry Venning


The Subtle Science and Exact Art of Colour in English Garden Design

Timothy Walker

In 1888 Gertrude Jekyll wrote a short but seminal article in The Garden in which she urged the readers to “remember that in a garden we are painting a picture”.

As an accomplished watercolour artist, Miss Jekyll was familiar with the principles of using colours, but she felt that in gardens these principles “had been greatly neglected”.

This talk looked at how to apply these principles in designing a border, but it also looks at the ways in which a border is different from a painting. However, it goes further than this and looks at how contemporary work of the likes of Turner, Monet, Rothko, Jackson Pollack, and Hockney evolved in parallel with ideas about what a garden or border should look like.


Adventures Among the Nomadic Tribes of Iran & Afghanistan - Searching for the woven art of the nomads

Brian MacDonald

My time spent in Iran and Afghanistan during the 1970s, began to foster a passion for the wonderful woven art produced by nomads on basic ground looms. My subsequent visits were spent travelling and searching amongst nomadic tribes for these exquisite 19th century weavings, which have become harder to find and have now virtually disappeared amongst the tribes themselves.

This lecture illustrates the woven art of the nomads as they moved over the lands they have travelled for generations. The audience will have the opportunity of seeing their way of life and looking at the 19th century rugs and utilitarian weavings, similar to those which I discovered during my forays into the different tribal territories.

The lecture also brings to life some of the unforgettable stories and adventures I experienced whilst looking for them.


The Art and Culture of Fin-de-siècle Vienna

Gavin Plumley

At the turn of the last century, Vienna was the capital of a vast empire and one of the most exciting artistic laboratories in the world. It produced painters such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, architects like Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos and Josef Hoffmann, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, the composer Gustav Mahler and the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Looking at these and others figures in the context of the society in which they worked, this talk asked how and why the City of Dreams became a cultural hotbed around 1900.


A Proliferation of Pattern: Wallpapers 1920-2000

Joanna Banham

The widespread misconception that Modernist interiors eschewed pattern and ushered in a fashion for plain walls is belied by the fact that the taste for wallpaper flourished as never before in the inter-war and post-war periods. Patterns included brightly-coloured geometric Jazz-Age designs, traditional florals, and pictorial panels as well as 'Contemporary'-style and Op, Pop, and Psychedelic designs.

Decorators like Laura Ashley, Colefax & Fowler and Sandersons created popular new styles and the more recent introduction of digital design and statement walls has seen a revival of wallpaper today.

This talk surveyed the development of wallpaper production and design across the twentieth century.


The Making of Landscape Photographs

Charlie Waite

One of the world's leading landscape photographers, he has lectured for 25 years throughout the UK, Europe and the US. Has held numerous one-man exhibitions in London, exhibited twice in Tokyo, and was awarded the prestigious honorary Fellowship of the British Institute of Professional Photographers, as well as a Direct Fellowship by the Royal Photographic Society.

A fully illustrated talk with in excess of 60 images exploring the relationship between the making of an image and the way in which it is perceived by the viewer.

Further discussion around the eye and the brain being an extraordinary double act made up of visual references and intellectual interpretation.


Nothing says Christmas like an Axe-Fight

Toby Capwell

In the Renaissance, Christmas was a popular time to hold jousts, tournaments and courtly spectacles. In the dark, dead of winter, a colourful, glamorous celebration of chivalry very much took on the role of a kind of sixteenth century 'festival of light'.

In England, Christmas jousts became especially popular under that famous lover of armour and fighting, King Henry VIII. Such events were a kind of performance art, which fused real armoured combat with fantastical, mythological and allegorical themes.

In this lecture, we explored this rich history through the personal experiences of the lecturer, an academic specialist but also one of the world's foremost jousters and medieval martial artists.


Fakes & Fortunes (Or, have I discovered a Constable in my attic?!)

Sarah Cove

Sarah Cove ACR founded the Constable Research Project in conjunction with the V&A Museum in 1986 to study John Constable RA's materials and techniques from the technical and scientific point of view. Since then she has examined over 250 works from collections worldwide, from tiny oil sketches on fragments of canvas, paper supports and boards to the 'six-footers', some of Constable's most famous and iconic paintings including The Haywain (1821), The Leaping Horse (1825) and Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (1831). She has developed a technical chronology that assists with the dating of his known works, relatively few of which were signed and dated by the artist, and is also useful for the attribution (or not) of newly discovered pictures.

Sarah Cove has been instrumental in the attribution of three significant Constable oils for BBC1's Fake or Fortune? series, appearing in 2014 and 2017. In 2014 she set up a Facebook page that is hugely successful in raising awareness of her research so that now she is regularly contacted by people that think they have a found a previously unknown Constable!! Some have, some have not, as you will see in this lecture which gives a 'behind the scenes' look at how such decisions are made and will describe some extraordinary successes but also crashing disappointments.

Stories included, at opposite extremes, a hugely publicised oil sketch reputedly worth £250,000 that turned out to be a copy and the chance discovery of a fabulous, almost abstract, oil study of the 1830s that had formerly belonged to an American G.I.


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 explored 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.

Beethoven will be 250 years old on 17 December 2020.


Pots and Frocks – The world of Grayson Perry

Ian Swankie

Best known for his outlandish appearances dressed as his feminine alter ego, Claire, Grayson Perry is now a core part of the art establishment, a Turner Prize winner, Royal Academician, popular broadcaster and colourful character.

He is possibly one of the world's best-known contemporary artists. His works of ceramics, textiles, tapestries and prints are highly sought after. Often controversial, he tackles difficult subjects in a poignant yet witty way and holds a mirror up to society.

This talk examined Grayson Perry's work, his exciting and thought-provoking exhibitions, and the unique character inside the flamboyant frocks.