Programme 2017-18

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13th September 2017item2
The Silver Thread: Filigree Silver in Kosovo

From the early Kosovan silver mines which are mentioned in Dante, through the twentieth century politics over Kosovo’s mines which resulted in both a war and a golf course, a silver thread winds through Kosovo’s history. Its most intricate tanglings are in the country’s cultural capital, Prizren, where a seventh generation of filigree artisans use ‘filum’ and ‘granum’, zigzags, ‘mouse-tooth’ designs and other twists and turns to magic lacy creations from dull sticks of raw material. The results – in boxes, buttons, jewellery, religious ornamentation and the talismans of superstitition – are a fine narrative of Kosovo’s history and traditions.

Lecturer: Elizabeth Gowing who studied at Magdalen College,Oxford before training as a teacher and working in Lambeth, Hackney and Islington. She moved to Kosovo in 2006 and there worked with the Ethnological Museum in Prishtina and co-founded ‘The Ideas Partnership’, a charity working on education and cultural heritage projects. She speaks fluent Albanian and has translated two books (the unauthorized biography of Yugoslavia’s longest-held political prisoner, Adem Demaci, and the memoirs of one of the leaders of the 1912 uprising).and is a also the author of four books about Kosovo. She is a regular contributor to Radio 4 and the BBC World Service.

Link: kosovo diasporo.


11th October 2017       item5
The Bronzes of Ife and Benin

Africa is not generally associated with great art but Nigeria is associated with 3 major artistic traditions: the 2,000 year old Nok Terracottas of the north, the Bronzes of Ife from the C12-C15 and the later Benin Bronzes. The art, the technology (using the lost wax process) and the cultural relevance of the Bronzes will be illustrated and discussed in this lecture.

Lecturer: Dr Richard Thomas completed an MA in Canada in Development Studies, and a PhD from Trinity College, Dublin in History and Political Science. His career as an academic and as a political and institutional analyst in the field of International Development enabled him to travel widely in Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He lived in Nigeria in the 1960s, near Ife, and became familiar with the art of Ife and Benin and the role they played in society.

Photo: the Ife head on display at the British Museum
Links: Wikipedia and Wikipedia here too.




8th November 2017    
Paintbrushes at Dawn    

The late Christopher Hitchens, who knew a thing or two about feuds, once wrote that a really first rate bust up requires one of at least two things: a clash of strong personalities, and a conflict of principles. The item6histoitem7ry of art is peppered with first rate bust ups: between the great early Renaissance artists, Brunelleschi and Ghiberti, between Constable and Turner in the early 1830s, between Salvador Dali and the Surrealist leader, Andre Breton in the 1930s and, most recently, between the graffiti artists Banksy and ‘King’ Robbo, who painted out and amended each other’s works. There are many more. They are highly entertaining but they also tell us a great deal about key issues in art history.

Lecturer: Barry Venning who in 2012 retired after 28 years as full-time Secretary of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). Previously he was a journalist, latterly as Assistant Editor of the Times Educational Supplement. He has been a member of the Westminster Abbey Fabric Commission since 1998, and is a former Council member of the National Trust, former Vice President of the National Churches Trust, and former member of the Expert Panel of the Heritage Lottery Fund. He has lectured extensively in the UK, and to a lesser extent abroad, and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA) and the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). He was awarded an OBE in 2003.

Photos: when new bronze doors were needed for the Baptistery in Florence, both Brunelleschi (top left) and Ghiberti (top right) submitted panels showing Abraham sacrificing Isaac. The competition committee could not decide between them so suggested that the two artists worked together. Brunelleschi refused to do this, so Ghiberti was awarded the commission.The story is told on the maitaly site.
Links: an article in The Guardian and the culturetrip site.


6th December 2017 (N.B. first Wednesday in the month) 
Unwrapping the Christmas Story

Unwrapping some of the many layers of history, custom and myth that make up Christmas: the nativity, decking the halls, cards, food, presents and much more. The lecture is beautifully illustrated by well known paintings and lesser known extraordinary works. Poetry and prose abound – including words written by the speaker to bring joy, pathos and humour.

Lecturer: Pamela Halford is a freelance lecturer who has lectured variously to the English Speaking Union, National Trust, Art & Historical societies, Festivals, The National Gallery and Bath University's Department of Continuing Education. She is a past President and Chairman of Bristol DFAS and was previously a lecturer and researcher/scriptwriter/director (BBC).
Photo: A late Victorian image.

Link: BBC History.


10th January 2018      
item9Jacob Epstein    item10

When Sir Jacob Epstein died in 1959, he was one of the most famous and respected sculptors working in Britain, and had produced some of the best- loved and admired monumental works in the country. However, most of his career had been dogged by ferocious criticism, public ridicule and anti- Semitism, often aimed as much at his highly unusual domestic arrangements as at his art. This lecture examines his life and work closely, in order to explain what he was trying to achieve, and why his pioneering career caused such bitter controversy in his time.

Lecturer: Linda Smith holds two first-class degrees in Art History. Experienced guide and lecturer at Tate Britain, Tate Modern and the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Lectures to secondary school audiences and independent arts societies.

Above left photo: Jacob and the Angel.
Links: Wikipedia and numerous other mentions.


14th February 2018  
Great Photographs of the 20th item3Century
The camera has given us some of the most vivid images of modern times. This lecture examines a series of brilliant photographs and explains what makes these images so special. In particular we look at photographs which explore the depth of human experience in a spirit of optimism and compassion. The photographers involved range from the pioneers, such as Jacques-Henri Lartigue, to some mid-Century masters, including Bill Brandt, Bert Hardy and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Finally, we look at the work of more recent exponents, such as Martin Parr and Andreas Gursky.

Lecturer: Brian Stater whose chief interests lie in photography, architecture and history, combines all three in his lecturing career. He has taught at University College, London since 1997 and became a NADFAS lecturer 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.

Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Link: Henri Cartier-Bresson in

14th March 2018       

Change of programme as Oliver Everett has had to be admitted to hospital.

Joaquin Sorolla - Painter of Sunlight.

Sorolla (1863-1923) was a highly successful artist of international renown in his lifetime, but outside Spain and the United States he is largely forgotten today. Some of his best work is on show in the house and studio he built for himself in Madrid – one of the city’s ‘hidden secrets’. While Sorolla admired the great Spanish traditions of Velázquez and Goya, his delightful paintings of women and children at the seaside, landscapes and the great series depicting the regions of Spain, are full of sunlight and optimism.

Lecturer: Gail Turner is an art historian, and painter, and has been a lecturer for The Arts Society since 1992. She lectures regularly for the V&A High Renaissance and Baroque course, Art Pursuits, and the Art Fund and has taught on Cambridge University International Summer Schools, the Courtauld Institute Summer Courses, and for Inscape, Gainsborough’s House and other arts organisations. She has led tours to Spain for The Arts Society and other tour companies. She has lectured in the Prado and Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid 1983-5, was Deputy Curator of Keats Shelley Memorial House, Rome 1978-80, manager of the Courtauld Slide Scheme 1977, and a Christie’s consultant in 1976. In 2015 she was awarded the Encomienda de Isabel la Catolica (the equivalent of the CBE) by the King of Spain for promoting Spanish culture among British audiences.

Link: there is an article about Sorella in Wikipedia.

11th April 2018
Edward Seago

‘Ted’ Seago’s refined landscapes personified a respect for the traditions of British landscape painting as well as impressionism. In Britain, he was part of a remarkable post-impressionist flowering that included the likes of Sickert, Munnings and Augustus John. What made Seago quintessentially English was the great subtlety of his colour control and peaceful landscape compositions. This refinement won him admiration from four generations of royalty and an international fan-base that would cause his exhibitions to sell out on the first day. But you won’t find his paintings in the Tate Britain, nor did his work ever find favour with the art establishment. item4This lecture compares his work with those masters he most admired, as well as the contemporary trends he chose to ignore. The lecturer’s father, artist Rodney F Russell, was a friend and lifetime admirer.

Anthony Russell has travelled much of the world, combining painting with tour lecturing - principally to American university students on bespoke tours. He spent six years as a consultant for Luke Hughes and travelled the country advising on the furniture needs of prestigious buildings, including museums, palaces, schools and cathedrals. Now based in London, he spends much of his time lecturing and undertaking research, while assisting at the British Museum with outreach events and visiting lecturers

Photo: Seago's watercolour of Burnham Overy Staithe.
Link: Wikipedia.

9th May 2018      
Let there be Light
4.6 billion years ago, a star was born and our sun started to shine. Soon after this the earth and our other planets were formed and light began its eight minute flight to earth. This lecture looks at how science and art have moved forward together in the quest to understand light. The representation of light has been a fundamental pursuit of Western art, in both its physical manifestation and as a symbol of the Divine. Painted light is used as a metaphor for a range of feelings, from El Greco’s light of spiritual ecstasy to the dangerous darkness of Caravaggio, from Turner’s sublime sunlight to Samuel Palmer’s melancholy moonlight. Artists respond to different weather conditions such as Whistler’s greys in his foggy London “Nocturnes” and Alexandra Drysdale’s bright blues of Australia. The “spotlight” theatricality of much old art contrasts with the bright white light of Impressionism.

Five thousand years ago, Stonehenge was built to worship the sun, but today the sun is worshipped in art galleries with artists like Olafur Eliasson and James Turrell making huge site-specific installations. Renaissance altarpieces have been replaced with coloured fluorescent tubes by Dan Flavin and video projections by Bill Viola. So, let me enlighten you as to how artists represent temporal and spiritual light through the Ages.

item13Lecturer: Alexandra Drysdale is an art historian and a professional artist specialising in painting, sculpture and performance. Her lectures combine art historical knowledge with personal expertise in aesthetics and artistic techniques. Art from all periods, including examples of her own work, is examined from an artist's point of view. This entails a perceptive analysis of a painting's structure, its meaning, and its relationship to the history of art. She puts a particular emphasis on studying the symbolic language of the imagination. BA (Hons) Fine Art from Chelsea School of Art and an MFA from Cambridge School of Art.

Top photo:
St Maurice and the Theban Legion by El Greco.
Bottom photo: Love is in the Air by our lecturer, Alexandra Drysdale.



13th June 2018
AGM & Anniversary Celebration Party will be held in the Village Hall, Hemingford Abbots.

Sarah Greaves of Murray Edwards College will speak about the New Hall art collection.
Also see committee reports and financial statement