Themes

A Highland Thing: 18th to 20th Century Scottish Art
For many years Scottish artists found it necessary to travel south to make their names and careers in art, but with the increasing importance of the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow from the end of the 18th Century an independent Scottish art scene became possible. These developments will be traced through individuals such as Sir Henry Raeburn, the first artist to find success whilst remaining in his native Scotland and Sir David Wilkie, important as one of the first to truly export Scottish art. This lecture looks at the parallels between Scottish and other European art, as well as periods of divergence, touching on art movements such as the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists.

An Illustrated Dickens
This lecture examines how contemporary artists responded to the life and works of Charles Dickens. It explores artists’ interpretation of some of Dickens’ most popular characters, in paintings as well as the original book illustrations. It also looks at portraits of Dickens himself over the years and how images of him changed as he became an increasingly important and respected figure.

From Corot to Monet – Developments in French Landscape Painting
In this lecture we trace the development of French Landscape Painting, from its humble beginnings when it was not even considered by many to be a worthy subject for painting, to the gradual acceptance of landscape by the art establishment, as long as it included an ‘historical’ element.  From there it developed in radical form with an insistence on realism and the harshness of rural life, as illustrated famously by Jean-François Millet’s The Gleaners and in the work of others of the ‘Barbizon School’, and Gustave Courbet.  This realism was subsequently undermined by the Impressionists who, with their sketchy, visible brush strokes, attempted to capture the changing qualities of light in nature.  The story covers the battles landscape painters fought and won to gain acceptance and recognition for their subject, culminating in the highpoint of landscape’s popularity, with the acceptance of the work of the Impressionists, whose work now attracts universal plaudits and commands huge sums on the art market.

From Pheasants to Peasants : Changing Images of the English Landscape
This talk looks at British landscape painting, tracing its development from representations of country house estates to meditations on nature, later echoed in the work of Turner and Constable. It also looks at changing attitudes towards ‘The Landscape’, from individually-owned plots to land democratically accessible to all and comes right up to date, to examine artists’ response to landscape in more recent years.

Painted Ladies and Gentlemen: Portraiture in Britain
A look at some of the great Portraits in England’s National Collections, starting in the 1500s. The changing styles of portraiture over the years are reflected and some of the more unusual portraits are explored.

Breeches Bonnets and Bags: British Fashion in Art through the centuries
Portraits provide a fascinating insight into the changing styles of dress over the centuries. This lecture follows the different fashions as revealed in paintings, looking at dress and accessories, and some of the more ridiculous styles of fashion from the 16th century to the 19th century. It focuses particularly on fashion in England, but looks also at some contrasting Continental fashions. In times when Sumptuary Laws prescribed what you could wear, according to your status in society, fashion was much less of a personal choice and more a reflection of social standing. The colour of your clothing or a plunging neckline could mark you out as belonging to a particular class. Whilst the ordinary working folk might have longed for a wardrobe full of reds, purples and golds (or, indeed, for a wardrobe at all!), their ‘superiors’ may well have envied them their ability to move freely in their clothes, without the restrictions of ruffs, stuffed sleeves, enormous petticoats, or headdresses the size of small animals …. sometimes also containing small animals! Have fun exploring the wildest extremes of fashion through the ages.

Every Picture Tells a Story: Literature in Art
A lecture exploring depictions of literature in British art, from the beginnings in the work of Hogarth and his contemporaries, to Victorian interpretations of literary works by writers such as Tennyson and Shakespeare. How have artists brought great characters from books and poetry to life? This provides a glimpse of works by many different artists, both famous and less well known, and their responses to works of British literature.

The Changing Face of London
The work of artists over the centuries contains hundreds of images of London, providing a fascinating social document of the Capital. This lecture looks at just a few of these works, both from home-grown Cockneys to Visitors to the City. With images of buildings long gone and the documenting of new arrivals as London expanded and changed, we get a fascinating glimpse into the Changing Face of London.

Women Artists in Britain
Why are there comparatively few famous women artists? This talk looks at the obstacles put in the way of women who wanted to become artists and how they sought to overcome them to make their way in a strongly male-dominated profession. Bringing us right up to date, with the work of Young British Artists such as Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin, it explores whether it is now true to say that the sexes are on an equal footing in the world of art.

Understanding Signs and Symbols in Art
Focusing in on signs within paintings, this lecture explores how signs and symbols are used to tell the story of a painting. It will also show how paintings spreading across centuries often use the same imagery, whether in religious or secular paintings. By learning to ‘read’ these signs and symbols we are better able to understand paintings.

Spirituality in 20th Century Art
A look at Spirituality in the work of various 20th century artists. taking as a definition “being dedicated to spiritual things or values, as contrasted with material or temporal ones”. This covers the overtly religious work of artists such as Eric Gill, as well as the more generally spiritual element of works by artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, in their appreciation of nature and ‘truth to materials’. This lecture looks at Kandinsky’s work, both practical and theoretical in his ‘Concerning the Spiritual in Art’ and also at the spiritual element of Mondrian’s work. Continuing on, to explore the work of artists throughout the 20th century, with a postscript on the work of contemporary artists whose work also contains an element of spirituality.

Representations of Women in Art
A look at how women have been represented by art and artists over the years and how their representation within art reflects the wider attitudes of society towards women’s position. Looking particularly at the depiction of women during the Victorian age. Women who were not ‘neutralised’ by being depicted as wife and/or mother were often portrayed in a way that seemed to perpetuate the dual depiction of woman as either the pure ‘Angel of the House’ or the wicked and ‘fallen’ woman. Where were the images of women as independent agents, following their own path within society? To what extent have depictions of women within art been true reflections of their position within society as a whole?

Contemporary British Sculptors:
This lecture can combine the work of (1) Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor; (2) Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor and Cornelia Parker or (3) Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor and Mark Wallinger
Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor, Mark Wallinger and Cornelia Parker, are amongst the most well-known sculptors working in Britain today and have all had major commissions for public works of art. With a wide range of inspirations and motifs, the work of these artists provides an interesting insight into contemporary views and preoccupations in Britain. The lecture will look at examples of the artists’ work (in whichever combination is chosen), exploring both the common ground between them, and the differences in style, technique and themes.