All posts by Keith Roberts

Medicine and Art Study Day – March 2022

Plague doctor

A watercolour of an early 17th-century plague doctor’s costume.
(Wellcome Trust/Used under Creative Commons licence)

Medicine and Art

The Day of Special Interest held on the 25th March 2022 at The Warwickshire Country Club, Leek Wootton, Warwick was entitled “Medicine and Art”.

Dr James Grant MBE, a retired General Practitioner, gave members two lectures in the morning: the first on “Medical Gold” from Ancient Egypt to The Nobel Prize and the second on “The Art of Pandemics”:  In contrast to the altarpieces and the secular paintings of the plague and previous epidemics the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an outpouring of remarkable street art. Artists have depicted the effects of disease, the basic human need to blame someone or something for their suffering as well as producing wonderful images which have inspired great hope and consolation. Saint Sebastian to the rescue!

In the afternoon, there was a complete contrast! A prize quiz based on Dr. Grant’s collection of medical instruments and artifacts.  What is it and what would it be valued at? Absolutely fascinating but no-one managed to get all the correct answers!

The lectures and the quiz were informative and fun.  Dr. Grant was very clear and entertaining in his presentations.

Lord Leycester Hospital

Lord Leycester Hospital

Volunteering at Lord Leycester Hospital
Volunteers and Projects at the Lord Leycester Hospital

Heritage Volunteers have recently started a new project at The Lord Leycester Hospital, Warwick. They have visitor books going back to 1853 and over the years The Hospital has been visited by many famous people, including Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, Oscar Wilde, The Prince of Wales (Edward VII), Thomas Jefferson, Courboisier. Visitors have come from all over the world, especially America.

The volunteers are entering the information from the visitor books onto a computerised database. This is a laborious process as some signatures are difficult to decipher. So we regard this as a long term project.

A new exhibition space is due to open at the Lord Leycester in 2022, by which time we hope be to able to tell the story of how The Hospital became such an important destination for visitors to Warwickshire.

Wednesday 9th March 2022 – Lucian Freud: Portraits

Lucian Freud: Portraits

Note this lecture is on the second Wednesday of the month.

Wednesday 9th March 2022

Girl with a White Dog, 1951–1952
© Tate Gallery

Image from Wikipedia, Fair Use policy

Lydia Baumann

Lucian Freud was a British artist.

“I’ve always wanted to create drama in my pictures, which is why I paint people. It’s people who have brought drama to pictures from the beginning. The simplest human gestures tell stories” (Lucian Freud )

In this lecture Lydia Bauman will trace Freud’s development as a portrait painter and question just how much he tells us about his sitters.

Lydia was born in Poland. She studied for her BA in Fine Art at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and for an MA in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute in London. She has lectured to diverse adult audiences, notably in London’s National Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston USA. Herself a landscape painter, Lydia is the author of the forthcoming book Great Themes in Art.

Click here for our April lecture

Wednesday 4th May 2022 – Art After Windrush: Postcolonial Art in Britain After 1948

Art After Windrush: Postcolonial Art in Britain After 1948

Wednesday 4th May 2022

Detail of a work by Sir Frank Bowling

A detail from Middle Passage, 1970
by Sir Frank Bowling.

Photograph: Courtesy the Artist/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017 published by The Guardian

Barry Venning

This lecture will look at the contributions made by artists of African, Caribbean or Asian origin to British art since the HMT Empire Windrush arrived in Tilbury from the West Indies in 1948. It will consider, among others, the work of Sir Frank Bowling, Francis Newton Souza, Eddie Chambers, Yinka Shonibare, Sonia Boyce, Rasheed Araeen, Lubaina Himid and the Singh Twins, all of whom have achieved international recognition and respect, their works collected by museums world-wide. They may not all be household names but their art is eye-catching and thought-provoking, and they have set much of the agenda for British art of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Barry Venning is an art historian with a particular interest in the work of JMW Turner, on whom he has published widely, including the volume on Turner in Phaidon’s Art & Ideas series. His interests and his teaching extend from medieval architecture to contemporary art.  He is currently Associate Lecturer with the Open University and lecturing on a freelance basis for The Arts Society and Christie’s Education.

Click here for our June lecture

Wednesday 2nd February 2022 – The Land of the Midnight Sun: Norway’s Golden Age of Painting

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

Wednesday 2nd February 2022

North Cape, 1853

North Cape, 1853
Peder Balke

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

Stella Grace Lyons

The late 19th century marked a defining moment in Norway. For the first time romantic painters began to turn to their own land for inspiration. They painted the stormy seas, the towering glaciers and the raw, untamed nature of their homeland. Their aim was to draw attention to the beauty of their country and explore what it meant to be ‘Norwegian’.

This lecture will look at the artists from Norway’s ‘Golden Age’ who captured the far north with drama and romance and interpreted their wild country as a mythical, eerie entity. It will explore the stunning works of JC Dahl, Peder Balke, Nikolai Astrup and Harald Sohlberg. This is chance to discover some of art’s most underappreciated artists.

Stella Grace Lyons gained her BA in the History of Art from the University of Bristol and her MA in History of Art from the University of Warwick. She spent a year studying Renaissance art at the British Institute of Florence, and three months studying Venetian art in Venice. She also attended drawing classes at the prestigious Charles H. Cecil studios in Florence, a private atelier that follows a curriculum based on the leading ateliers of nineteenth century Paris.

Stella is a freelance Art History lecturer, speaker and writer who has lectured across the UK, Ireland, Spain, Norway, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Malaysia. She is also a part-time lecturer for the University of South Wales. She has written about art for several publications and her article on Norwegian art was recently featured on the front cover of The Arts Society magazine.

Click here for our March lecture

Wednesday 6th October 2021 – Faber and Faber: 90 Years of Excellence in Cover Design

Faber and Faber: 90 Years of Excellence in Cover Design

Wednesday 6th October 2021

Pile of books
© Photo “Thrift Store Books” by Kate Geraets. Used under Flickr Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Toby Faber

Since its foundation in 1925, Faber and Faber has built a reputation as one of London’s most important literary publishing houses. Part of that relates to the editorial team that Geoffrey Faber and his successors built around them – TS Eliot was famously an early recruit – but a large part is also due to the firm’s insistence on good design and illustration. This lecture will trace the history of Faber and Faber through its illustrations, covers and designs. Early years brought innovations like the Ariel Poems – single poems, beautifully illustrated, sold in their own envelopes. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was an emphasis on typography, led by the firm’s art director Berthold Wolpe; his Albertus font is still used on City of London road signs. In the 1980s, the firm started its association with Pentagram, responsible for the ff logo. Along the way, it has employed some of our most celebrated artists as cover illustrators – from Rex Whistler and Barnett Freedman to Peter Blake and Damien Hirst. Slides will range from book covers, advertisements and photos of key individuals, to illustrations of the concepts behind the designs. Faber and Faber is the last of the great publishing houses to remain independent.

Toby Faber is an experienced lecturer and public speaker who has been accredited by The Arts Society since 2012. His career began with Natural Sciences at Cambridge and has been through investment banking, management consulting and four years as managing director of Faber and Faber, the publishing company founded by his grandfather, where he remains on the board. He is also non-executive Chairman of its sister company, Faber Music and a director of Liverpool University Press.

He has written three narrative histories: Stradivarius – Five Violins, One Cello and a GeniusFaberge’s Eggs; and Faber & Faber – The Untold Story, as well as a novel, Close to the Edge. Of these, only Faber & Faber – The Untold Story is published by the family firm.

Click here for our November lecture

Arts Volunteering – 2021

Arts Volunteering 2021 – Hannah Smith

Hannah received her award from Chairman of The Arts Society RLS, Shaun Pitt, with Edwina McConville, Secretary for Arts Volunteering.
Hannah received her award from Chairman of The Arts Society RLS, Shaun Pitt, with Edwina McConville, Secretary for Arts Volunteering.

At the end of June, Shaun Pitt and Edwina McConville presented a certificate and cheque to Hannah Smith, who was nominated the best Art Foundation Year student in Warwickshire College for 2020-2021.  Hannah showed her portfolio of fashion drawings, with items designed specifically for disabled people.  In the autumn, Hannah will begin a course in fashion design at Central St Martins, which accepts very few students on this particular course.

Receiving the award Hannah said, “My fashion focuses on where disabled people fit in fashion, as there is certainly a lack of visibility for disabled people in the industry. I’ve wanted to go for Central St Martins for years and it’s a real dream for me. The bursary from the Arts Society will help me when I get there”.

Wednesday 7th July 2021 – How to Get Down from a Yak: Adventures in Central Asian Nomadic Textiles

How To Get Down from a Yak:
Adventures in Central Asian Nomadic Textiles

How to Get Dpwn from a Yak

Photo provided by our lecturer

Wednesday 7th July 2021

Chris Aslan Alexander

Houses made from wool that warm in the depths of winter, carpets that tell stories, woven bands that appease ancestors, embroideries that ward off evil, kilims that store kitchenware – with everything ready to be packed and carried on a yak or camel at a moment’s notice.

The little-known nomadic textile cultures of the Kyrgyz, Turkoman and Karakalpak will be explored in this lecture, along with the rise and fall of nomadism and where nomadism fits within the modern world.

Our speaker will share his own experience of working for three years with nomadic yak herders in the High Pamirs.

Chris Aslan Alexander was born in Turkey and spent his childhood both there and in war-torn Beirut. After school, he spent two years at sea before studying Media and Journalism and then moving to Khiva, a desert oasis in Uzbekistan, where he established a UNESCO workshop reviving fifteenth century carpet designs and embroideries. He became the largest non-government employer in town.

After a time in Uzbekistan, he spent three years in the Pamir Mountains of 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. Since then, Chris has studied at Oxford, and is now based in Cambridge, focusing on writing fiction.

He is currently working on a new book on the Silk Road that marries travel and textiles. He leads tours to Central Asia, where a large chunk of his heart remains.

This lecture will be streamed online on Wednesday 7th July 2021 at 2:00pm. TAS RLS members will be invited by email to join the lecture.

This is a change to our original programme. The lecture, “Wonder Workers and the Art of Illusion: The History of Magic Through Art and Pictures” by Bertie Pearce will now take place in July 2022.

Click here for our September lecture

Wednesday 1st September 2021 – Paula Rego: Painting Women on the Edge, and Telling Tales of the Unexpected

Paula Rego: Painting Women on the Edge, and Telling Tales of the Unexpected

Wednesday 1st September 2021

Paula Rego

Image from Wikipedia, used under the Creative Commons Attribution

Linda Smith

This lecture will look at the life and work of Paula Rego, a British artist of Portuguese origin best known for her depictions of folk tales and strikingly unusual images of women.

Married to the British artist Victor Willing (1928-88), Paula Rego settled in this country permanently in the 1970s, but her career in Britain had effectively begun in the early 1960s, when she exhibited with artists like Frank Auerbach and David Hockney. Over the following twenty years her career and reputation built steadily, and in 1990 she was invited to become the first Associate Artist at the National Gallery. Her well-known series of paintings and prints based on nursery rhymes emerged from this residency, as did another series of large-scale paintings which is currently displayed in the National Gallery restaurant.

In her early days, Paula Rego experimented with many different styles, including abstraction, and was very much influenced by Surrealism, but her mature style places a strong emphasis on clear draughtsmanship and the human figure. She produces works which suggest complicated narratives full of psychological tension, drama, and emotion. Frequently she depicts women and girls in disturbing or ambiguous situations and poses, which has occasionally caused some controversy, but her insistence on the physicality of her female figures, and her refusal to idealise or revert to cliché has earned her global recognition and many prestigious awards. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2010. 

Click here for details of the Paula Rego exhibition at Tate Britain.

Linda Smith holds two first-class degrees in Art History. She has a broad knowledge of art historical subjects, but specialises in British Art and twentieth century art. She is an experienced lecturer and guide at Tate Britain and Tate Modern and has lectured to a wide variety of audiences, including school and university students, and independent arts societies in the UK and overseas.

This is the first lecture of our 2021/ 22 season.
Covid-19 restrictions permitting, we hope to hold this lecture at the Royal Spa Centre at 11:00am and 2:00pm.

Click here for our October lecture

Chairman’s Update, December 2020

The Arts Society Royal Leamington Spa
Update on our next online lecture and a Christmas special to cheer everyone up!

Dear Member,

This update contains the following:

an introduction from the Chairman

an update on returning to the Spa Centre

a reminder of some key information on our online lectures

details of our next online lecture on 2nd December 2020

our Christmas special

other online offerings for you to consider

1. Introduction from the Chairman

Welcome to the November update with, as usual, details of our next online lecture.

I very much hope that you are all managing to cope with the continuing restrictions under lockdown. I know that these are particularly difficult times for people living alone; I do hope that, for those members in this position, you in particular, enjoy feeling part of a larger group of like-minded people when you log into our online lectures.

The recent announcement of a potential vaccine against Covid19 has been most encouraging although it is clearly not an immediate solution. However, it has made us start talking to the Spa Centre about a possible return to physical lectures in the foreseeable future and I have included an update on this.

I have also included some other online offerings from past lecturers for you to access if you so wish.

2. Returning to the Spa Centre

I have had several questions from members as to when we think it will be possible to return to physical lectures at the Spa Centre.

As I indicated last month, the first critical step in this process was the announcement from the Council that the future of the Spa Centre was secure and that it would re-open by 31st March 2021.

We have recently re-started our usual dialogue with the staff at the Spa Centre and are looking at dates for our future lectures in 2021 and 2022. Our current hope is to be able to return to The Spa Centre for our lecture on 5th May 2021. All lectures prior to that date will be online.

Clearly whether or not this is possible will depend on how the pandemic progresses, when and how effective the vaccination programme proves to be and any government legislation and guidance that may be in place at that time. Therefore the situation will continue to be very fluid but I will continue to keep you up to date on our plans in this regard.

I can assure you that our absolute first priority will be to ensure any return will not prejudice your health and wellbeing.

3. Information on our online lectures

The link that you need to access our online lectures is always contained in the email invitation that is sent out by Keith Roberts approximately five to six days before the date of the lecture.

Both lecturers and the Society have always needed to be aware of both copyright and intellectual property issues in delivering lectures and that is even more important in a digital environment. As regular viewers of the online lectures will know, these are broadcast live via YouTube at a specified time (typically 11:00am on the relevant day).

However we are aware that not everyone may be free to view at the time of the live broadcast and so we negotiate with the lecturer to retain a copy of the lecture on YouTube for a specified period. The result is that the period of retention varies from lecturer to lecturer and after that period has expired the recording has to be deleted from YouTube and is no longer available to view.

The time for which the recording can be viewed is always included in these updates and in Keith Roberts’ email (you will see under item 4. that, in the case of our December lecture, it will be available for 24 hours after the live broadcast) so, if you cannot view the live broadcast and wish to access the recording, please make sure that you do so within the relevant time frame to – as they say – avoid disappointment!

We have always welcomed visitors and friends to our lectures and we continue to do so while our lectures are online. If, as a member, you invite non-member friends to view a lecture, we would be most grateful if you could encourage your friends to join the Society; we have recently had several new members join after watching previous online lectures.

4. Online lecture on Wednesday 2nd December
I am pleased to announce that our next online lecture will be broadcast live, on YouTube, on Wednesday 2nd December at 11.00am. By the kind agreement of the lecturer, the lecture will remain on YouTube for 24 hours following the live broadcast but will not be available after that time.
More details can be found on this link to our website.

You are very welcome to invite friends and family to watch the lecture with you or, if you prefer, forward them the link to enable them to watch it separately.  In either event, I would be most grateful if you would encourage your friends to join the Society.
The lecture is entitled ‘Johann Sebastian Bach’s Glorious Christmas Oratorio’ which I hope you will agree is an appropriately seasonal title!
Our lecturer will be Sandy Burnett who I am sure many of you will recognise and remember from his excellent lecture to us in June 2020 on ‘Beethoven at 250’ and I look forward to welcoming him back to our Society.  Sandy is a well-known broadcaster and author in the field of classical music.
A link to enable you to access the broadcast will be emailed to you a few days before the 2nd December.

5. Our Christmas Special

In normal circumstances each alternative year, we have a day visit in the run up to Christmas – the last trip in 2018 was a very successful one to Blenheim Palace all decorated for Christmas. Clearly such a trip is not possible in the current abnormal year but we thought that we should still have some event with a Christmas theme to it.

Accordingly, on Friday 18th December at 11:00am, we will be having a virtual Christmas tour, entitled ‘The Spirit of Christmas’

This will be celebrating all things Christmassy. It will be presented by London Blue Badge guides Pepe Martinez and Simon Whitehouse. Many of you will remember Pepe from his wonderful virtual tour of the old East End that he did in August.

More details on the two presenters can be found on our website via this link:
Virtual Day Visit – 18th December 2020

The presentation will be in two parts. Part 1 will explore the history of all those Christmas traditions that we now take for granted such as Christmas crackers, mince pies, Christmas cards and the ubiquitous Christmas tree. There will then be an interval of about 15 minutes and I suggest that you might like to use some of this time to get a mince pie and whatever your favourite festive tipple is to fully enter into the Christmas spirit! Part 2 – well actually the contents of Part 2 are a secret (including from me!) so we will all just have to log in and find out!

This presentation will be broadcast live on YouTube from 11:00am and will last (including the interval and questions) for about 2 hours. It will be retained on YouTube for 48 hours after the live broadcast so if you are not able to see the live broadcast you will be able to see it during that period.

As usual, Keith Roberts will email out the link to enable you to access this a few days before the 18th December.

6. Lecturers online offerings
A number of our lecturers also have other lectures, talks, tours etc on the arts and arts related topics online and, for those of you who wish to access such items I have set out below the offerings of two of our recent lecturers in particular:
Sian Walters (Sian delivered our first ever virtual lecture in April) has just launched a new mini series of online webinars in collaboration with friends and colleagues around the world on a variety of arts subjects. Prices are from £10 and for more information and booking please visit
Pepe Martinez has also launched a series of virtual tours which can be booked singly or covering a group of these tours. Most importantly, for bookings made before 1st December there are ‘early bird’ discounts available. For more detailed information on what is available and to book, contact Pepe on
Finally, may I also be an early bird in terms of Christmas as this will be my last update until after Christmas, and wish all of you a very Happy Christmas and I hope that you are able to celebrate it in whatever way you choose and with whomsoever you choose.

Whatever you do, stay safe and well.

Shaun Pitt
24th November 2020