Category Archives: Lectures


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

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

Wednesday 3rd November 2021 – Catherine de Medici: the Story of Three in a Marriage

Catherine de Medici: the Story of Three in a Marriage

Tomb of Catherine de Medici and Henry II – Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis – Paris.

Image used under Wikipedia Creative Commons Licence-SA 3.0

Wednesday 3rd November 2021

Caroline Rayman

Catherine de Medici, the only woman ever to rule France, married Henry, second son of King Francis I. This was a dazzling match for a Florentine “daughter of a merchant”. But the young bride arrived in a strange country to find a third person in the marriage, and her new husband completely uninterested in her.

She had enemies in the French court and life was a great struggle. After many unhappy years, she became ruler of France (three of her sons would rule after her) and mother-in-law to Mary Queen of Scots.

Caroline Rayman has lectured for many years to universities and art organisations in America and on cruises. She was an official guide at the British Museum and has published articles on samplers. Her lectures range from the role of the royal mistress in history to more scholarly lectures on Frederick the Great of Prussia.

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 9th March 2022 – Lucian Freud: Portraits

Lucian Freud: Portraits

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.

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

Click here for our April lecture

Wednesday 13th April 2022 – 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 13th April 2022

Mary Alexander

“The fun of being a New York painter is that landmarks are torn down so rapidly that your canvases become historic records almost before the paint on them is dry.”  John Sloan

The term ‘Ashcan School’ was used to describe the realism and contemporary subject matter of a New York based group of artists, exhibiting as ‘The Eight’ in 1908.  In fact, they were not a formal school or an ‘ism’, nor were their subjects confined to gritty realism, but they shared a fascination with zesty everyday life scenes, delighting in depicting the leisures and pleasures of the city’s working inhabitants, as well as their trades and toils.  Each had an individual style, and all rejected the stolid conservatism and rigid teaching practices of the National Academy of Design.  In this lecture we will explore the work of this extraordinary group of individual artists and friends who came together to exhibit paintings, share ideas, and create vivid and stunningly beautiful images of a New York city in transition at the beginning of the twentieth century. 

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.

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

Click here for our May 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 1st June 2022 – Peggy Guggenheim

Peggy Guggenheim

Guggenheim Venice
Guggenheim Museum, Venice
Image by Waldo Miguez from Pixabay

Wednesday 1st June 2022

Alexandra Epps

Peggy Guggenheim was the ‘poor little rich girl’ who changed the face of twentieth century art. Not only was she ahead of her time but she was the woman who helped define it. She discovered and nurtured a new generation of artists producing a new kind of art. Through collecting not only art but the artists themselves, her life was as radical as her collection.

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.

Click here for our July lecture

Wednesday 6th July 2022 – 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 6th July 2022

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 including twice recently to great acclaim at Royal Leamington Spa.

This lecture will follow the AGM which will begin at 10:30am

Wednesday 7th September 2022 The Lewis Chessmen and What Happened to Them

The Lewis Chessmen and What Happened to Them

Wednesday 7th September 2022

Irving Finkel

Lewis Chessmen

This lecture will be a personal look at the twelfth-century ivory Lewis Chessmen, which have bewitched the lecturer in the British Museum for some fifty-five years, and the adventures to which they have led him: bilingual books, films, explorations, adventures, replicas and even H. Potter and his peer group.

Irving Finkel is a British philologist and Assyriologist. He is currently the Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian script, languages and cultures in the Department of the Middle East in the British Museum, where he specialises in cuneiform inscriptions on tablets of clay from ancient Mesopotamia. Irving is the author of several academic articles and books on ancient Babylon. He also studies the history of board games, and is on the Editorial Board of Board Game Studies. Among his breakthrough works is the determination of the rules of the Royal Game of Ur. Irving founded the Great Diary Project, a project to preserve the diaries of ordinary people. In association with the Bishopsgate Institute, he has helped to archive over 2,000 personal diaries. In 2014, the V&A Museum of Childhood held an exhibition of the diaries of children written between 1813 and 1996. Irving has written a number of works of fiction for children, including The Princess Who Wouldn’t Come Home and Swizzle de Brax and the Blungaphone.