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Update – April 2019

Dear Members,

Welcome to Spring 2019!

Those of you who are diligent readers of my various newsletters and updates (which I am sure is everyone!) will have noticed that I promised three updates in October, December and April. I did not actually produce an update in December because, given that there was going to be (and was) a full newsletter in January, I thought that it might be a case of communication overload.  I propose to continue with the pattern of newsletters and updates that has been established this season. I hope that this will strike the always difficult balance between keeping you informed about what your society is doing and avoiding the ‘oh no-not another email from the Arts Society!’ reaction. If anyone has any contrary views on this, please do let me know.

We are now two thirds of the way through the 2018/19 lecture programme and what a successful one it has been to date. We owe many thanks to Carolyn Voss and Eithne Batt for putting together such a varied and interesting programme.

The first lecture of 2019 was ‘Votes for Women! Art and the Suffragettes’ which certainly lived up to my earlier prediction that it would be far more stimulating than current day politics! This was followed by the always irrepressible Peter Medhurst on the ‘Music of Paint’ which proved to be a fascinating look at how musicians, music itself and musical instruments are represented in art. Most recently, we had Nicholas Watkins on ‘The Horse and Modern Art from George Stubbs to Mark Wallinger’, a most interesting review of the horse in art and its links to the human condition.  We start the last third of the season on Wednesday 1 May with Gavin Plumley on ‘The Art and Culture of Fin de Siecle Vienna’ which, as a fan of Vienna as a city and art centre, I personally very much look forward to.

Hopefully you will by now all be aware that we started making a light sandwich lunch available for members who wished to participate on the upstairs level of the Spa Centre and that seems to have been well received. If you would like to join friends, fellow members and the committee, you can sign up the month before for lunch at the following month’s lecture at a price of £7 per head; the sign in process is with our membership secretary, Margot Radomska, who will be at her desk just inside the main doors as you enter the Spa Centre. As always, your programme card contains full details of the lecture programme and synopses of all the lectures are on our website ( It also has details of our days of special interest, day visits, short breaks and our volunteering activities so please do make use of it to keep up to date on what is going on in your society.

There is one upcoming event that is not on the programme card because it was organised after the card was printed and that is the afternoon tea party at Audley Binswood on Thursday 25th April at 3pm.  There are still some tickets available for this, priced at a very reasonable £10. If you are interested in coming, please contact Roz Crampton on 01926 833609.

Despite the high bar set by the previous day of special interest, our most recent such event on Friday 15th March on ‘How to look at Paintings: Unlocking Hidden Meanings in Art’ at our now usual venue for these events, the Warwickshire Golf Club, was equally well received by the full house audience. Our presenter, Stella Grace Lyons, gave all of us some help and ideas as how better to view and appreciate paintings of all ages and genres.

After our day visit to Stonor and Hughenden on 8th May, our next day visit is to Belvoir Castle on Wednesday 14th August and tickets for this will be on sale at the May lecture.

Our volunteers have continued with their considerable range of projects and I had the pleasure to visit those volunteers working in the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry and see, first hand, the work they were doing to preserve the extensive collection of garments. It was clear that the work they do was very well regarded and appreciated by the Herbert’s curator.

The volunteers at the Lord Leycester Hospital have just completed their work on cleaning a major part of the weaponry there and the Master of the Hospital has sent me a letter of thanks for the quality of what they have achieved.  I have, of course, passed this on to the members of the team so many congratulations to them.

I hope that you will enjoy the remainder of our season and I look forward to seeing and meeting as many of you as possible at our events.  In the meantime may I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Easter holiday.

Shaun Pitt


4th July 2018 – The Punch and Judy Show (A Subversive Symbol from Commedia Dell

The Punch and Judy Show (A Subversive Symbol from Commedia Dell’Arte to the Present Day)


Wednesday 4th July 2018

Bertie Pearce

Mr Punch – the most famous puppet figure of all time. His comic irreverence gave “Punch” magazine its title, and his anarchic vitality has inspired opera, ballet and punk rock. His enduring popularity has seen his likeness on goods ranging from Victorian silverware to video games.

Appearing in England in 1662, Punch is descended from the clown Pulcinella of the 15th Century Commedia Dell’Arte tradition. Even today this Lord of Misrule uses his slapstick to dispense with oppressive authority, be it politicians, Political Correctness or the devil, while proclaiming his notorious refrain “That’s the way to do it!”

N.B. This lecture will follow our AGM which will start at 10.30am.

6th June 2018 – Basingstoke and its Contribution to World Culture

Basingstoke and its Contribution to World Culture


Wednesday 6th June 2018

Rupert Willoughby

One of the most derided towns in England, renowned for its dullness, Basingstoke is distinguished only by its numerous roundabouts and absurd Modernist architecture.

Rupert explains that the post-war planners, who inflicted such features as “the Great Wall of Basingstoke” on the town, were politically motivated and bent on destroying all traces of its past. He reveals the nobler Basingstoke that is buried beneath the concrete, and the few historic gems that have survived.

It is a story that neatly illustrates the ugliest episode in England’s architectural history.  As Betjeman wrote prophetically, “What goes for Basingstoke goes for most English towns”.


2nd May 2018 – Piero della Francesca

Piero della Francesca


Wednesday 2nd May 2018

Shirley Smith

It is just over 600 years since the birth of this enigmatic painter.

His grave, solid figures set in a timeless landscape and lit by a clear light, encapsulate the harmony of man and his world that was at the heart of Italian Renaissance thought. But they are, in fact, a perfect fusion of the influences of the North and South, of light and logic, which reflect his native countryside while yet conveying a spirituality that reaches out over time and boundaries.

Whether working for the church or his patron, Federigo da Montefeltro, his paintings radiate serenity and timelessness.

4th April 2018 – The Secret Language of Sacred Spaces: religious architecture of the world

The Secret Language of Sacred Spaces: religious architecture of the world


Wednesday 4th April 2018

Jon Cannon

Religion has been the inspiration for many of the greatest buildings of the world. Indeed for much of human history the stories of architecture and religion were synonymous.

We will move from early societies such as Mesopotamia and Egypt before focussing on the living faiths: the great continuities of Buddhism and Hinduism, and the revolutionary changes brought about in monotheistic Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

7th March 2018 – Painters of Provence

Painters of Provence


Wednesday March 7th 2018

Ms Juliet Heslewood

This lecture tied in with our Society’s trip to Provence in April.

In her richly illustrated lecture, Juliet explained how the development of the French railway network in the mid nineteenth century encouraged artists to leave Paris and join fellow artists working in such areas as Provence. Features of the work of the newcomers included using more vivid colours.

Besides examining the work of Cezanne, van Gogh and Gaugin, she introduced the audience to local artists including Leo Lelee and Monticello.

7th February 2018 – 250 Years of the Royal Academy

250 Years of the Royal Academy


Wednesday 7th February 2018

Rosalind Whyte

We will look at the position of artists before and after the formation of the Royal Academy in 1768, and some of the characters involved, from the first President Sir Joshua Reynolds to more oppositional artists such as Gainsborough and the initially clandestine Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood.

As with any important institution the Academy has been embroiled in intrigue and controversy over its history and no scandal or outrage will remain unexposed.

1st November 2017 – Warwick Castle: A Forgotten Collection

Warwick Castle – A Forgotten Collection


Wednesday 1st November 2017

Adam Busiakiewicz

Warwick Castle remains one of Britain’s best preserved and most popular medieval castles. The walls were raised by the Earls of Warwick who took a leading role in the most important events of Medieval England. In 1604 the castle was transformed into a fortification and a luxurious stately home.

The Earls of the eighteenth and nineteenth century filled the castle with a wealth of paintings, furniture, arms and armour and objets d’art. This lecture will introduce us to some of these undiscovered treasures.

4th October 2017 – “Mars and the Muses”: the Renaissance Art of Armour

“Mars and the Muses” – the Renaissance Art of Armour


Wednesday 4th October 2017

Dr Tobias Capwell

Armour was one of the great Renaissance art forms, but it is often overlooked. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries almost all the richest and most powerful noblemen could be counted as dedicated patrons of the art.

This was an intensely personal art, both expressive and decorative. It also demanded great skill in the sculpting of iron and steel as well as mastery of complex decorative techniques. The end result embodied more complex messages about status and the social order, divine power, and attitudes and identities.

6th September 2017 – Magyars and Gypsies – Liszt and the Hungarian National Style

Magyars and Gypsies – Liszt and the Hungarian Nation


Wednesday 6th September 2017

Rosamund Bartlett

Franz Liszt was a cosmopolitan figure – he even visited Leamington Spa –but with the rise of Hungarian nationalism he was increasingly seen as the soul of the Magyar people, a position solidified with his wildly popular Hungarian Rhapsodies. Why did Liszt and others associate Hungarian music with gypsies?

This lecture explores what it was to be Hungarian at the time of the creation of the new capital city of Budapest in 1867, and why the much younger Bartok challenged his view of the Hungarian national style.