Constantin Brâncuși
At the beginning of his career, Romanian sculptor Brâncuși spent a couple of months working in Auguste Rodin’s studio, leaving because of his conviction that “Nothing can grow under big trees.”  Breaking out from beneath Rodin’s shadow, he became one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th-century and a pioneer of modernism.  His work was so radical and simplified that it caused controversy, not least when American customs officials refused to accept his Bird in Space as a work of art at all!  We will explore his life and career and feature some of his key works.

John Constable : A Walk on the Wild Side
Any exploration of the work of John Constable must start by looking at his childhood in the Stour Valley, Suffolk. Constable himself said that the landscape in this area is what made him want to be a painter. This lecture provides a general background to the life and work of Constable, it also looks at the ‘wild side’ of Constable’s practice, examining the extent to which he was seen by his contemporaries as a radical artist, as opposed to the traditional, even ‘chocolate box’ artist many think of him as today.

‘Mad Tracey from Margate’ : The Work of Tracey Emin
Tracey Emin shot to fame and notoriety with My Bed in 1999, taking up a role as the enfant terrible of the Young British Artists. She has since earned fortune and criticism in virtually equal measure, with important curators and critics supporting her work, whilst others have accused her of courting controversy and being self-indulgent in the autobiographical slant of her work. This lecture looks at some aspects of what is a wide-ranging and varied body of work and seeks to examine some of the reasons behind the antagonism Emin has faced.

Antony Gormley ‘Another Place’, Crosby

Antony Gormley : A Body of Work

Antony Gormley’s career spans nearly 40 years, during which time he has made sculpture that explores the relationship of the human body to space, often using his own body as his starting point. His work has been shown throughout the world, in galleries including the Tate in London and the Hermitage in St Petersburg, but is also often on open display, as public art, such as Another Place at Crosby Beach, near Liverpool.

As well as works that he is well known for, like the iconic Angel of the North, this lecture will look at some of his earlier and less well known works, to give an overall view of the development of his work across his whole career, up to the present time.

Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor
Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor are amongst the most well-known sculptors working in Britain today and have both had major commissions for public works of art.  With a wide range of inspirations and motifs, the work of these two artists provides an interesting insight into contemporary views and preoccupations in Britain.  This lecture will look at examples of both artists’ work, exploring the common ground between them, as well as the differences in style, technique and themes.

William Hogarth : “A terrier snapping at the heels of the great”
This lecture looks at the life, times and work of William Hogarth, who has been described as ‘The Father of British Art’. Hogarth was closely involved with the social and political issues of his times, as is reflected in his work and the sometimes scathing and satirical nature of his responses to current issues. His relationship with some of the important personalities of the time will also be explored, be it his support of the work of his father-in-law Sir James Thornhill, or his attacks on the work of William Kent or the politics of John Wilkes. It explores the variety of forms he worked in, from his ‘Modern Moral Subjects’ and Conversation Pieces to his portraiture and attempts at History painting. But no exploration of Hogarth’s work would be complete without looking at his cutting and often bawdy sense of humour and an exploration of the wealth of detail in his work.

Hans Holbein : The London Years
A general biographical lecture on Holbein, his life – what is known of it – and his work, focusing particularly on his two extended stays in England. This lecture will explore the religious and political background of Holbein’s times and the impact this had on his life and career as an artist. Looking at Holbein’s close links with the court of King Henry VIII during his second visit to England and how his images of the King have done a great deal to establish a certain view of Henry in modern minds. Also exploring the impact that Holbein had on the development of portraiture in this country, to the extent that those who followed him, for example Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680), would complain that all English patrons were interested in was ‘their own dull counterfeits’.

Wassily Kandinsky : The Father of Abstraction?
This lecture explores Kandinsky’s journey from figurative landscape painter to modernist master, as one of the first artists to develop a radically abstract language. It examines how, from his early landscapes inspired by the Bavarian countryside and folk imagery from Russian fairy tales and legends, Kandinsky’s style evolved after he moved to Germany and co-founded Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) group. The lecture looks at how Kandinsky came to see painting as an alternative pathway to spiritual reality, increasingly stripping away descriptive detail by reducing recognisable elements. At the same time, he began to include large areas of vibrant colour to stimulate emotions associated with classical music, pursuing his interest in synaesthesia.

Dame Laura Knight : ‘From Grease Paint to Oil Paint’
In 1936 Dame Laura Knight became the first woman to be elected as a full member of the Royal Academy in London, 168 years after its establishment. In her extraordinary career she painted landscapes, portraits and seascapes, as well as scenes from the circus, the ballet and the theatre. She was the only woman to be given War Commissions in both the First and Second World Wars and the only British artist to cover the Nuremberg Trials of 1946. This lecture provides an overview of her fascinating career and some of the remarkable achievements of her long life.

L.S. Lowry
L.S. Lowry produced some of England’s most original and distinctive paintings, creating a social document of a now bygone industrial age. This lecture looks at his well-known industrial scenes, but also at works that are less readily associated with him, such as his seascapes. The lecture explores his life in and around Salford, his attitudes and his healthy disregard for the trappings of the fame and fortune that were eventually to be his. An exploration of a life and a body of work full of surprises and contradictions.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Scottish architect, designer and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh is now a well-known name and a major draw for the tourist industry in Glasgow, with several of his buildings still existing, as well as his designs for Tea Rooms.  However, his work was not always so well received and, following some early success, which included his architectural masterpiece, the Glasgow School of Art, his prospects floundered.  His work was increasingly unfashionable as Glasgow turned to Neoclassicism and he found himself struggling to secure commissions.  In this lecture we track him from that early success in his native Glasgow, through the years of doubt and struggle, ultimately to the South of France where he enjoyed the last few years of his life travelling with his wife and collaborator Margaret and reinvented himself as a water colour painter.  With a wonderful array of beautifully designed buildings, furniture and interiors to enjoy along the way, we explore how such early promise turned to disappointment and Mackintosh became the archetypal misunderstood artist.
David Nash : One Man and his Wood
David Nash is a contemporary artist, working mainly in wood. His large wood sculptures are sometimes carved or burned to produce blackening, his tools include chainsaws, axes, fire blowtorch, and yet his work shows an extraordinary knowledge of and sensitivity to the wood that he works with. This lecture provides an overview of his career, including some of his most famous works, such as Wooden Boulder and Ash Dome.

Cornelia Parker : An Explosive World
Contemporary sculptor and installation artist Cornelia Parker is best known for her large-scale installations such as Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991), the suspended fragments of a garden shed and its contents, which she had blown up by the British Army and installed around a single light bulb, to create the dramatic effect of an explosion frozen in time. With such pieces as that and Thirty Pieces of Silver (1988-9), she creates works of beauty from acts of destruction, transforming everyday objects and investigating their nature and value. This lecture explores her intriguing and thought-provoking work.

Van Dyck and England
Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) has been described as the greatest painter in 17th century Britain. Though born and trained in Antwerp, he had a huge impact on British cultural life as the principal painter at King Charles I’s court. Following a brief visit to London in 1620-21 he returned in 1632 and remained there for the majority of the time until his premature death at the age of 42. He was working in a period of intense political ferment during the run-up to the British Civil War and portrayed many of the leading characters of the period. His iconic portraits of King Charles I have shaped our view of the Stuart monarchy. This lecture will look at the life and works of Van Dyck, focusing particularly on works produced during his period in England.

Joseph Wright of Derby : Casting a Light
Joseph Wright of Derby is notable for his exploration of light, including his paintings of candle-lit subjects and Eruptions of Vesuvius. His paintings capture a period of industrialization, and scientific experimentation and discovery that had a massive impact on the history of England. This lecture explores some of his preoccupations as an artist and as a key figure in the period known as the Age of Enlightenment.