Arts Appreciation Society

Past Lectures

Below see below a sample of previous lectures.


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Peter Medhurst's work as singer, pianist and lecturer-recitalist has taken him all over the world, and in the last few years he has toured New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, and made frequent tours in Europe. He has also presented events at the Barbican, St John's Smith Square, and the Royal Festival Hall on various musical subjects including The Beethoven String Quartets, Mozart Operas, Vermeer's Music Lesson, and 18th Century Venetian Art and Music. He has directed presentations at the Wallace Collection, the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the V&A, linking the visual arts with the world of 17th & 18th century music making. He has regularly appeared on radio programmes and has made various recordings. He has also lead tours abroad for small groups of art and music connoisseurs.

Johann Sebastian Bach: His music and his life
(1685 – 1750)
Music lovers generally regard JS Bach as the greatest of early 18th century composers. In fact, he is so important in the history of music that we close down the Baroque period with his death in 1750. This lecture goes beneath the surface of Bach's music to decode some of his musical symbolism, to reveal some of his working methods and to highlight some of his aesthetic goals.

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Dr James Taylor studied at the Universities of St Andrews and Manchester. He is a former curator of paintings, drawings and prints, and co-ordinator of various exhibitions and galleries, at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Also lecturer and ship's historian on board cruise ships. His many publications include illustrated histories of Marine Painting and yachting art.

Ocean liners 1800 -1950
The vision and genius of Isambard Kingdom Brunel underpins this global story of hopes and dreams, disasters and triumphs. A wide range of ships are featured including Great Britain and Great Western, Lusitania and Mauretania, Olympic and Titanic and, arguably Britain's most popular liner, the Queen Mary, brought to life through a diverse range of artworks, including some striking Art Deco Posters.
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Peter Raw joined the antiques world in 1960 when he left school. He qualified in 1965 and worked for 25 years in Fleet and 25 years in Winchester auctioneering and valuing. He was a member of the BBC Antiques Road Show between 1985 and 1990. He has given numerous talks on antiques to a great variety of organisations. In his lecture he will look at “Antiques and their Value”.

‘Antiques and their Value’


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Douglas Skeggs read Fine Art at Magdalene College Cambridge and has been a lecturer on paintings since 1980. In that time he has given many lectures to universities, colleges and art societies in Britain and Europe. He has written and presented various TV documentaries, notably the Omnibus programme on ‘Whistler’ and the exhibition video on ‘William Morris’. Three one-man exhibitions of his paintings have been held in England and Switzerland. He has published five novels, including his popular book on Monet, ‘River of Light’.


James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903) “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies”

Self assured, affected and irreverent, the owner of a razor sharp wit, Whistler scandalized London society during the 1870s. American by birth, he trained as an artist in Paris where his bohemian lifestyle made him one of the personalities of the city. Annoyed by the criticisms of his work at the Salon des Refuses he moved to London only to find the English even more opposed to his ideas. The lecture explores the paradox of this man whose flamboyant and eccentric ways made him both admired and detested in equal measure and yet whose quiet, meditative paintings ultimately assured him a place alongside Oscar Wilde as one of the high priests of the Aesthetic Movement.
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Caroline Walker began research into her great-uncle in 2006. Since then, she has co-curated several MacDonald Gill exhibitions around the country, contributed articles to publications including Country Life and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and set up a dedicated website. An accredited lecturer for The Arts Society since 2016, she has also given talks for organisations such as the National Archives, the Art Workers' Guild, Christie's and the National Trust. Her acclaimed biography MacDonald Gill: Charting a Life was published in June 2020.

Discovering MacDonald Gill (1884 – 1947): Architect, Artist and Mapmaker
MacDonald 'Max' Gill, younger brother of the sculptor Eric Gill, was an architect, letterer, and graphic artist of the first half of the twentieth century. He was famed for his pictorial map posters for the London Underground and painted map panels for landmark buildings such as Lindisfarne Castle and the Palace of Westminster. His architectural legacy lives on in the arts and crafts cottages he designed in rural Sussex and Dorset while the alphabet and badges he created for the standard military headstone are well-known. This talk by Max Gill's great-niece gives fascinating insights into the life and work of this remarkable but little-known artist.
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Louise Schofield is an archaeologist who was Curator of Greek Bronze Age and Geometric Antiquities at the British Museum from 1987-2000. Her book, The Mycenaeans, was co-published by the Getty Museum and the British Museum in 2007. She now writes, lectures and runs international archaeological projects - previously in south-eastern Turkey, Greece and Albania and currently in Ethiopia. And rather wonderfully she has just been appointed Visiting Professor of Archaeology at the American University of Rome.

Rescuing the mosaics of Zeugma from the flood waters of the Euphrates
Louise Schofield was instrumental in setting up the multinational rescue excavations at the Roman city of Zeugma, on the Euphrates, before it was flooded for the Birecik dam. In her lecturer she’ll talk about these magnificent ruins of ancient Roman villas with superb mosaics of the ancient city of Zeugma which have lain below pistachio groves in southeast Turkey for nearly 2000 years. Once it was on the Silk Road between Antioch and China, with a quay on the River Euphrates and an affluent population of 80,000. Now the race is on to preserve Zeugma from the rising waters of a new dam build for irrigation and energy production.
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Chloë Sayer (Author, Researcher, Lecturer) is a freelance specialist in the art and culture of Latin America. She leads cultural tours to Mexico, and has lectured for galleries, museums and cultural institutions in Australia, Canada, Europe, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and Mexico. She is a prolific author and has written many books on Mexico, its culture and history.
Chloë has made ethnographic collections and carried out fieldwork in Mexico and Belize for the British Museum. She has curated various exhibitions of Mexican folk art, and has also worked on a number of television documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4. She is also a Research Associate in the Department for World Cultures at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
In 2016 the Mexican Government awarded her the prestigious Ohtli medal to thank her for her long-standing commitment to Mexican culture.


Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: The Golden Age of Mexican Painting

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) and Diego Rivera (1886-1957) have iconic status in Mexico. They were married in 1929.The Mexican Revolution of 1910 swept away the old régime and banished European influence in the arts. Kahlo and Rivera, in their different ways, helped to shape the cultural identity of twentieth-century Mexico. The Mexican mural movement, born during the 1920s, was destined to produce some of the greatest public art of the last century.
Diego Rivera’s panoramic images adorn the walls of public buildings, combining social criticism with a faith in human progress.
Frida Kahlo was arguably Mexico’s most original painter. She made herself the principal theme of her art. Her paintings reflect her experiences, dreams, hopes and fears.
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Imogen Corrigan was in the army for nearly 20 years and retired in the rank of major. She then gained a degree in Anglo-Saxon and Medieval History, followed by an MPhil from the University of Birmingham.
She has been lecturing and running study tours on Anglo-Saxon and Medieval history for some years and uses art – usually church art – as the evidence in her research as much as possible. She lectures for travel tours and on board small ships for Noble Caledonia, as well as for The Arts Society, U3A, Kent Federation of History and East Kent National Trust. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the British Commission for Military History. She was recently given the Freedom of the City of London. In 2022 Imogen was elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

The Dregs of the People Remain: Black Death and its Aftermath
It is possible to see a shift in artistic tastes following the plague years which began in the mid C14th. This is understandable considering we now know that certainly 50% and perhaps 60% of the population of Europe and beyond perished in the first wave and that the disease recurred over the next 130 years.
There is a distinct increase in interest in the macabre, but also in explorations of what will happen in the next life; some of it surprisingly optimistic and amusing. We see more interest in ex-pagan images and specific demands for spiritual protection and so what might be seen as a dust-to-dust mentality also becomes one of no tragedy, no triumph.
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Paul James Chapman is an Art Historian and a National Gallery (NG) trained guide with many years of experience working in education. As a freelance Paul delivers courses and lectures for a wide range of educational organisations and is a fully accredited Arts Society Lecturer. Paul has also given talks and tours for art associations/societies and is a visiting lecturer at the Art History and Politics departments at Marlborough College and Summer School. Paul has a long-standing commitment, in conjunction with the NG, as a tour guide at the Longford Castle art collection.


The Painters of the Cirque Medrano
This lecture looks at the legendary Paris circus, from its beginning in 1875 until its closure in 1963. It was integral to Paris life and culture, attracting writers, painters and poets. Many artists, including Renoir, Lautrec, Degas and Picasso were inspired by, and captured, the magic of the circus. This is an intriguing journey of the Cirque Medrano’s history seen through the eyes of the Montmartre artists.
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Ian Swankie is a Londoner with a passion for art and architecture. He is an official guide at Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Guildhall Art Gallery and St Paul’s Cathedral. He is also a qualified and active freelance London guide and leads regular tours for various corporations and organisations. Since 2012 he has led a popular weekly independent art lecture group in his hometown of Richmond in West London, and he gives talks on a variety of subjects. He is an accredited lecturer for The Arts Society, and a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Art Scholars, one of the City Livery Companies.


From Bronzes to Banksy – an armchair tour of public art and street art in London
This is a talk about the remarkable range of art outside in the streets of London, discovering some of the most interesting works from across the centuries. They range from huge and expensive commissions to unofficial graffiti, which are sometimes audacious and often playful, but they all have a place in our society. The talk looks at why art is there, how it has developed over the years and discovers many hidden gems. The tour includes video clips recorded on location to give the talk a degree of reality.
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Rosalind Whyte is a History graduate with a Masters in Art History from Goldsmiths College. She is a guide and lecturer at Tate Britain, Tate Modern and the Royal Academy. She is also a member of the Greenwich Tour Guides’ Association and an accredited Arts Society lecturer and leads Art Appreciation holidays to various locations.


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.
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Peter Medhurst, singer, pianist and lecturer-recitalist, travels the world as musician and scholar, giving recitals and delivering illustrated lectures on music and the arts. He studied singing and early keyboard instruments at the Royal College of Music and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. He has regularly appeared on radio programmes and has made various recordings. He has also led tours abroad for small groups of art and music connoisseurs


The Nocturne in 19th Century Art and Music
In 1859 when Franz Liszt edited the Nocturnes of the Irish composer John Field, he said in his preface ‘to him we may trace the origin of pieces designed to portray subjective and profound emotion.’  Once Field had coined the term ‘nocturne’ in 1812, other composers such as Chopin, Mendelssohn, Fauré and Debussy followed suit and contributed to an increasing repertoire of atmospheric and meditative night pieces.  However, from the early 1870s, the term ‘nocturne’ was used in the titles of paintings by the American painter, James Whistler. In addition to exploring the history of the musical nocturne, the lecture explores its relationship with the world of art.
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John Ericson was formerly a lecturer at the University of Bath where he was Director of Studies in the School of Education with responsibility for the professional development of teachers. He has worked extensively overseas as an educational consultant and has lectured all over the world. Over the last decade he has been a popular speaker on the Arts Society circuit in the UK and Europe as well as societies in Australia and New Zealand. He lectures on an eclectic range of topics that are derived from his diverse interests and enthusiasms such as Pub Signs, Children’s Book Illustrations and The Shakers of North America.


Inn Signia: The artwork and stories behind peculiar pub names
Pubs and their signs are a fundamental part of our history and cultural heritage. In this colourful and entertaining lecture John shows some of the most interesting and distinctive signs before exploring the fascinating stories behind the origin of some of their peculiar names. Who could fail to be intrigued by ‘The Bucket of Blood’, the ‘Cow and Snuffers’ or even the ‘Eager Poet’ – and who on earth was ‘Blind Jack’?
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Bertie Pearce has a BA (Hons) in Drama from Manchester University, and a Diplôme International from the École Internationale du Théatre, Jacques Lecoq. A member of the Inner Magic Circle, with Gold Star. Past experience includes lecturing and performing on cruise ships, and to U3A, historical societies, festivals, schools and colleges. In addition, he has toured the world with a magic cabaret show and a one man show entitled All Aboard. He has also written articles for newspapers and magazines on entertainment and theatre.


The Dancing Faun
In this lecture Bertie recounts the extraordinary tale of how a small bronze statue, which had sat in his grandfather’s garden for 40 years, was discovered as a masterpiece and ended up in the Getty Museum, California. Adriaen De Vries (c.1556-1626) was a Northern Mannerist sculptor born in the Netherlands. A technical virtuoso, he created spectacular bronzes for the most discerning patrons of his time, including the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II of Prague. He excelled in refined modelling and bronze casting and in the manipulation of patina and became the most famous European sculptor of his generation.
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Kate Perugini – the Artistic Dickens
Katey Dickens was the third child of Charles and Catherine Dickens – and called by her family the “favourite child” of her father. A force to be reckoned with from childhood onwards, she grew up in the excitement and turbulence of a famous home, to become an artist and a celebrity in her own right. Nicknamed “Lucifer Box” by her father because of her furious and fiery temper, Katey trained as a portrait painter and went on to become a major presence in the Victorian art world. She lived her life to the full, wrote hilariously revealing letters and challenges many of our 21st-century preconceptions of Victorian women. In common with the majority of female artists, however, her story has been lost in history. Katey was also my great great great aunt and when I began researching her for a biography I grew to love her for her brilliance as an artist and her refusal to give in to convention. Her story deserves to be heard.
Lucinda Hawksley
Lucinda Hawksley is an art historian, author, broadcaster, lecturer, presenter and award-winning travel writer, who has worked as an interviewee, consultant and presenter on TV and radio shows worldwide. Her latest book is Dickens and Travel, which explores the journeys made by her great great great grandfather, Charles Dickens, alongside his travel writing.
Lucinda has also written three biographies of female artists: Kate Perugini (née Dickens), Princess Louise and Lizzie Siddal. Her other books include, Letters of Great Women (2021), Elizabeth Revealed (2018), Dickens and Christmas (2017), The Writer Abroad (2017), Bitten by Witch Fever: Wallpaper and Arsenic in the Victorian Home (2016), Charles Dickens and his Circle (2016), Moustaches, Whiskers & Beards (Facial Hair in Art) (2014), and March, Women, March: Voices of the Women’s Movement (2013).
Lucinda co-wrote and narrated The Real Sherlock, a six-part podcast series about Arthur Conan-Doyle, for Audible, and is also a presenter on The Goldster Podcast, for which she interviews fellow authors. She is a Patron of the Charles Dickens Museum in London and of the De Morgan Foundation.


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Angela Findlay is a professional artist, speaker and author with a long-standing interest in the role the arts can play in bringing about change on a personal level or within societies. Her long career of teaching art in prisons and Young Offender Institutions in Germany and England, followed by her role as the former Arts Coordinator of the Koestler Trust in London, gave her many insights into the huge impact the arts can have in terms of rehabilitation. In 2016 she was invited to the Ministry of Justice to present the case for the arts to be included in their new rehabilitation and education policies.
Angela has a BA(Hons) in Fine Art, a Diploma in Artistic Therapy (specialising in colour) and her paintings are widely exhibited both nationally and internationally. Her first book, In My Grandfather’s Shadow, was published by Penguin Transworld in July 2022

Art behind Bars: The Role of the Arts in breaking the cycle of Crime, Prison and Re-offending
Years of working as an artist within the Criminal Justice System in England and Germany have given Angela unique insights into the destructive and costly cycle of crime, prisons and re-offending. In this thought-provoking talk she offers a deeper understanding of the minds, lives and challenges of offenders. And, with extraordinary slides of art projects and prisoners’ art, she demonstrates how within the process of creating art - of any discipline - there are vital opportunities for offenders to confront their crimes and develop the key life skills so essential in leading a positive and productive life. This talk is moving, informative and very original.
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Barry Venning is an art historian whose interests and teaching range from the art of late medieval Europe to global contemporary art. He has published books, articles and exhibition catalogue essays on Turner, Constable and British landscape painting, but also has an ongoing research interest in postcolonial art and British visual satire. He works for the Open University, teaching a module on global art history and his media work includes three BBC TV documentaries, radio appearances for BBC local radio and ABC Australia, and a DVD on Turner for the Tate.

Art after Windrush: postcolonial artists in Britain since 1948.
The lecture examines the contributions made by artists of African, Caribbean or Asian origin to British art since the SS Empire Windrush arrived in Tilbury from the West Indies in 1948. It considers, among others, the work of Sir Frank Bowling, Francis Newton Souza, Eddie Chambers, Yinka Shonibare, Sonia Boyce, John Akomfrah, Lubaina Himid and the Singh Twins, all of whom have achieved international recognition and respect, their works collected by museums world-wide. They have also set much of the agenda for British art of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
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Basile Watson. National Windrush Monument. 2022. Bronze. Waterloo Station
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Yinka Shonibare: Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, 2011. Glass, ship model, Dutch wax fabrics. Trafalgar Square 4th plinth commission (now located at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich)


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Simon Inglis, writer and historian, specialises in the architecture and heritage of sport and recreation, and his themes are architecture, heritage, design and popular culture Since 2004 he has edited the Played in Britain series for English Heritage. After a history degree at University College London, he freelanced for various publications, including the Guardian, Observer and Radio Times. He has curated exhibitions for the Building Centre and the British Council, been a regular contributor to radio and television, has travelled and lectured extensively, and written a number of books. Two were shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, while another, on British football grounds, was chosen by journalist Frank Keating as the best sports book of the 20th century. A recent highpoint in his work for English Heritage was the listing of a 1970s skatepark in Essex, a world first that made the 10 o'clock news.
Great lengths: the art and architecture of Britain’s historic swimming pools and lidos
Swimming is Britain’s second favourite form of physical recreation (after walking). Almost everyone has memories of visiting their local baths. But whilst not all these memories might be positive – drooping knitted cozzies anyone? – for many swimmers the baths themselves are cherished. Some, particularly those built in the late Victorian and Edwardian years, are rich with decorative tilework, stained glass, polished wood and terracotta detailing. This sense of municipal pride continued into the 1920s and ’30s, when Art Deco and Modernist lidos became the urban beaches of their day.
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Jonathan Weeks is a collector, occasional instrument maker, and player of medieval music.

He developed an interest in the subject while still at school as a result of participating in a performance of “The Taming of the Shrew” which involved the use of period instruments.

Jonathan studied Archaeology at Reading University where an interest in the Medieval prevailed and, through the observation of iconography, sculpture and manuscript illustration, he became fascinated with the musical instruments of that period. During the mid-seventies he began putting together a collection of modern replicas of the instruments, beginning with crumhorns and shawms.

After university he returned to work as a tenant farmer on the family farm in Buckinghamshire until 1988 and after a few years of odd jobbing moved to Somerset in 1992. Here he began collecting again and started giving talks and demonstrations. He now has a collection of over 40 instruments.


A blast from the past, medieval woodwind instruments
This talk/demonstration consists of Jonathan’s collection of 18 woodwind instruments of the Middle Ages. These are reedpipes, shawm, bagpipe, double bagpipe, bladderpipe, hornpipe, crumhorn, cornemuse, kortholt, bone whistles, flute, double pipe, gemshorn, pipe and tabor, early recorders, portative organ and small hurdy-gurdy.

Jonathan speaks about each instrument and its evolution and its place in Medieval life in a lively and amusing manner. He then proceeds to play an appropriate tune on each one. Each instrument is accompanied by good images of them in the art and iconography of the age.

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