2015 Lecture Programme

8 January
Viking Art, Jewellery and Costume
Dr Fenella Bazin

Brooch in the Form of a Bird of Prey, 500–600; Vendel; made in Scandinavia; Copper alloy with silver overlay; L. 2 3/8 in. (6 cm) (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Bird of prey brooch, 500–600; copper alloy with silver overlay (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The wealth and ambition of the Viking Age is visible in powerful sculptures and intricate designs of gold and silver artefacts. Stretching from the Silk Road in the east to the western shores of Britain, merchants and warriors encountered and absorbed a huge variety of cultures and new technological advances. Anonymous craftsmen portrayed the world of the Nordic gods, as well as their legends and beliefs. Their imaginations also led them into ever more fanciful abstract art, sometimes brutal in its effect, but often of breathtaking delicacy. Their designs inspired later generations, who interpreted Viking art in their own styles. Drawing on re-interpretations of Nordic mythology, Victorian artists portrayed triumphant Viking warriors wearing horned helmets, while Archibald Knox based his increasingly sought-after work for Liberty of London on the rich collection of Scandinavian crosses on the Isle of Man.

Fenella BazinDr Fenella Bazin graduated from London University in 1966 and worked in Continuing Education with Birmingham and Liverpool Universities as lecturer and course organiser. She served as Deputy Director of the Centre for Manx Studies from 1992 to 2008, and has taught postgraduates; trained Blue Badge Guides; and worked with archaeologists, historians and musicians. For many years she presented a regular programme on Manx Radio. Her publications include Dictionary of Hymnology and New National Dictionary of Biography, and she has also published specialist music books and articles. Since 2002, Dr Bazin has lectured on Norwegian topics on cruise ships.

12 February
Gertrude Stein and Her Circle
Hilary Hope Guise

Portrait of Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, 1906 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Portrait of Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, 1906
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Gertrude Stein was an American Jewish intellectual and ‘stream-of-consciousness’ writer who embraced the most extreme and revolutionary young artists during the opening years of the 20th century, and saw a dazzling array of young painters, sculptors, writers, choreographers and dancers, many of them émigrés, all crush into her tiny “Pavilion” at No. 27, Rue de Fleurus on Saturdays. It was the only place to see works by the young Turks. Her open-minded intelligence and her generous family trust allowed her to buy work from the most avant-garde figures of the time and by doing so she kept them alive and became a king-maker. Her family also supported highly contentious artists of the time and the Stein collection finally comprised 101 Picassos, also 75 Matisses and a large number of works by Cézanne, Renoir, Juan Gris and others. Her famous salons were a vital hub in the dynamic and radical development of Parisian, and indeed European, intellectual ideas that were so shockingly new in the pre-First War years, and had a massive impact on a fragile post-war world. The real richness of her story is told in the fake memoir she wrote under the title The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas. Stein gives us an insight into the fascinating human tales of the Parisian avant garde; the glamour of Guillaume Apollinaire’s death on the night of the Armistice, Olga Picasso’s snobbishness and Matisse’s scrounging for a French soufflé.

Hilary Hope GuiseHilary Hope Guise lectures in the main museums in London for American universities, and has toured widely in the USA and lectured for the Smithsonian Institution. She has also worked for the Art Fund, taught courses for Cambridge University and has been a guest speaker on cruises. Hilary trained as a painter at Central St Martin’s, and exhibits abroad, most recently in Berlin and France. She lives in London and in Provence.

12 March
Please note the earlier start time of 7.00pm for our Annual General Meeting
Aubrey Beardsley
Dr Susan Owens

The Peacock Skirt, 1893

The Peacock Skirt, 1893

The precocious young artist Aubrey Beardsley created bold and provocative designs that came to define the 1890s. His astonishingly assured drawings, influenced by Japanese prints and ancient Greek vase paintings, shocked many, who considered them to be grotesque, decadent and erotic. This lecture tells the story of Beardsley’s life and brilliant career, tragically cut short by his death at the age of just 25.

Susan OwensDr Susan Owens is a writer and freelance curator with a degree in English literature from Somerville College, Oxford, a Masters in History of Art from the Courtauld and a PhD from University College London. Formerly she held the position of Curator of Paintings at the V&A, where she was responsible for oils, watercolours and drawings from 1800 to the present day. Dr Owens previously worked for the Royal Collection as Assistant Curator of the Print Room at Windsor Castle. She publishes and lectures widely on British art. Among her many publications are The Art of Drawing: British Masters and Methods Since 1600 (2013); Amazing Rare Things: the Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery (2007; co-authored with David Attenborough, Martin Clayton and Rea Alexandratos), and Watercolours and Drawings from the Collection of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (2005).

16 April
Please note the change of date of our April lecture from the second to the third Thursday of the month in order to accommodate a Penwith College event.
Music,  Masonry and Manuscripts: An Inspirational  Journey through Medieval England
Marc Cottle

A whale mistaken for an island, southern England, 2nd quarter of the 13th century (British Library)

A whale mistaken for an island, southern England, 2nd quarter of the 13th century (British Library)

The music, architecture and manuscript illumination of medieval England are among the greatest achievements of the period, indeed of any period of English cultural history. The aim of this lecture is to open a window onto this remarkable world to capture something of the essence of its religious and secular music, its Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals and its equally rich span of manuscript illumination, both sacred and profane. Essentially inspirational and aspirational, these are forms of artistic endeavour which, at their most impressive, can touch the sublime.

Mark CottleMark Cottle was born on the Isles of Scilly and educated at Truro School and Birmingham University. His career has been spent in education and training at home and abroad. He has lectured at Exeter College on Medieval and Tudor history, St Mark’s & St John’s University College, Plymouth, and at Bath University on Anglo Saxon and medieval England. Mark currently runs two small companies providing training and study breaks.

14 May
Foundations of Fashion: The History of Underwear
Dr Kate Strasdin

1891 corset (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

1891 corset
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Covering almost 200 years of changing silhouettes, this lecture looks at how both men and women have shaped their style through a range of undergarments. Looking at corsets and crinolines, calf pads and sleeve puffs, the range of unusual objects is always a surprise!

Kate StrasdinDr Strasdin has worked with objects of dress and textiles in museums for almost 20 years in curatorial positions; and is currently Assistant Curator at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Totnes. She is Associate Lecturer at University College, Falmouth, teaching history and contextual studies to fashion and textile students. Dr Strasdin’s publications include An Easy Day for a Lady (Costume, Journal of the Costume Society, 2008) and Empire Dressing – the Design and Realisation of Queen Alexandra’s Coronation Gown (Journal of Design History, 2012). She is also one of the younger practitioners of the dying art of producing handmade Honiton lace.

11 June
Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist and Adventurer
Dr Twigs Way

Maria Sibylla Merian in Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname) Amsterdam, 1705, figure 46, Hand-colored engraving

Maria Sibylla Merian in Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname) Amsterdam, 1705, figure 46, Hand-colored engraving

Most famous for her botanical and entomological illustrations, Maria Sibylla Merian was one of the most extraordinary women of the 17th century. Born into a family of artists, she became fascinated with the life cycle of caterpillars and moths, disproving the then common belief that they were created from mud. Leaving behind her marriage and her work as a successful flower painter, she sailed to Surinam in pursuit of rarities of flora and fauna, and produced the famous Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium. Her illustrations were sought by collectors and royalty throughout Europe, whilst her scientific observations stunned the world.

Twigs WayDr Twigs Way is a garden historian, author, researcher and lecturer. She presented Lost Gardens for Channel 4 and has appeared on Gardeners’ World as well as making media appearances on a wide range of garden history related topics. She carries out freelance research in the history of specific gardens and parks for bodies such as English Heritage, the National Trust and various private clients, and has a specific interest in the portrayal of plants and gardens in art and literature and the social aspects of garden history. Her publications include A History of Women in the Garden, the highly illustrated A Nation of Gardeners and a short biography of Gertrude Jekyll, as well as the quirky History of Garden Gnomes! Dr Way is currently working on the Eighteenth Century Diaries of the Marchioness Grey of Wrest Park and is also involved in the 2016 tercentenary celebrations of one of our greatest landscape designers, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

July and August
No Lectures in July and August

10 September
Theatre Illusions: The Backstage World of Theatre Sets and Scenery, Craft and Design
Simon Rees

Drury Lane Theatre, John Bluck, 1808

Drury Lane Theatre, John Bluck, 1808

“Now the curtain will come down, and the stage will be filled with vibrant life!” This joke by a master carpenter (chief stage technician) to a group being shown around a theatre pointed out what few people get to see: that much of the exciting action on stage goes on out of sight of the audience, while the scenery is being changed in a flurry of ropes and canvas. The theatre in Britain and Europe emerged in its present form in the late 17th century, and continued to develop throughout the next 300 years. Theatres used canvas and ropes to produce scenery to give the illusion of landscapes, townscapes, interiors of hovels, houses and palaces, and the most skilful people to operate the winches and pulleys were off-duty sailors, whose ships were laid up for the winter, and who used a series of whistles to communicate scene-changes – producing one of theatre’s best-known taboos. As lighting became stronger, sets became more three-dimensional, and the old style of painted flats went out, while ‘authentic’ period costumes were often substituted by more sardonic, ironical, satirical alternatives. Simon Rees has worked in the theatre for 25 years, and draws on his experience to illustrate this talk about the backstage environment of theatre and theatre design, bringing the story up to the present day.

Simon ReesSimon Rees is a freelance writer, reviewer and lecturer. He served as Dramaturg of the Welsh National Opera from 1989 to 2012. After studying English at Cambridge, he taught for two years in Italy and for three at Kyoto University. He has published novels, poetry, librettos and translations. He writes for Opera, Opera Now, Early Music Today, Musical Opinion and Bachtrack. His latest poetry collection, The Wood below Coelbren, was published in November 2014 by Poetry Salzburg Press.

8 October
Paula Rego: Painting Women on the Edge, and Telling Tales of the Unexpected
Linda Smith

Paula Rego, The Fitting, 1989 (The Saatchi Gallery)

Paula Rego, The Fitting, 1989 (The Saatchi Gallery)

This lecture looks at the life and work of Paula Rego, a British artist of Portuguese origin best known for her depictions of folk tales and strikingly unusual images of women. Married to the British artist Victor Willing (1928-88), Rego settled in this country permanently in the 1970s, but her career in Britain had effectively begun in the early 1960s when she exhibited with artists like Frank Auerbach and David Hockney. Over the following 20 years her career and reputation built steadily, and in 1990 she was invited to become the first Associate Artist at the National Gallery. Her well-known series of paintings and prints based on nursery rhymes emerged from this residency, as did another series of large scale paintings which is currently displayed in the National Gallery restaurant. In her early days, Rego experimented with many different styles, including abstraction, and was very much influenced by Surrealism, but her mature style places a strong emphasis on clear draughtsmanship and the human figure. She produces works which suggest complicated narratives full of psychological tension, drama, and emotion. Frequently she depicts women and girls in disturbing or ambiguous situations and poses, which has occasionally caused some controversy, but her insistence on the physicality of her female figures, and her refusal to idealise or revert to cliché, has earned her global recognition and many prestigious awards. She was made a DBE in 2010.

Linda SmithLinda Smith holds two first-class degrees in Art History. She is an experienced guide and lecturer at Tate Britain, Tate Modern and the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Linda lectures to secondary school audiences and independent arts societies.

12 November
Pop Goes the Artist: From Warhol to Dylan
Dr Suzanne Fagence Cooper

Elvis I & II, Andy Warhol, 1963

Elvis I & II, Andy Warhol, 1963

In the sweltering heat of a New York summer, Andy Warhol invited Bob Dylan to his Factory to sit for a screen test. It was 1965. After enduring his silent, slow-motion portrait, Dylan became intrigued by Warhol’s monumental silver screen print of Elvis Presley dressed as a cowboy. He took it home as a souvenir, strapped to the top of a station wagon. (It is now one of the highlights of the Museum of Modern Art’s collection in New York City). This lecture examines the world of Pop Art, through the eyes of these controversial artists.

Suzanne Fagence CooperDr Suzanne Fagence Cooper studied History at Oxford University, and Art History at the Courtauld Institute and at Christie’s Education. She has lectured for numerous organisations including the V&A and Cheltenham Literary Festival, as well as tutoring the Oxford summer school. She has lectured on cruise liners and undertaken broadcasts and consultancies for the BBC and Channel Four. She has also served as historical consultant to Ralph Fiennes for The Invisible Woman, a film about Charles Dickens. Dr Cooper’s publications include Pre-Raphaelite Art in the Victoria and Albert Museum (2003), The Victorian Woman (2001), and Effie Gray, a biography of the Scottish wife of John Ruskin and John Everett Millais. Effie Gray, a film based on Gray’s life, written by Emma Thompson, was released in 2014.

10 December
‘Glad Tidings’: The Story of the Annunciation
Imogen Corrigan

Sano di Pietro, Annunciation Angel

Sano di Pietro, Annunciation Angel

In the quietness of an enclosed garden filled with symbolic plants, or glimpsed inside a sturdy house, a young woman reads quietly, blissfully unaware that her life is about to change. Not just her life, but that of the western world and beyond. Approaching her, almost unwilling to interrupt her thoughts, an angel is poised to break the news, to make the great announcement. Whatever your personal beliefs, it’s hard to deny the impact Christianity has had on the world, so the Annunciation by Gabriel to Mary, telling her that she was to bear a son, was one of the most popular images of the Middle Ages, more popular indeed than the Nativity itself. This lecture reveals the key players in the story, dissects the symbolism of Mary and the Annunciation, and examines the world-changing importance of that particular moment. It is richly illustrated with gorgeous images from the 4th to the 16th century.

Imogen CorriganAfter nearly 20 years in the British army, Imogen Corrigan studied Anglo-Saxon and Medieval History and Art at the University of, graduating with first class honours. She is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Birmingham. Imogen works as a freelance lecturer across Britain and Europe as well as lecturing on small cruise ships and running study tours on land.