October 3, 2019

James Wright

Historic Graffiti - the Hidden Story of the Hopes, Fears and Desires of a Nation

Modern graffiti is often seen as transgressive and moronic. However, look closely in the light of a torch at the walls of our historic buildings, trees, caves and rockfaces and you will see a world of graffiti left that illuminates the psychology of our ancestors. The study of historic graffiti enables us to hear the lost voices of ordinary individuals through their images of daisywheels, ships sailing across the walls, knights drawing their swords, demons stalking the stonework and every animal imaginable…


September 5, 2019

Anne Haworth

Fine as Air and Clear as Water: Rock Crystal Treasures Through the Ages

Rock crystal is the name of a very pure form of quartz, which in ancient times, was believed to be ice which could never melt. Rock crystal was expensive and is particularly difficult to work so the possession of crystal vessels was a prized mark of status and wealth, valued in many different cultures from Byzantium to Moghul India and Renaissance Europe. The lecture follows the story of rock crystal through the Renaissance and Baroque and the vessels worked by Valerio Belli, the Miseroni and the Saracchi families.


June 6, 2019

Mary Alexander

Dazzling Dufy: Invitation to a Luminous  Feast with Raoul Dufy.


May 2, 2019

Ian Keable

The Bottle Conjuror: Comedy and Credulity in Georgian England 

Would you pay money to see a man climb inside a wine bottle? The Little Theatre in the Haymarket was a near sell-out when a newspaper advertisement in1749 claimed that a conjurer would do just that. Unfortunately, although the audience turned up, the performer didn't.  A riot broke out when the spectators realised they had been duped; and the inside of the theatre was smashed up.  The Bottle Conjurer Hoax, as it quickly came known, inspired satirical cartoons through to the 19th century, long after the incident itself was forgotten. William Hogarth even featured it in a painting referencing the Duke of Cumberland, who was one of the victims of the hoax.  This talk throws an entertaining light on 18th century society, with many well-known personalities and powerful men caught up in the amusing incident.  And it finally provides the answer to who was the perpetuator. 


April 4, 2019

Professor Andrew Hopkins

The Guggenheims: a Dynasty of Art Collectors 

What other family in the twentieth century managed to amass such extraordinary art collections, and design or purchase such astounding buildings to display their collections? Compared to the Frick and Gulbenkian, individual collections displayed in single museums, the Guggenheim name was transformed in the late twentieth century into a brand, some would say a chain. With celebrated museums in New York, with the flagship Solomon R. Guggenheim landmark on Fifth Avenue, together with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection on the Grand Canal in Venice, the family foundation did not stop there. They commissioned the celebrated building by Frank Gehry in Bilbao, which opened in 1997, and which is now considered a masterpiece of modern architecture and design. Other expansion plans have not fared so well, with outposts in Las Vegas and Berlin closing after some years, and new building projects in Vilnius and Helsinki have been abandoned after opposition by residents, who were not persuaded they needed a Guggenheim in their city. This lecture looks at the beginning of both Solomon’s and Peggy’s collections in New York City, with artists they acquired such as Kandinsky and Pollock, and traces the development and expansion of their collections over more than half a century, by which time the Guggenheim name had become synonymous with some of the most inspiring art and museums in the world.


March 7, 2019

Gillian Hovell 

A Mediterranean Tour: Not Just a Load of Old Stones


February 7, 2019

Linda Smith

Great Tarts in Art: High Culture and the Oldest Profession

 A mixture of art-historical analysis and scandalous anecdote, this lecture takes a generally light-hearted look at changing attitudes to sexual morality down the ages, by examining the portraits and careers of some of history’s most notorious mistresses and courtesans. It also charts the rather complex and ambiguous attitudes of art and society towards the numerous anonymous working girls at the lower end of the scale, by investigating how they have been represented in art at different times and places from the 17th to the 20th century.