10th January 2024
Chantal Brotherton Ratcliffe
First Catch a Squirrel
The 14th century artist Cennino Cennini provided insight into of some of the surprising materials which any artist had to master before he could begin to paint, such as the tail of a squirrel and burnt chicken bones. Many of these materials were difficult to use and had an effect on the finished look of paintings from the centuries before industrial processes changed the artist’s world. This lecture will explain the techniques and the reasons for some of the features of 15th and 16th century paintings which may seem odd to our modern eyes.
Vermeer and Music – Art of Love and Leisure
Lydia will explore the role of music and musical instruments in both life and art of the Dutch Golden Age. This talk comes with musical excerpts which illustrate particular instruments shown in paintings. Based on a popular exhibition at the National Gallery by the same title some years ago.
13th March 2024
Almost everyone has played Monopoly at some time in their life. It is one of the world’s most popular and enduring board games. But, how well do you really know it?
This talk starts with the original Landlord’s Game of 1903 and its evolution into the game as we know it today. Based on the classic 1936 London version we then take a photographic journey around the locations on that Monopoly board. Expect some surprises as we explore the relationships between the various properties, look at the ones that don’t actually exist and uncover the story behind the game we all know so well – or do we?
10th April 2024
Mexican Art and Culture
Few countries in the world offer such a rich and varied cultural heritage as Mexico. Before the Spanish Conquest of 1519, numerous civilisations rose and fell. Their great cities were peopled by muralists, sculptors in stone, ceramic artists, feather and gold workers, jewellers, weavers and painters of sacred books. Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) and Diego Rivera (1886-1957) helped to shape the cultural identity of twentieth-century Mexico by fusing pre-Conquest and European traditions. Today countless folk-artists create splendid weavings, rich embroideries, shimmering beadwork, jewellery of silver and gold, fine pottery and dance-masks for religious festivals.
8th May 2024
Everything You Need to Know About the Royal Ballet in 60 mins
Ballet must be one of the most accessible art forms, but it has its baffling side. Another line up of women in white? Does he really fall in love with a swan? Couldn’t we have subtitles when they start gesturing at each other? The lecture covers all the striking features of ballet, from pas de deux, to Royal Ballet specialities like fast feet and traditional mime. Set in the context of the Royal Ballet’s history and performing tradition, the talk is based on years of articles and events shared with dancers, choreographers and ballet masters.
12th June 2024
Catherine the Great: The World’s Greatest Collector
In 1745, a Princess from the minor province of Anhalt-Zerbst in Saxony, married Prince Karl Peter Ulrich of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf, heir to the Imperial Russian Throne. She was Princess Sophie Auguste Frederike and by 1762 she had deposed Prince Karl, was crowned Empress Catherine II and became the sole ruler of the Russian Empire. With seemingly inexhaustible wealth, she set about creating the most glittering court in Europe, if not the world. From the arts, to architecture, to the most dazzling of jewels, her passion for cultivating, commissioning and collecting only the finest has formed the nucleus of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
In his talk Andrew guides you through this fascinating time and illustrates what was created, lost and survives to this day, not to mention her private passions.
Are You Sitting Comfortably?
This lecture is about the development of the chair in terms of its construction and style from ancient times through to the 19th century and also its use as a symbol of power and authority in courtly ritual.
Mid 18th Century Rococo Silver – its social context and the adventures of its owners and makers
Ralph will discuss the Huguenot influence on this most decorative period. His talk will Illustrate new silversmithing techniques fused with new designs, together with methods of manufacture, interpretation of engraved heraldry and the social context. The audience will be taken on a journey to uncover the original owners by tracing the heraldry and revealing aspects of their life stories.
Fabulously wealthy aristocrats and middling sorts variously had a stint in the Tower of London, had tragic family circumstances, had their descendants gamble away their estates, or were dragged to their death in an overturned carriage… Knowledge of the owner’s background and exploits adds considerably to their interest and brings another dimension to the objects.
9th October 2024
Top 20 Most Popular Artworks in Britain Today
Beginning with Radio 4 in 2005, and continued by the likes of YouGov, panels of art experts, and several broadsheets and tabloids, there has been a fascination to discover the most popular paintings and other artworks in Britain today. This lecture brings together results from seven recent polls and several sets of expert recommendations, to present the most popular paintings in Britain over the last 20 years. There will be some surprises when it’s revealed which paintings and painters did and did not make it into the Top 40, let alone the Top 20. The no. 1 painting may also come as a surprise. Prior to the lecture, members of the audience will be asked to predict their Top Three. Towards the end of the lecture, audience members will see how their predictions shaped up. There will also be time to reflect on the factors that make a painting popular.
The Three Kings – the Real Story
A light-hearted seasonal lecture for Christmas, describing what we actually know about the three kings – or rather what we don’t know! For a start we don’t know how many “kings” there were. Matthew doesn’t tell us. We assume they were 3 because they brought 3 gifts. But why gold, frankincense and myrrh?
Also, there’s no reason to suppose they were kings of anywhere. We don’t even know their gender – some of them might have been women. And since they gave away the location of the baby Jesus to Herod the alleged baby slayer, we can reasonably assume they weren’t too clever – let alone wise!