2016 Lecture Programme

14 January
The Gardens of Ireland
Tom Duncan

The Dillon Garden, Dublin

The Dillon Garden, Dublin

The history of gardening in Ireland broadly reflects the changes in Irish society over the last few hundred years. Centuries of military conflict give way to an era of peace and prosperity with outbreaks of temperament as new social classes and mores displace those apparently entrenched.

There are no Irish gardens of note extant before the late 17th century. Formal gardening in the French manner was carried on but only Kilruddery survives in magnificent isolation. English classical gardening styles were carried on, but again, little survives of gardens such as those created by Dean and Mrs. Delany at Delville. The broad and simplified landscape sweep of “Capability” Brown did indeed find enthusiasts, such as the Duke of Leinster at Carton, but it was the more wild and romantic landscape style of the late 18th and early 19th centuries which found a ready welcome.

The 19th century saw the development of new ideas as the professional classes began to garden. Ideas of husbandry and horticultural worth were widely debated and all gardeners benefited (or not) from the extraordinary range of plants now arriving from all corners of the globe. From Ireland came one of the most influential figures of the late Victorian gardening world, William Robinson; so too, one of the greats of plant collecting, Augustine Henry.

Twentieth century gardening was something practiced quietly, in private, reflecting the polarised nature of Irish society after World War I. Nonetheless, great advances were made at every level. This has culminated in recent years with a true renaissance of gardens and gardening: old gardens restored, new gardens created, none more so that in Helen Dillon’s marvellous garden in Dublin.

Reading List:
Lost Demesnes: Irish Landscape Gardening, 1660-1845 by Edward Malins and Knight of Glin
Irish Gardens and Demesnes from 1830 by Edward Malins and Patrick Bowe
In an Irish Garden by Sybil Conolly
Irish Gardens by Olda Fitzgerald

01_Tom Duncan_profile photoTom Duncan was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied History of Art and Classical Archaeology. He then studied in the United States and moved to England in 1984 to complete his PhD. He taught at University level and now lectures widely to heritage and artistic organisations.

11 February
David Bomberg: The ‘Lost’ Artist of the British Avant-Garde
Alan Read

The Mud Bath 1914 David Bomberg 1890-1957 Purchased 1964 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00656

The Mud Bath (1914) by David Bomberg

David Bomberg was one of the most talented artists associated with the Vorticist movement (1914-15), but his style changed many times over the course of his life. From his early avant-garde work, the experience of the First World War brought about the first of many major shifts in his style; a style which continues to exert influence on some of the most important British painters working today.

02_Alan Read_profile photoAlan Read holds a masters and a first class honours degree in History of Art from Birkbeck College. He is a gallery guide at Tate Modern, Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery and has lectured at Plymouth City Art Gallery, Croydon Clocktower, the Bridewell Institute and our own Penlee House Gallery. He is also a London Blue Badge Guide and City of London Guide and has conducted walking tours for the Twentieth Century Society, the National Trust and team LondonBridge.

10 March
Please note earlier start time of 7:00pm in order to hold our Annual General Meeting before the lecture.
Behind the Veil: The Arts of Islamic Persia
John Osborne

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Iran

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Iran

Iran has a sophisticated cultural heritage ignored in the headlines. This lecture illustrates the development of the spectacular architecture in the mosques and palaces of Iran, with an emphasis on their brilliant tilework and painting, through the Islamic period until the end of the 19th century. There are mentions of some of Persia’s classic gardens, and the art of book illustration is also included, with beautiful examples from the classic period of Persian miniature painting. The lecture also covers the geographical and political background, explains how the Shi’a form of Islam originated and became the ruling creed in the late 20th century Iran of Ayatollah Khomeini, and thus puts the contemporary situation in the context of the country’s fascinating and significant cultural history.

03_John Osborne_profile photoJohn Osborne graduated in Classics at Cambridge University and taught classical subjects for over 30 years at Marlborough College, where he was Senior Master. He worked for several years for the British Council in theMiddle East, which gave him a now long-standing interest in Islamic culture. He has lectured on Ancient Rome and Islam at the University of Bath, runs and annual course on Mediaeval Parish Churches at Marlborough College Summer School and guides at Salisbury Cathedral.

14 April
The Beauty of Frames
Julia Korner

04_Frames_lecture photoThis talk takes a look at the history of frames and how frames developed in Europe, influenced often by the prevailing architectural style. We’ll learn how frames are constructed and conserved, and how a frame can transform a painting and display it to its best advantage. Lecturer Julia Korner will discuss why a picture might need a frame, aesthetically; how to protect it from the dangers of light and temperature, etc.; the materials available for use; the design, construction and conservation of frames; and the process of making gold leaf and gesso frames.

04_Julia Korner_profile photoJulia Korner is a specialist and lecturer in fine art conservation and the restoration of paintings, sculptures and frames. She is also a valuer, having spent nearly 20 years at Christie’s, as well a passionate collector, advisor and curator of paintings and works of art. She trained as an art historian, conservator and gilder and runs a busy conservation studio in west London where she acts as advisor, valuer and exhibition curator for public and private collections.

12 May
Patrick Reyntiens: Britain’s Leading Stained Glass Artist
Dr Libby Horner

Confrontation 2 by Patrick Reyntiens

Confrontation 2 by Patrick Reyntiens

Reyntiens is a brilliant raconteur, an exraordinary personality, a life-force, a child within a man with a wicked sense of fun, hugely intellectual, an experimenter and innovator whose work has transformed the conception and construction of stained glass. He is not merely the interpreter of the work of Cecil Collins, Ceri Richards and John Piper (think Coventry Cathedral and Liverpool Metropolitan), but an artist of tremendous breadth and talent in his own right. Lecturer Libby Horner has had unprecedented access to previously unseen sketchbooks and autonomous panels. Her film about Reyntiens was released in 2011 and her catalogue of his work was published in 2013.

05_Libby Horner_profile photoDr Libby Horner is an authority on the work of Patrick Reyntiens and has made films about his and John Piper’s stained glass. Dr Horner contributed to British Murals & Decorative Painting 1920-1960 which Sansom & Company published in 2014.

9 June
Mars and the Muses: The Renaissance Art of Armour
Dr Tobias Capwell

Filippo Negroli armour

Filippo Negroli armour

Armour was one of the great Renaissance art forms, but today it is usually overlooked by art historians and scholars. In the 15th and 16th centuries almost all of the richest and most powerful noblemen in Europe could be counted as dedicated patrons of the armourer’s art. This was an intensely personal art, both expressive and decorative. Its essence was the creation of a living sculpture, a process which demanded not only fantastic skill in the sculpting of iron and steel, but also mastery of all decorative techniques available to the Renaissance metalworker. The achievements of virtuoso master armourers like Kolmon Helmschmid, Konrad Seusenhofer, Filippo Negroli, Pompeo della Cesa and Jacob Halder were not however just about splendour and richness. They also embodied more complex messages about status and the social order, divine power and attitudes and identities.

Tobias Capwell06_Tobias Capwell_profile photo cannot remember a time when he was not interested in the Middle Ages. He began riding at the age of 11 so that he would be ready to joust when the time came. Come it did: eight years later he was facing his first opponent in front of three thousand people. Toby has been living his dream ever since, jousting in the United Kingdom, continental Europe and America. An American by birth, he moved to England in 1996 as a founding member of the Royal Armouries jousting team. When not on horseback Toby pursues his academic career as Curator of Arms and Armour at the world-famous Wallace Collection in London.

8 September
Taking Tea with Mackintosh: The Glasgow Tearoom Phenomenon
Dr Evelyn Silber

09_Mackinton lecture photo_01At the time Kate Cranston opened her Glasgow tearooms, the city was a centre of artistic innovation, and the tearooms served as art galleries for paintings by the Glasgow Boys. In 1900 Cranston gave Rennie Mackintosh the opportunity to redesign an entire room at her Ingram Street tearoom. He had recently married the artist Margaret MacDonald, and together they created the White Dining Room. Mackintosh’s fame was spreading, and in 1902 The Studio wrote of “Miss Cranston, whose tea-rooms, designed by Mr. Mackintosh, are reckoned by some of the pilgrims to Glasgow as one of the sights of the city”. This lecture focuses on Charles Rennie and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh’s varied and innovative work for Miss Cranston’s Glasgow tearooms, and also explores the tearoom phenomenon in Glasgow.

09_Evelyn Silber_profile photoDr Evelyn Silber is former Director of Leeds Museums and Galleries and of the Hunterian at the University of Glasgow. Based in Glasgow and London, she is Honorary Professorial Research Fellow (History of Art) at the University of Glasow, a past chair of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society and leads specialist cultural tours of the city.

13 October
Brilliant British Humour in the Forgotten Art of the Picture Postcard, 1909-1939
James Taylor

10_Postcard_lecture photoFrom the Edwardian era to the outbreak of World War II, millions of artist-drawn humorous postcards were produced not just for entertainment but to bolster morale, to inspire, instruct, motivate and persuade. Lecturer James Taylor will help us discover the popular themes and styles of the period by the masters of the medium such as Mabel Lucie Attwell, Dudley Buxton, Donald McGill and Fred Spurgin; and the reasons why their popularity waned with the British public.

10_James Taylor_profile photoJames Taylor studied at the Universities of St Andrews and Manchester and is a former curator of paintings, drawings and prints, and co-ordinator of various exhibitions and galleries, at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. His publications include Marine Painting (1995), Yachts on Canvas (1998), The Voyage of the Beagle: Darwin’s Extraordinary Adventure in FitzRoy’s Famous Survey Ship (2008) and Careless Talk Costs Lives: Fougasse and the Art of Public Information (2010).

10 November
Old Buildings: Fakes and Fallacies
Philip Venning

Black and white timber-framed house, Leominster

Black and white timber-framed house, Leominster

Lecturer Philip Venning notes that historic buildings are often not what they seem, nor how we confidently and wrongly believe they ought to look. Drawing on examples from throughout the country, the lecture will challenge some received wisdom, show examples of odd things done to old buildings and offer some surprises. Were old buildings ever built with reused ship’s timbers? Are black and white Tudor buildings mainly a 19th century fashion? Is the appearance of many familiar historic castles as much the product of the restorers? Touching on the tricky philosophical issues of authenticity. the lecture will address the question of when a restoration becomes a replica.

11_Philip Venning_profile phooPhilip Venning was for 28 years the full time Secretary of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). He has been a member of the Westminster Abbey Fabric Commission since 1998, a former Council member of the National Trust, a member of the Expert Panel of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Vice President of the National Churches Trust and an advisor to the BBC2 series Restoration. In 2011 he was awarded the Queen Mother Memorial Medal for contribution to building craftsmanship and in 2012, on behalf of SPAB, accepted the EU Cultural Heritage Prize, a Europa Nostra Award at the heritage equivalent of the Oscars. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society of Arts and recently joined the East of England Committee of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

8 December
CANCELLED  From Frozen Forests to Reindeer: Gems from Life   CANCELLED –  SEE BELOW
Maggie Campbell Pedersen

12_Frozen Forests_lecture photoThis lecture is a seasonal introduction to organic gem materials and their uses and origins. Organic gem materials are those derived from plants or animals. The better known materials include amber, copal, jet, bone, antler, ivories, horn, tortoiseshell, corals, pearls and shells. Of the lesser known may be mentioned baleen, coconut shell, feathers, seeds and indeed anything that can be used for decorative purposes, and that has at some time been produced by a living organism. The first jewellery to be used by mankind was made from organic materials. Necklaces were made of seeds, shells or teeth, depending on what was available. Head-dresses were often made of feathers, shells and horn. Organics have been used for their talismanic properties, to bring luck or to ward off evil. They have been used for utilitarian items, for example primitive scoops and cutting implements made thousands of years ago from shell, or antlers used as pick-axes. In the decorative arts they have been carved, used as jewellery or used to embellish furniture. Organic gem materials can be seen in museums world-wide. Or in a drawer at home! The popularity of the materials has meant that some of the species from which they are gathered have been hunted almost to extinction. Their popularity has also meant that they have all been copied and faked in various materials, especially in plastics.

12_Frozen Forests_profile photoMaggie Campbell Pedersen is a Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain, and an Associate of the British Institute of Professional Photography. For many years she has combined her qualifications and taken them further to specialise in organic gem materials – that is, those of plant or animal origin. She regards ivory as her main area of expertise. Her work includes identifications, teaching, writing, and constant research into all the aspects of the subject. She has given lectures and seminars world-wide, masterclasses in museums, and has appeared on television. Her photographs and articles have been published in many specialist books and magazines. She has also worked in various places as a research assistant in animal conservation, studying elephants, turtles, and other animals. She is the author of Gem and Ornamental Materials of Organic Origin – the only book devoted to the subject of organics, covering all the well-known materials and many lesser-known ones. She is the editor of Organic Gems – the online reference source and information centre similarly devoted entirely to this subject. Her new book Ivory – which covers the subject from all angles including identification, ancient uses, and present conservation – was published in September 2015.

8th December revised lecture

‘Sing We Yule!’ A musical celebration of the Christmas Season

by Sarah Deere-Jones


Using illustrations from illuminated manuscripts, readings from literature and contemporary accounts, and the haunting songs and lively dance tunes of medieval England, Sarah brings alive the spirit of a Medieval Christmas, a time of joy and celebration for some, but hardship and suffering for others.
With extracts from literature and manorial household accounts, she pieces together life in a medieval manor house at Yuletide.  In addition to her reproduction of medieval harps, she adds the plucked psaltery, hurdy-gurdy, hammered dulcimer, and gemshorn to the musical mix, performing carols, music and readings for an atmospheric and musical seasonal celebration.
For more information click  here