Category Archives: Uncategorised

Wednesday 2nd September 2020 – Catherine de Medici: the Story of Three in a Marriage

Catherine de Medici: the Story of Three in a Marriage

Catherine de Medici and Henry IV
Henry IV and Catherine de Medici

Fine Art Images/ Heritage Images/ Getty Images

Wednesday 2nd September 2020

Caroline Rayman

The sad life story of an unfortunate young woman who left Florence to become the Queen of France.

Caroline has lectured for many years to universities and art organisations in America and on cruise ships. She was an official guide at the British Museum and has published articles on samplers.

This is the first lecture of the 2020/ 21 season.

Wednesday 1st July 2020 – The Art of Taking Tea

The Art of Taking Tea

The Art of Taking Tea
Afternoon Tea, 1886.
Chromolithograph after Kate Greenaway
Credit: Welcome Collection

© Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) terms and conditions

Wednesday 1st July 2020

Gaye Blake Roberts

This lecture will explore the extraordinary story of the development of drinking tea in Britain from its introduction, through the importance of the Far Eastern trade, to the general usage of tea in modern times. It will examine the changing styles and uses of tea wares and will also look at the implications of how the beverage altered the habits of the nation.

Gaye Blake Roberts is Curator of the Wedgwood Museum, having worked previously at the V&A and the Coalport China Works Museum.  She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Fellow of the Museums Association.

Gaye has lectured extensively throughout Britain, Italy, Australia and the USA and has often appeared on national radio and television.

She has contributed to catalogues for major exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts, the V&A and other international museums and has written a number of specialist books on ceramics and the creativity and innovation of Wedgwood.

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

Wednesday 3rd June 2020 – Women Behind the Lens: Outstanding Female Photographers and Their Contribution to the Art of Photography

Women Behind the Lens: Outstanding Female Photographers and Their Contribution to the Art of Photography

Migrant Woman - Dorothea Lange

Migrant Mother (1936)
Dorothea Lange

Public domain image

Wednesday 3rd June 2020

Brian Stater

The work of women photographers has often been unfairly neglected. This lecture seeks to correct that by examining the contribution of three outstanding British practitioners; Victorian pioneer Julia Margaret Cameron, portraitist Jane Bown and landscape photographer Fay Godwin – and that of two influential Americans – Dorothea Lange, with her documentary images, and contemporary photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Brian’s chief interests lie in photography, architecture and history and he combines all three in his lecturing career. He has taught at University College London, since 1997 and became an accredited lecturer for The Arts Society in 2003. He is a member of the Association for Historical and Fine Art Photography and an exhibition of his own photographs has been staged at UCL.

In an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of the skills of some great photographers of the past, he has begun to work with a pre-War Leica camera, as used by his great hero, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and many others.

Wednesday 6th May 2020 – Penny Guggenheim

Penny Guggenheim

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

Wednesday 6th May 2020

Alexandra Epps

Peggy Guggenheim, the ‘poor little rich girl’ who changed the face of twentieth century art.

Not only was Peggy Guggenheim 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 is an Official Guide and Lecturer at Tate Modern, Tate Britain and Guildhall Art Gallery. She lectures at Pallant House Gallery and is a Qualified Guide to the City of London, offering lectures and walks about many aspects of the arts for societies, corporations and private individuals.

She is a Member of the City of London Guide Lecturers Association and Co-author of the book Lord Mayor’s Portraits 1983-2014 (2015).

Alexandra’s background is in design, having practised as a graphic designer running her own design consultancy for many years. She holds a BA from Saint Martins School of Art, and an MA from the London College of Printing.

Wednesday 1st April 2020 – Raphael: A Master in the Making

Raphael: A Master in the Making

The Transfiguration - Raphael

The Transfiguration by Raphael
[Public domain image]

Wednesday 1st April 2020

Siân Walters

Raphael, one of the three giants of the High Renaissance in Italy alongside Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, moved from humble commissions in Urbino to become one of the leading artists at the court of Pope Julius II in Rome. This lecture explores how he achieved this extraordinary rise in status.

Siân is a highly qualified and experienced tutor and events organiser, and lectures regularly for the National Gallery, The Arts Society, The Art Fund, Friends of the Royal Academy and many other galleries, colleges and arts societies. She was a lecturer at Surrey University for many years and in 2016 was named a Highly Commended finalist in the World’s Best Guide Awards.  Siân is a firm believer in making art history fun!

Wednesday 4th March 2020 – Charles Dickens – The Man, His Life, and His Characters

Charles Dickens – The Man, His Life, and His Characters

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens by Crowdy & Loud, after G.L. Lea, or after Mason & Co (Robert Hindry Mason) photogravure, published 21 December 1901 (1863) NPG x28075

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Wednesday 4th March 2020

Bertie Pearce

Charles John Huffam Dickens brought into the world a staggering array of wonderful characters with orphans, starving children, misers, murderers and abusive school teachers among them.

People such as Mr Mcawber, Fagin and Abel Magwitch remain in one’s literary psyche long after the books are put down.

Largely self educated, Dickens posessed the genius to become the greatest writer of his age with fifteen major novels and countless short stories and articles.

In his lecture Bertie Pearce looks at the life and places of Dickens while interspersing the events with readings of his works. A truly Dickensian experience.

Bertie has a BA (Hons) in Drama from Manchester University, and a Diploma Internationale from the École Internationale du Théatre, Jacques Lecoq. He is a member of the Inner Magic Circle, with Gold Star. Past experience includes lecturing and performing on cruise ships, and to U3A, historical societies, festivals, schools and colleges. In addition, he has toured the world with a magic cabaret show and a one man show entitled All Aboard and has written articles for newspapers and magazines on entertainment and theatre.

Wednesday 5th February 2020 – Art of the Islands: An Introduction to Early Medieval Art in Britain and Ireland c. 500-850

Art of the Islands: An Introduction to Early Medieval Art in Britain and Ireland c. 500-850

The Ardagh Chalice
Photograph © National Museum
of Ireland

Wednesday 5th February 2020

Michelle Brown

The different cultures present in these islands before the Norman conquest produced stunning metalwork such as the Sutton Hoo and Staffordshire Hoard, the Ardagh Chalice and the Tara brooch, magnificent manuscripts such as the books of Durrow and Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels, and sculptures such as the Ruthwell Cross and the enigmatic Pictish carvings.

This illustrated lecture examines the different cultures present in these islands before the Norman conquest – Celtic, Pictish, Anglo-Saxon and Viking – and traces their interaction across the various artistic media, setting them within the historical context. Stunning metalwork, such as the Sutton Hoo and Staffordshire Hoard, the Ardagh Chalice and Tara brooch, magnificent manuscripts such as the books of Durrow and Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels and sculptures such as the Ruthwell Cross and the enigmatic Pictish carvings are amongst the masterpieces considered.

Michelle holds a BA in History and History of Art, Westfield College, and a PhD in History, UCL.   She is Professor Emerita of Medieval Manuscript Studies, SAS, University of London, Visiting Professor at UCL and Baylor University, and Senior Researcher at the University of Oslo.

She was formerly a Course Tutor in History of the Book (SAS), Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library, and lecturer at Birkbeck and Morley Colleges.

Her recent publications include The Book and the Transformation of Britain, c.550-1050 (2011) and Art of the Islands: Celtic, Pictish and Anglo-Saxon Visual Culture (Bodleian, 2016).

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”.