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Past Lectures


Tuesday 21st April 2015
Peter the Great: ‘The Blaspheming Bear’
Douglas Skeggs

Peter the Great’s personality was a confusing collection of contradictions. He was both an enlightened sovereign and a violent and brutal tyrant, a foul speaking drunkard who personally tortured hundreds of his subjects. This lecture follows the course of his turbulent life from his childhood to the triumphs and conquests of his old age when he established Russia as a major political and military force in the western world.

Douglas Skeggs read Fine Art at Magdalene College, Cambridge and is a lecturer on paintings as well as a writer and presenter, having written and presented various television documentaries and a book on Monet. He is a lecturer to many London art courses and often leads art tours abroad.

Peter the Great: ‘The Blaspheming Bear’
Tuesday 17th March 2015
Britain with Betjeman: the story of John Betjeman's life slanted towards his architectural writings
John Vigar

We will be introduced to the architectural writings and opinions of John Betjeman, the history of the buildings he used as examples, and explore structures as diverse as churches, houses and pleasure piers. John will show us that Betjeman's idea for a series of architecturally-bsed guides should be as well known as his poetry.

John Vigar is a professional ecclesiastical historian, author and broadcaster who has visited and recorded over 13,000 churches in England and Wales. He is a trustee of The Friends of Friendless Churches, the oldest church preservation society in Britain, and works for the Churches Conservation Trust. He has written 12 books and is also a tutor at Denman adult education college.

Britain with Betjeman
Tuesday 17th February 2015
The Rise and Fall of the English Music Hall
Andrew Davies

Lively and colourful, the history of the English music hall tells us much about social history and architecture. We will explore this history and in particular we will look at the oldest music halls, the Canterbury and Wilton’s.

Andrew is an extra-mural tutor for London, Essex and the Open University and the author of several books including ‘The East End Nobody Knows’ and a frequent contributor to radio and television.

The Rise and Fall of the English Music Hall
Tuesday 20th January 2015
Piero di Cosimo: Florentine Painter and Lover of Eggs
Shirley Smith

We will look at Piero di Cosimo's bizarre diet of hard boiled eggs and his paintings of religious scenes, contemporary portraiture and mythological fantasies, some of the most enigmatic works of the Italian renaissance. This is the lecture that was unfortunately cancelled in 2013 due to bad weather.

Shirley is a specialist on the Italian and Northern Renaissance and studied Art History at UEA. She is a part-time lecturer there and also in Cambridge for the Department of Continuing Education. She is particularly keen to set the art and architecture of the period in the context of the society for which it was produced.

Piero di Cosimo: Florentine Painter and Lover of Eggs
Tuesday 9th December 2014 - Christmas Social Event
Mrs Beeton’s Christmas
Dr Annie Gray

We look at Christmas through the gaze of Isabella Beeton. Her ‘Book of Household Management’ does not go into depth on what the festival really meant, which reflects the mid-Victorian view: was it an excuse for revelry, or could it be an occasion to celebrate family and friends? Annie will show the way the customs we consider part of Christmas were invented or reinvented, or indeed, not yet thought of.

Annie Gray is a food historian with degrees from Oxford, York and Liverpool. She is the author of a number of both academic and popular articles and lectures widely. She also leads a team at Audley End House who cook and intereact with the public in the guise of Victorian servants.

Mrs Beeton’s Christmas
Tuesday 18th November 2014
Sleeping Beauties: The Irish Country House
Dr Tom Duncan

Ireland has a wealth of great houses of international stature, many of which have remained largely unknown to all but the specialist historian and enthusiast. Undoubtedly, many of the finest are of the Georgian Era, when Ireland enjoyed an untypical period of peace and prosperity. The principal houses to be discussed will be Malahide Castle, Bellamont Forest, Castletown Conolly and Russborough.

Tom Duncan was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied History of Art and Classical Archaeology. He taught at University level and now lectures widely to heritage and artistic organisations such as The Art Fund and NADFAS. He began to lead tours sixteen years ago and founded CICERONI Travel in 1998.

Sleeping Beauties: The Irish Country HouseSleeping Beauties: The Irish Country House
Tuesday 21st October 2014 after the AGM
Please note the AGM starts at 6:45pm
Agony or Ecstasy? Michelangelo the Artist and Michelangelo the Man
Caroline Brooke

According to Michelangelo (1476-1564) 'every artist paints himself'. While it is certainly true that we tend to see art as a reflection of its maker, just how might we understand the paintings, sculpture and drawings produced by Michelangelo in terms of what we know about him as a man, as one who was prone to violent temper tantrums, fits of paranoia, sulking and passionate crushes on younger men? This lecture explores what is known about Michelangelo's personality from contemporary accounts, as well as his own writings and poetry, in order to consider just how the ecstasies and agonies he experienced might have conditioned the astonishing art that he produced.

Caroline lectures regularly at the National Gallery, Courtauld Institute and writes for the Burlingon Magazine; she is an Associate Lecturer at Birkbeck School of Art History.

Agony or Ecstasy? Michelangelo the Artist and Michelangelo the Man
Tuesday 16th September 2014
Francis Bacon
Linda Smith

Is Bacon the most significant British painter of the 20th century, or is his work violent, nihilistic and ugly? He was influenced by old masters like Titian, Valazquez and Degas and tried to push figurative art to its absolute limits. We will focus on his most important works, in order to understand why they came to look the way they do.

Linda delivered one of the most popular lectures of 2012; she holds two first-class degrees in Art History and is a guide and lecturer at Tate Britain and Tate Modern as well as the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

The Birth of the Greek Gods
Tuesday 17th June 2014
Legend and Lustre: Jim Thompson and Thai Silk
Denise Heywood

Jim Thompson arrived in Bangkok in 1945 and was captivated by the beauty of Thai silk, a craft which he resuscitated and made famous. We will hear the story of his achievements and see the process of silk production and its heritage, inluding royal robes and temple murals.

Denise is an author, lecturer, photographer and journalist; she has worked in Cambodia and written books on Southeast Asian temples and culture. She lectures at SOAS London University and other bodies and has led cultural tours to Southeast Asia for the Royal Academy.

Legend and Lustre: Jim Thompson and Thai Silk

Tuesday 20th May 2014
The Birth of the Greek Gods
Dr Steven Kershaw

This talk provides a ‘who’s who and how’ of the main divinities of Greek mythology and will establish the definitive iconography of Greece’s key gods and goddesses. It will also look at creation myths that tell about the original of the world and the gods.

A classics tutor for Oxford University Department of Continuing Education, Dr Kershaw has published books on classical civilizations including ‘A Brief Guide to the Greek Myths’, and ‘A Brief Guide to Classical Civilization’. He has travelled extensively in the world of the Greeks and Romans.

The Birth of the Greek Gods
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