Lectures will be held on-line at 2.30pm for a 2.45pm start. The Zoom link for each lecture will be emailed to all members a few days before the lecture.

Mignon - still life fruit, oysters, porcelain bowl

MONDAY 17 MAY 2021

Lynne Gibson

Double Dutch: the secret language of Dutch still life

Merchants of the Dutch Golden Age filled their town houses with paintings. But these upright Calvinist citizens rejected biblical subjects and Baroque melodrama. Favourite themes were found closer to home. Still lifes reflect the prosperity and self-esteem of the new Republic. The detailed realism of these paintings is compelling but is there more to Dutch art than meets the eye?
Banketje (banquets) and ontbijtjes (breakfasts) celebrate an abundance of foodstuffs. Could the curl of lemon peel, platter of oysters, kraakware bowl of blemished fruit or spiced meat pie warn of the dangers of gluttony and pleasures of the flesh?
Vanitas, ‘pronkstilleven’ and ‘blompots’ display treasured possessions. If we look closely, however, the pocket-watch, fading bloom or, more explicitly, human skull, might hint that consciences are troubled by such ostentation.
Join us to explore the secret symbolic language of still life paintings and become a fluent reader of ‘Double Dutch’!

Now working as a freelance lecturer in the History of Art, Lynne originally trained as a fine artist and has taught painting, drawing and printmaking in higher and adult education. She lectured as an art historian for the universities of Sussex and Bristol where she introduced ‘Understanding Art’ to the Lifelong Learning programme and residential summer schools. She also gives talks, lectures and guided tours to a wide range of organisations and institutions including ARCA colleges, The National Trust, National Gallery, art museums and art societies. Lynne has worked as a professional artist specializing in oil painting and etching. Solo and group shows have included the RWA, British Museum and the Barbican.


Ross King

The competitive sport of fresco: Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel

In 1508, Pope Julius II, known because of his military expeditions as the ‘Warrior Pope’, commissioned Michelangelo to fresco the vault of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo had very limited experience of the physically and technically difficult technique of fresco, much less on the underside of a 12,000-square-foot surface. His reputation had been made in sculpture with works such as the Pietà and the monumental David, rather than in paint. This illustrated lecture examines the circumstances surrounding Michelangelo’s commission and how, in the four years between 1508 and 1512, he worked on his immense fresco in direct competition with Raphael, his younger and prodigiously talented contemporary, who was working on his own frescoes a few steps away in the Papal Apartments.

Ross King is the author of eight books on Italian, French and Canadian art and history. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages and he has won both the Governor General’s Award in Canada and the BookSense Non-Fiction Book of the Year in the United States. Born and raised in Canada, he has lived in England since 1992. Ross has lectured widely in both North America and Europe and given lectures and guided tours in Florence, Rome, Milan, Paris and Giverny.


Deborah Lambert

Artists and espionage – the Lawn Road Flats NW3: modernist living in mid-20th century London

This story has a plot worthy of Agatha Christie. The cast includes Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and Laszlo Moholy Nagy, refugees from the Bauhaus in Germany, Henry Moore the sculptor, the writers Nicholas Monsarrat and Agatha Christie herself as well as numerous other writers, intellectuals and civil servants.
The setting is the Lawn Road Flats, a startling Modernist block in a leafy road in North London. It offered a radical new housing concept for young professionals: small serviced flats with a communal restaurant and popular club. But was there a darker side to this lively bohemian environment? It was in fact also home to a nest of Soviet spies, including the recruiter and controller of the Cambridge five.
This is the story of a groundbreaking building, now Grade I listed, and of the rich and complex lives of its residents.

After reading for an MA in the History of Art at the Courtauld Institute, London University, Deborah became an arts administrator. In 1978 she joined Christie’s Education, part of Christie’s Auctioneers, as tutor, lecturer and academic director teaching fine and decorative art history. From 2006 until stepping down in September 2015, Deborah was Curator of the Schroder Collection, an important private art collection, and she now concentrates on her freelance lecturing and research. Deborah has lectured to a variety of organisations in the United Kingdom and abroad, and for over 20 years appeared on BBC Television’s Antiques Roadshow as a furniture specialist.


Justine Hopkins

The world in a grain of sand – William Blake The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

William Blake: poet, painter and philosopher; rebel, radical revolutionary. Called the man without a mask by his friends, Blake was less ahead of his time as outside it, creating his own mythology of embattled beings and strange prophecies to tell the truths he perceived as the heart of all existence. His paintings and poems are particular and specific to the life of eighteenth-century London as they are universal.
This lecture examines the worlds of William Blake in the context of his time and our own, exploring their extraordinary and vivid symbolism and revealing the celebration of life in all its richness that informs even the strangest of his works: a paradoxical way of seeing the world which challenged orthodoxy and continues to do so.

Justine Hopkins studied History of Art at the Courtauld Institute. She has lectured regularly for Tate Britain, Tate Modern, V&A, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. Justine lectures at Oxbridge and Bristol Universities, Christie's Fine Art and The Art Fund. Groups such as the Bradford on Avon Arts Association, Friends of Covent Garden and U3A have also benefited from her lectures.


Antony Buxton

Iconic objects of art: the bird

The bird, moving between the terrestrial to aerial domains, occupies a symbolic place in ancient mythologies. The owl represented learning in Athens, the eagle and swan both feature as symbols of power in Roman art and the peacock finds a place in the mythologies of both East and West for its display of exotic beauty. Christian art adopted the peacock as a symbol of the resurrection and of the Church, and the classical myths associated with the peacock were reinterpreted by academic art of the seventeenth century. The peacock plays a part in the mythologies of the cultures of India and the Far East and became a symbol of the appreciation of ‘superfluous’ beauty by the Aesthetes of the nineteenth century.

Dr Antony Buxton lectures on the history of art, architecture and design, and material and domestic culture for the Department for Continuing Education, University of Oxford and other British and American institutions of higher education. Prior to academic teaching he was for many years a furniture designer-maker and period furniture conservator, leading to an interest in the way in which material and aesthetic culture, social life and values interact.


Mary Alexander

Meet me at the Waldorf: the extraordinary story of two iconic hotels built on Astor feuds, fortunes and art patronage

Immortalised in Cole Porter’s lyrics ‘You’re the top! You’re a Waldorf salad’, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel was ‘home in New York to the stars’, international celebrities and world leaders. Built at the height of the Depression and famous before it opened, its glittering Jazz Age interiors were created by leading European designers, artists and sculptors. We will explore the intriguing story of the hotel’s equally iconic predecessor on Fifth Avenue, in its heyday the place to meet and be seen, where high society paraded in the latest Parisian fashions in Peacock Alley, and where business tycoons and acquisitive art collectors such as J P Morgan and Henry Clay Frick met to ‘do deals’ in finance or art, before it was demolished in 1929. This lecture recreates the stunning interiors of both hotels, the personalities who created them, and the stars who met, feasted and lived there.

Mary Alexander has thirty years’ experience as a lecturer, with a BA in History and History of Art and a MA with distinction in History of Art from University College London. Her experience includes public lectures in museums, tutoring for the Open University, as visiting lecturer at Christie’s Education in London, museum curator at Platt Hall, the Gallery of Costume, Manchester. Now, Mary is a freelance lecturer to various arts, heritage and antiquarian societies. She has also worked in the Pentagram design consultancy in London and New York, organising conferences and special events. Mary is the author of various articles on design and visual awareness issues and her background combines an unusual blend of academic and visual communications skills. She lectured for ADFAS Australia and New Zealand.