The rise and fall of a military genius in art: above and below

Meetings and Days of Special Interest in 2020

COVID-19: No lectures were held in April, May or June 2020. Our July lecture was replaced by a talk on Impressionists in their Gardens given on Zoom by Caroline Holmes and shared with Harlow and Woodford societies. Our September lecture on Zoom was projected on our hall screen to a limited audience and in October our speaker was in the Hall with a limited audience joined by others externally on Zoom webinar,  a pattern we anticipate will continue for the foreseeable future


January 8 (second Wednesday)


– the world-class art, architecture and design of London Underground

Ian Swankie

The world’s first underground railway has a wonderful heritage of architecture, ingenious design, powerful advertising posters and unique calligraphy. In this talk we plot the early development of the Underground, examine the legacy of Frank Pick and Charles Holden, look at some of the iconic posters, and celebrate the award winning architecture of the modern Tube in the Jubilee Line Extension. We’ll also take a peek at some of the forthcoming Crossrail stations, designed by some of the world’s top architects

February 5


The Old Master of Modern Art?

Linda Smith


From his radical youth in the vibrant world of avant-garde 1890s Paris, to his death in rural Southern France in 1947, Pierre Bonnard moved from modern and urban subjects to the limited and domestic. Despite the glorious, atmospheric colour and shimmering decorative effect of his paintings, Bonnard was often dismissed by the avant-garde during his lifetime and by art historians after his death. More recent scholarship has revised this assessment, and this talk takes a close look at the artist’s work and changing reputation. Our lecturer, Linda Smith, holds two first-class degrees in Art History.  She is an experienced lecturer and guide, especially at Tate Britain and Tate Modern. She has lectured to a wide variety of audiences in different venues, including school and university students, and independent arts societies, both in the UK and overseas.

March 5


​Siân Walters

Siân Walters Studied at Cambridge University. She is a Lecturer at the National Gallery and The Wallace Collection and taught at Surrey University, specialising in 15th and 16th century Italian painting, Spanish art and architecture, and the relationship between dance and art. Her lecture entitled simply Hieronymous Bosch will focus on the mocking of Christ. Hieronymus Bosch was a Dutch/Netherlandish painter from Brabant. He is one of the most notable representatives of the Early Netherlandish painting school. His work contains fantastic illustrations of religious concepts and narratives.


March 11


An Architectural Discovery

Andrew Davies

Bustling noisy, vibrant, New York epitomises the modern city at its best (and occasional worst).  We will explore its architectural story, from brownstones to Beaux Arts to Art Deco to modernism, revelling in such masterpieces as the Chrysler and Woolworth buildings, the Rockefeller Centre, Grand Central and the Empire State Building. We will also visit such gems as the Frick Collection.  Sit back and marvel! Andrew is extra-mural tutor for London, Essex and The Open University; author of nine books, including The East End Nobody Knows; a frequent contributor to radio and television, he has lectured all over the world and organises walks to complement his lectures.

April 1



Rupert Willoughby

Lecture cancelled in line with Government advice

Basingstoke and its Contribution to World Culture is a whimsical, yet scholarly attempt to explain the phenomenon that is Basingstoke.

Sadly, Basingstoke is one of the most derided towns in England, famous for its pointless roundabouts, vacuous shopping centres and hostile modernist architecture. Thanks to demented post-War planners, this has been the fate of towns across Britain. 

Rupert Willoughby is a prize-winning historian, a Classicist, a lecturer on the national circuit, a poet, a father and a wild swimmer with a passion for castles, lakes and uncovering the layers of the past. A graduate with First Class Honours in History from the University of London (where he immersed himself in the ‘Byzantine’, or medieval Greek Empire), he is the author of the best-selling Life in Medieval England for Pitkin.

May 6


Rosalynd Whyte

Lecture cancelled in line with Government advice

In 1936 Dame Laura Knight became the first woman to be elected a full member of the Royal Academy in London. In her extraordinary career she painted landscapes, portraits, seascapes and scenes from the circus, the ballet and the theatre. This lecture provides an overview of her fascinating career and some of her remarkable achievements. BA and MA from Goldsmith’s College, and an MA (distinction) from Birkbeck College.

Rosalynd is an experienced guide at Tate Britain, Tate Modern, the Royal Academy and Greenwich and lectures at Tate, Dulwich Picture Gallery, to independent art societies and on cruises as well as leading art appreciation holidays.

June 3


Norwegian Arts from Stave Churches to Snohetta

Rosamund Bartlett

Lecture cancelled in line with Government advice

From the elaborate carvings on ancient wooden Stave churches to the ultra-modern design of Oslo-based practice Snøhetta ('Snow Hat'), the Norwegian arts have always had a close relationship with nature. This lecture will explore how Norways' dramatic, rugged and beautiful landscape has inspired and shaped its music, painting and architecture from the medieval period to the present day. Subjects to be discussed include the 'animal art' of the Viking-era Urnes Stave Church, the music of Edvard Grieg, the paintings of Munch and Astrup, and the cutting-edge landscape architectural projects commissioned for Norway's National Tourist Routes.

July 1

Impressionists in the Gardens

Caroline Holmes

This was the first Lecture on put out by the society onZoom but you can view a summary of original lecture HERE

Caroline, with a passion for gardens, has lectured in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Europe, Japan and on cruises to the Baltic, Mediterranean, Caribbean and Indian Ocean. In 2017 she returned to The Arts Society in New Zealand. Lectures for the University of Cambridge ICE (Course Director for International Summer Programme), the Royal Horticultural Society, museums, and specialist travel companies. Picture: The famous monet bridge in a picture for France Tourism.

September 2:

Note: This was the first hybrid lecture offered by our society with the speaker via Zoom projected to a small invited audience in our hall. We are grateful to Neil Faulkner for trialling this version of a hybrid lecture



Orientalist, Imperialist

Neil Faulkner

For a woman of her time and class, Gertrude Lowthian Bell’s achievements were extraordinary. She broke free of social constraint and convention to make outstanding contributions in the male-dominated worlds of exploration, archaeology, and imperial statesmanship. Partly because of this, however, commentary has tended to be gushing and uncritical.

Bell was a complex figure. The daughter of the one of the richest men in Britain, it was class privilege that made her achievements possible. Her politics were reactionary: she opposed women’s suffrage, campaigned for volunteers for the trenches, and opposed anti-colonial movements after the First World War.

This lecture will assess the character, career, and contribution of Gertrude Bell to exploration, archaeology, and imperial politics in the context of the tumultuous age through which she lived.

Educated at King's College Cambridge and Institute of Archaeology UCL, Neil Faulkner works as lecturer, writer, archaeologist and occasional broadcaster. Research Fellow, University of Bristol. Editor, Military History Monthly. Director, Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project. Director, Great Arab Revolt Project. Author of The Decline and Fall of Roman Britain, Apocalypse, Hidden Treasure, Rome: Empire of the Eagles, and The Ancient Greek Olympics: a visitor's guide. Author of forthcoming Lawrence of Arabia's War. Major TV appearances include Channel 4's Time Team, BBC2's Timewatch, Channel Five's Boudica Revealed and Sky Atlantic's The British.

October 7  (AGM moved to 6 October at 7pm on Zoom)

Elizabeth to Elizabeth - Five Centuries of British Art

Val Woodgate

This lecture went ahead as the Society's and possibly The Arts Society's first hybrid presentation to a socially distance audience of 40 and an audience on Zoom of some 60 home viewing points (c80 viewers).  We acknowledge the true pioneering spirit of Val Woodgate in offering to give this lecture. We are told this may have been the first full hybrid lecture successful delivered to an Arts Society audience.


Lecturer and guide at Tate Britain and Tate Modern, also at many other London Galleries and for various art organisations.

Former member of the teaching team at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Lecturer to The Arts Society (formerly NADFAS) throughout Britain, and to related organisations in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Lecturer and runs courses at the Pallant House Gallery, Chichester.



November 4


Barry Venning

It is intended this lecture will go ahead subject to prevailing Government guidelines both live in the hall and on Zoom Webinar

The French painter Girodet spoke for all those who worked for Napoleon when he said “We were all conscripted, but not all of us wore the uniform”. Bonaparte’s brilliant exploits in the Revolutionary Wars attracted artists from the earliest stages in his career and he made systematic use of art as propaganda to reveal himself as soldier, peacemaker, lawgiver and the possessor of semi-divine imperial power. He was fortunate to have at his command the greatest artists of the era, including Jacques Louis David, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Antonio Canova and the lesser known Charles-Antoine, Baron Gros, who produced some of the most astounding Napoleonic pictures. The lecture concludes by looking at the less flattering images of Napoleon that were produced in Britain and Germany.

Barry Venning is a historian of British Art with a particular interest in the work of J M W Turner, on whom he has published widely, including the volume on Turner in Phaidon’s Art & Ideas series and several catalogue essays for exhibitions in the UK, Germany, Italy and Poland. He was the BBC’s script consultant and expert commentator for a 2005 documentary on Turner’s Fighting Temeraire and has recently taken part (2013) in a BBC documentary called The Genius of Turner: Painting the Industrial Revolution. He has also published a study of John Constable’s paintings. His interests and his teaching extend from medieval architecture to contemporary British art. He is currently Associate Lecturer in the History of Art with the Open University and lecturing on a freelance basis for Nadfas, Christie’s Education and other organisations.  


Wednesday 25 November


Rosamund Bartlett

It is intended the Study Day will go ahead subject to prevailing Government guidelines live in the hall only. The lecture is not suited for Zoom transmission.

Rosamund Bartlett follows her lecture in May by discussing three of her favourite topics - Art and Music and Literature - as they have developed in, been affected by and influenced Russian society. 


Rosamund Bartlett is a writer, scholar, translator and lecturer specialising in Russian literature. She graduated from Durham University with a first-class degree in Russian and went on to complete a doctorate at Oxford.

She is the author of Tolstoy: A Russian Life (2010) and has translated Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (2014). She is also the author of Chekhov: Scenes from a Life (2004) and has translated two volumes of Anton Chekhov's short stories.

December 2


Pub signs, the artwork and the stories behind their names

John Ericson

It is intended this lecture will go ahead subject to prevailing Government guidelines both live in the hall and on Zoom Webinar

According to a recent article in the Daily Telegraph we are losing 12 pubs a week - that’s over 600 a year and a significant part of our cultural heritage and landscape.

Inns and public houses are a rich part of Britain’s heritage. Their signs provide us with an abundantly illustrated guide to both our history and our cultural heritage.

Currently there are about 50,000 pubs in the UK with an extraordinary 17,000 different names but why are there
so many pubs called the ‘Red Lion’,

the ‘Crown’ or ‘White Hart’?

In this colourful and entertaining lecture John shows some of the most interesting and distinctive signs and explores the fascinating stories behind the origins of some of their peculiar names. Who could fail to be intrigued by the stories behind the ‘Bucket of Blood’, the ‘Blazing Donkey’, the ‘Cow and Snuffers’ or even the ‘Eager Poet’ - and who on earth was ‘Blind Jack’?

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