All posts by Keith Roberts

Wednesday 1st September 2021 – The Ashcan Painters: Founders of New York Realism

The Ashcan Painters: Founders of New York Realism

Men of the Docks

Men of the Docks

George Bellows 1912
Image credit: © The National Gallery, London

Wednesday 1st September 2021

Mary Alexander

The term ‘Ashcan School’ was used to describe the realism and contemporary subject matter of a New York based group of artists who shared a fascination with zesty everyday life scenes. Each had an individual style, and all rejected the stolid conservatism and rigid teaching practices of the National Academy of Design.

This lecture will explore the work of this extraordinary group of individual artists who created vivid and stunningly beautiful images of a New York city in transition at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Mary Alexander has thirty years’ experience as a lecturer. Her experience includes public lectures in museums, tutoring for the Open University, visiting lecturer at Christie’s Education in London, and museum curator at Platt Hall, the Gallery of Costume, Manchester. She has worked in Pentagram design consultancy in London and New York organising conferences and special events, and is now a freelance lecturer to various arts, heritage and antiquarian societies. She is the author of articles on design and visual awareness issues. Her background combines an unusual blend of academic and visual communications skills.

This is the first lecture of our 2021/ 22 season.

Wednesday 7th July 2021 – The Secret Story of Ruskin Pottery

The Secret Story of Ruskin Pottery

Ruskin Pottery

Ruskin Pottery

Image Robmcrorie at English Wikipedia
Used under Creative Commons Licence

Wednesday 7th July 2021

Sally Hoban

At the beginning of the 20th century the Ruskin Pottery in Smethwick was producing some of the most innovative and beautiful art pottery in the world.

Named in honour of the art critic John Ruskin, the pottery was set up by Edward Richard Taylor, Headmaster of the Birmingham Municipal School of Art. It was later taken over by his son William Howson Taylor. The company won international awards and even royalty invested in pieces for their collections.

Collectors today are prepared to pay thousands of pounds for the finest pieces of Ruskin Pottery, yet the story of the factory is little known. This lecture will introduce us to the secrets of Ruskin Pottery and its beautiful ceramics.

Dr Sally Hoban has lectured extensively on art, design and antiques throughout the UK and at The University of Birmingham. She has broadcast on BBC Antiques Roadshow, BBC Two, BBC Four and BBC Radio 4 and her publications include the book Miller’s Collecting Modern Design.

She currently runs her own antiques businesses, specialising in nineteenth and twentieth century decorative arts, and antique and vintage clothing and textiles.

This lecture will follow the AGM at 1:30pm

Wednesday 2nd June 2021 – Wonder Workers and the Art of Illusion: The History of Magic Through Art and Pictures

Wonder Workers and the Art of Illusion:
The History of Magic Through Art and Pictures

Burning playing cards

Photo by Julius Drost on Unsplash

Wednesday 2nd June 2021

Bertie Pearce

From the beginning of time the fascination with magic has been widespread. Sorcerer Priests used scientific principles to create illusions for the edification of worship and to hold power over the people.

In the age of the Music Hall, audiences flocked in their thousands to watch the extraordinary feats of The Great Illusionists. Even today, with the craze for Harry Potter, the wonder and surprise of magic are as popular as ever. This lecture will be a whistle stop tour of the history of magic from 3000 BC to the present day.

Bertie Pearce is a member of the Inner Magic Circle. He has toured the world with his one-man cabaret show All Aboard, performed on cruise ships, and lectured to a wide range of art and history societies.

Wednesday 5th May 2021 – Cultural Experiments in the Weimar Republic

Cultural Experiments in the Weimar Republic

Poster for the Bauhaus Austellung (1923)

Poster for the Bauhaus Austellung (1923)
Joost Schmidt

Image in the public domain

Wednesday 5th May 2021

Gavin Plumley

After World War I, with Europe reeling from the worst conflict ever known, artists and architects were in a state of flux; yet out of crisis came a truly stimulating period of artistic endeavour.

Contemplating painters such as Max Beckmann, Otto Dix and Christian Schad alongside the experiments of the Bauhaus, new film technologies and the sultry stylings of Marlene Dietrich, this lecture will look at the culture of German-speaking Europe during the interwar years.

Gavin Plumley lectures widely on the culture of Central Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He is a writer and broadcaster, appearing on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4, and contributing to newspapers, magazines and opera and concert programmes worldwide.

Wednesday 3rd March – Painting the Land of the Midnight Sun: Norway’s Golden Age of Painting

Painting the Land of the Midnight Sun:
Norway’s Golden Age of Painting

The North Cape, 1853

The North Cape, 1853
Peder Balke

Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York
Image in the public domain

Wednesday 3rd March 2021

Stella Grace Lyons

The late 19th century marked a defining moment in Norwegian art as romantic painters began to turn to their own land for inspiration, painting the stormy seas, towering glaciers and raw, untamed landscapes of their homeland. They included Peder Balke, who captured the far north with drama and romance, and Nikolai Astrup, who depicted the landscape as a mythical and eerie entity.

Stella Grace Lyons is a freelance lecturer, a lecturer in art history at the University of South Wales, and an artist’s model for the figurative artist Harry Holland.

Wednesday 3rd February 2021 – Coventry Cathedral: Icon and Insipration

Coventry Cathedral: Icon and Inspiration

Stained Glass, Coventry Cathedral

Stained Glass, Coventry Cathedral

Image by Julia Schwab from Pixabay

Wednesday 3rd February 2021

Alexandra Epps

Ahead of Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture, this lecture will tell the extraordinary story of the rebuilding of the Cathedral as a symbol of peace and reconciliation and its inspiring commitment to the modern.

We’ll experience the work of many of the world class artists associated with its treasures, including Jacob Epstein, Elizabeth Frink, John Piper and Graham Sutherland.

Alexandra Epps’ background is in design, having practised as a graphic designer running her own business for many years. She now works as a guide to the City of London, and as a guide and lecturer to Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Guildhall Art Gallery and Pallant House Gallery.

Wednesday 6th January 2021 – Giles: His Life, Times and Cartoons

Giles: His Life, Times and Cartoons

The Giles Grandma Statue, Ipswich

The Giles Grandma Statue, Ipswich
© Jim Linwood on Flickr

Used under Creative Commons Licence

Wednesday 6th January 2021

Barry Venning

The cartoonist Carl Giles once said that he loved his creation Grandma Giles – that fearsome, black-clad, gambling, drinking battleaxe – because she allowed him to say things through his cartoons that he was too polite to say in person. She helped him to poke fun at authority in all its forms, from Hitler to traffic wardens and even his employers at the Daily Express, who didn’t trust him and had sub-editors scouring his cartoons for subversive background details.

His admirers included Prince Charles, Sir Malcolm Sargent and Tommy Cooper, and it was no surprise when he was voted Britain’s best-loved cartoonist in 2000.

Giles gave us a remarkable picture of a half-century of British life. He was also, as his editor John Gordon put it, ‘a spreader of happiness’ and ‘a genius…with the common touch’.

Barry Venning is an art historian with a particular interest in the work of JMW Turner. His interests and his teaching extend from medieval architecture to contemporary British art. He is currently Associate Lecturer with the Open University and lecturing on a freelance basis for The Arts Society and Christie’s Education.

Wednesday 2nd December – “Celebrate, Rejoice, Rise Up!”: Johann Sebastian Bach’s Glorious Christmas Oratorio

“Celebrate, Rejoice, Rise Up!” – Johann Sebastian Bach’s Glorious Christmas Oratorio

JS Bach

J S Bach
Elias Gottlob Haussmann

Public domain image

Wednesday 2nd December 2020

Sandy Burnett

Sandy Burnett’s close relationship with Bach’s music stretches back for decades. Between 1997 and 2010 he directed a complete cycle of Bach’s sacred cantatas in West London.

In this illustrated lecture he will explore how Bach brings the Christmas story alive in his Weihnachtsoratorium or Christmas Oratorio, written for Lutheran congregations in 1730s Leipzig. An overview of Bach’s life and achievement will precede a close look at this magnificent work which draws on various forms ranging from recitative, arioso, aria, chorale, and instrumental sinfonia through to full-blown choruses infused with the joyous spirit of the dance.

Sandy Burnett has combined a career as a broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 and as music director for the RSC and the National Theatre with lecturing and performing as a double bassist on the London jazz scene.

This lecture will be streamed online on Wednesday 2nd December 2020 at 11:00am. TAS RLS members will be invited by email to join the lecture.

Wednesday 4th November 2020 – The Day Parliament Burned Down

The Day Parliament Burned Down

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament c1834-35 - J M W Turner

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament c1834-35
J M W Turner

Photo © Tate
Used under Creative Commons Licence

Wednesday 4th November 2020

Caroline Shenton

In the early evening of 16th 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.

This lecture will take us through the gripping hour-by-hour story of the fire through contemporary depictions of the disaster by Turner, William Heath and others.

Dr Caroline Shenton is an archivist and historian. She was formerly Director of the Parliamentary Archives in London, and before that a senior archivist at the National Archives.

Her book, The Day Parliament Burned Down, won the Political Book of the Year Award in 2013. Its sequel, Mr Barry’s War, about the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster, was a Book of the Year in 2016 for The Daily Telegraph and BBC History Magazine.

This lecture will be streamed online on Wednesday 4th November 2020 at 11:00am. TAS RLS members will be invited by email to join the lecture.

Wednesday 2nd September 2020 – Banned: Savitsky and the Secret Hoard of Avant-Garde Art

Banned: Savitsky and the Secret Hoard of Avant-Garde Art

Savitsky Karakalpakstan Art Museum

Savitsky Karakalpakstan Art Museum at Nukus, Uzbekistan

Author: ChanOJ Own work
Used under Creative Commons Licence

Wednesday 2nd September 2020

Chris Aslan Alexander

Russian Avant-Garde Art flourished during the first thirty years of the 20th Century, but as Stalin rose to power all but Socialist Realist expressions of art were banned. To own anything else was dangerous, and to start collecting it was unthinkable; yet that is exactly what Igor Savitsky did: he amassed the world’s second largest collection of Russian Avant-Garde art.

The remote location of the State Museum of Karakalpakstan, near the south shores of the Aral Sea, meant that Savitsky was able to get away with such subversive activity because even the authorities in Moscow were a little hazy as to where exactly Karakalpakstan was. Savitsky promoted Russian artists sent to Central Asia in exile as well as the first Central Asian artists to paint their own people and landscapes.

Chris spent his childhood in Turkey and in war-torn Beirut. After school he spent two years at sea before studying media and journalism at Leicester. After university he moved to Khiva, a desert oasis in Uzbekistan, where he established a UNESCO workshop reviving fifteenth century carpet designs and embroideries.

After a year in the UK writing A Carpet Ride to Khiva, he spent three years in the Pamirs in Tajikistan, training yak herders to comb their yaks for their cashmere-like down. Next came two years in Kyrgyzstan, living in the world’s largest natural walnut forest and establishing a wood-carving workshop. Chris has recently finished rowing and studying at Oxford, and a curacy at St. Barnabas in North Finchley. He is now taking two years out to focus on writing fiction. As well as lecturing for the Arts Society he leads tours to Central Asia, where a large part of his heart remains.

This lecture will be streamed online on Wednesday 2nd September 2020 at 11:00am. TAS RLS members will be invited by email to join the lecture.

Just before the coronavirus lockdown in March, Chris recorded a YouTube lecture on Soviet Propaganda in Central Asian Monumental Art. This can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

Cotton Pickers and Cosmonauts