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.


Justin Reay

‘The loose and airy lightness of flowers’: Grinling Gibbons and his carvings in wood

Perhaps the best sculptor in wood ever to lift a chisel, Grinling Gibbons learned his craft as an apprentice in one of the best sculptural ateliers in the Low Countries, coming to England as a journeyman carver. He became the King’s Carver and a sought-after provider of high quality decorative and monumental work in wood, stone and bronze. This lecture describes Gibbons’s life and career and discusses the techniques he used to create a convincing illusion of reality. Compton Verney is hosting an exhibition Grinling Gibbons: Centuries in the Making from 25 September until 30 January 2022.

Justin Reay studied History of Art and Architecture at Oxford and completed a doctoral thesis in naval history at Exeter. Formerly a senior academic manager of the Bodleian Library, Justin is Secretary of the Colloquium of Learned Societies at Oxford. He is a published historian and is researching maritime art in the National Trust collections.


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.