THE BAYEUX TAPESTRY - THE WORLD’S OLDEST COMIC STRIP
Everyone is aware about “1066 and all that” without necessarily knowing the exact facts about this momentous event. This lecture will present in detail the historical, cultural and artistic aspects of that unique masterpiece, the Bayeux Tapestry which provides posterity with such a startling testimonial of peoples’ lives in the late Viking Age. Whether or not this embroidery will actually be shown in Britain in the early 2020s, this talk is one of my most popular with Arts Societies.
READING: Grape, W. 1994. Bayeux Tapestry. Prestel
GERMAN ART THROUGH THE CENTURIES – FROM DÜRER TO BASELITZ
This lecture provides a taste of Germanic art: Dürer, Cranach and Holbein represent Renaissance ideas. Romanticism blossomed in Friedrich’s emotive paintings. The last century is characterized by the powerful Expressionism of the Brücke and Blue Rider groups as well as the new “Wild Ones” (Fauves) like Baselitz today.
READING: No good general book available: Monographs of the various artists
TREASURES OF SPANISH ART – FROM EL GRECO TO PICASSO
This talk traces the important role of the arts in Spain in the development of Western Art. The masterworks of leading artists will be investigated: after El Greco came the “Golden Age of Spanish Painting” with Velázquez, Zurbarán and Murillo. Goya’s work stood out during revolutionary times while the twentieth century saw the brilliant innovations of Dalí, Miró and, above all, Picasso.
READING: Moffitt, J.F., 1999, Thames & Hudson
EXPRESSIONISM – EMOTION VERSUS INTELLECT
(Die Brücke/Blauer Reiter/Kandinsky)
The story of Expressionism begins as a reaction against Impressionism – an idea first explored by the Post-Impressionists (Gauguin, van Gogh, Cézanne and Seurat) and then taken up by young French and German artists in the turbulent times of the early twentieth century. By means of bright colour and bold brushwork, the ‘Wild Beasts’ or ‘Fauves’ (Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck) expressed their ideas in a highly aggressive mode. The German Expressionists in Dresden (Kirchner and the ‘Brücke’ group) and in Munich (Kandinsky and the ‘Blue Riders’) also looked to the importance of African/Oceanic “primitivism” and the decorative elements of painting and sculpture to produce a forcefully emotional art which nevertheless was justified by intellectual argument.
READING: Gordon, D.E., 1987, Expressionism – Art and Idea, Yale. Dube,W.D., 1972, The Expressionists Thames & Hudson
AMERICAN ART – FROM DEPENDENCE TO INDEPENDENCE
This talk traces the development of American painting and sculpture from long-term reliance on European prototypes towards artistic originality in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – from the indigenous Hudson River art and evocative Luminism via the Ashcan-School to Abstract Expressionism: from Copley and West via Church, Homer and Whistler, Singer-Sargent and Hopper to Pollock and Warhol.
READING: Hughes, R., 1997 American Visions, Knopf
THE JOYS OF IMPRESSIONISM
The last third of the nineteenth century in France saw the rebellion by a group of young painters against traditional academic art. Step-by-step, Monet, Renoir, Sisley and Pissarro evolved their own styles which became known as “Impressionism” – characterized by contemporary subject-matter, bright colours, sketchy brushwork, small scale … often painted out-of-doors. It is difficult today to understand that these delightful pictures were violently rejected at the time!
This talk will convey the joys of Impressionism to the audience, a lighthearted and informative experience!
READING: Rewald/Pool/Herbert Impressionism
THE POST-IMPRESSIONIST REBELLION
Modern Art traces its origins back to the artistic revolution in the late nineteenth century when painters like Gauguin, Cézanne, Seurat and van Gogh challenged accepted official “Salon-taste” and evolved totally new principles of art. The combination of these rebellious Post-Impressionist ideas with the tremendous technological and scientific changes of the early twentieth century resulted in that “maze” which we call Modern Art.
READING: Rewald, J. Post-Impressionism Catalogue Exhibition 1980 Royal Academy London
THE ARTS OF BLOOMSBURY AND OMEGA
The Bloomsbury Group is mainly associated with their literary output. This talk investigates the visual aspect of their activity: a singular phenomenon in the British arts at the beginning of the 20th century. Artists like Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant rebelled against the pretty superficiality of Impressionism in favour of a new, unconventional mode of expression in line with continental developments of Post-Impressionism. Initially explored in the Fine Arts, these new ideas were then translated into the Decorative Arts in their OMEGA workshop.
READING: Anscombe, I., Omega and after..., Thames and Hudson. Naylor, G., Bloomsbury by themselves
THE COURTAULD COLLECTION AT SOMERSET HOUSE
For a site originally occupied by the palace of Protector Somerset in the mid-16C, Sir William Chambers designed London’s most outstanding eighteenth century building which in the 1990s was restored to its former glory on the banks of the Thames. Somerset House is now the home of the magnificent art-collections by Samuel Courtauld and his Institute where Eveline Eaton obtained her degree in art-history. She will give the audience a “guided tour” of the architecture, paintings, sculpture and decorative art-objects on view.
READING: Various Courtauld-Institute publications
PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA – MODERN PAINTER OF THE RENAISSANCE
Nearly forgotten during the centuries, Piero della Francesca’s (1410/20-92) work strikes us now as very modern in its calm serenity, grave solemnity and stark geometry. The lecture will trace the oeuvre of this fifteenth-century master of the Renaissance, both in his frescoes and in his panel paintings. The audience will be able to follow the Piero della Francesca trail in Italy and to “see” his paintings in the few museums fortunate to own a Piero.
READING: Monographs on Piero by Aronberg-Lavin (best and most recent); Pope- Hennessy; Lightbown
DÜRER – GENIUS OF THE NORTHERN RENAISSANCE
Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) – arguably the most important Germanic artist ever – stands for the representation of Italian Renaissance ideas and Humanist thought in the North of Europe. Not only was Dürer an exceptional painter and draughtsman, he was also the first to write on art theory in the German language. His extensive graphic production carried Dürer’s fame well beyond his native Nürnberg.
READING: Strieder, P., 1982 Dürer Muller Ltd.
VELÁZQUEZ – PRINCE OF PAINTERS
“Not Painting, but truth”, the work of Diego Velázquez (1599-1660) was hailed as during the highpoint of the “Golden Age of Spanish Painting” – so real appeared one of his pictures to his contemporaries! The early stark ‘bodegónes’ or kitchen-scenes attracted the attention of King Philip IV who made Velázquez his courtpainter. In an ever looser style, this “baroque impressionist” was to produce unforgettable portraits and landscapes as well as historical, allegorical and religious pictures … highlights of which will be studied in this talk.
READING: Brown, J., 1986 Velázquez, New Haven. Exhibition Catalogues New York 1989 and NG London 2006
THE MAGIC OF VERMEER
The exquisite paintings by Jan Vermeer (1632-1675) with their luminous colours, gradations of light and unpretentious subjects, are admired by art-lovers everywhere. Vermeer’s serene, mysterious works will be put into the context of their time in seventeenth century Holland.
READING: Catalogues, Vermeer Exhibitions: 1996 Washington/The Hague and 2001 National Gallery London
Chevalier, T., 1999 The Girl with the Pearl Earring Harper Collins
JOSEPH WRIGHT OF DERBY - PAINTER OF LIGHT
Almost totally forgotten in the twentieth century except in his native Derby, Joseph Wright (1734-1797) is now again celebrated as one of the most inventive and versatile painters during the “Golden Age of British Painting” in the eighteenth century. Best known for his “candle-light” pictures, Wright of Derby was also the inventor of a new category of painting: “contemporary history”, recording scientific experiments and the dignity of labour. Moreover, he was an important portrait- and landscape-artist … in all his work he was, above all, a “painter of light”.
READING: Nicolson, B., 1968 Joseph Wright of Derby
Exhibition Catalogue 1990 Tate/Louvre/Met NY
CASPAR DAVID FRIEDRICH – MASTER OF GERMAN ROMANTICISM
Even eager connoisseurs of the arts have rarely heard of the foremost exponent of German Romanticism: Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) whose oeuvre is as significant as Delacroix’s in France or Turner’s in England. In his unforgettable, evocative paintings, Friedrich makes landscape take on symbolic religious and political meanings – his unique body of work anticipates the later ideas of Impressionism, Expressionism and Abstraction. Since there is only one Friedrich-painting in Britain ("Winter Landscape with Church", 1811, NG London), this is a superb chance to study his work in detail.
READING: Schmied, W., 1995 Friedrich Abrams
Hofmann, W., 2000 Caspar David Friedrich Thames & Hudson
CLAUDE MONET – IMPRESSIONISM’S GREATEST TALENT
It is hard to believe that Impressionist paintings in France in the later nineteenth century were just as heavily criticized as ‘modern’ art is nowadays. And yet: Impressionist pictures are now among the best-loved works of art with their brilliant rendition of light and colour! Impressionist artists had come to the fore during a period of dramatic changes in social conditions, artistic practices and patronage. We shall follow the development of the most talented Impressionist Claude Monet from his relatively tame beginnings to his daring innovations during his long and successful career … a feast for the spectators’ minds and eyes!
READING: House, J., 1986 Claude Monet, Yale
Skeggs, D., 1987 River of Light, Victor Gollancz
CÉZANNE – FATHER OF MODERN ART
Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) wanted “to make out of Impressionism an art of the museums”… to add a more ordered and permanent quality to his pictures than just capturing the fleeting sensations in nature. He was to achieve this goal with his cube-like “constructive brushstrokes”. Picasso’s Cubism took its starting point in Cézanne’s work, followed by many other artists who all regarded Cézanne as the “Father of Modern Art”. This talk will follow Cézanne’s development from awkward beginnings through Impressionism and beyond to become a great master in his own right.
READING: Rewald, J., 1986, Cézanne
Exhibition Catalogue 1996 London/Paris/Philadelphia
VINCENT VAN GOGH – EMOTION IN PAINT
The painter, draughtsman and writer Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) was not only a fanatical artist – most of his oeuvre was produced over a ten-year-period – but, above all, a misunderstood genius. During his lifetime, he only ever sold one picture – now, his work sells for millions and has universal appeal! By means of strong colour and bold brushstrokes, van Gogh expressed his own turbulent emotions and, at the same time, reflected the turmoil of his era.
READING: Catalogues of Exhibitions in New York (1984/1986); Amsterdam and Otterlo (1990); Chicago and Amsterdam (2002)
GAUGUIN - GENIUS OR MADMAN?
Based on the ideas of Impressionism, Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) pushed the style from perception to conception, from appearance to experience, from an art of eye to an art of the mind. In order to achieve his new Post-Impressionism, Gauguin left the over-refinement of Western civilization behind for the more “primitive” environments of the South Seas where he evolved a non-naturalistic, enigmatic vision of the world with a strong emphasis on colour, a powerful impact on Matisse. Which aspect of his teacher’s prediction is true then: “This boy will be either a genius or a madman”?
READING: Wildenstein & Cogniat, 1972, Gauguin. Thames and Hudson Exhibition Catalogues Gauguin 1988 and Gauguin/van Gogh 2002
SEURAT … DOT … DOT … DOT
Within Post-Impressionism, Georges Seurat (1850-1891) evolved a highly personal style which is often referred to as Pointillism – hence the lecture’s title “dot … dot … dot”. Seurat’s method of dividing primary and complementary colours in his often large pictures as well as his social concerns and the impact of Old Master art resulted in a forceful departure from intuitive Impressionism. Among others, his masterpieces of the Bathers (NG London) and the Grande Jatte (Art Inst.Chicago) have become icons in the history of modern art. This talk will follow Seurat’s development from his early drawings to the serene landscape-paintings shortly before his all too early death.
READING: Russell, J./Thomson, R. Seurat. Exhibition Catalogues Paris/New York 1991/2 Seurat
WHISTLER – SYMPHONIES IN PAINT
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) was a truly international artist. Born in America, educated in Russia, working mainly in France and Britain, he evolved a totally new art conveying the effects of music in his atmospheric paintings … thus becoming one of the most important precursors of twentieth century abstract art. Flamboyant dandy and ebullient publicist, the eccentric Whistler is best known to posterity for his infamous quarrel with Ruskin.
READING: Spencer, R., 1990 Whistler. Studio Editions Exhibition Catalogue Tate London 1995
MATISSE – MASTER OF COLOUR
Henri Matisse (1869-1954) dreamt “of an art of balance, purity and serenity” and succeeded - as no other twentieth century master – in bringing infinite joy to the viewer … above all through his mastery of radiant colour and exactitude of line. This talk will follow Matisse’s career as a painter, draughtsman and sculptor from subdued beginnings via exuberant Fauvist experiments to triumphant conclusions in the late cut-outs and the Vence-Chapel.
READING: Schneider, P., 1984 Matisse Thames and Hudson
PICASSO – GIANT OF TWENTIETH CENTURY ART
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) is the most famous artist ever. This lecture will trace the development of the artist’s long life and career from his highly accomplished beginnings in a traditional style via a variety of artistic experiments to the invention of a totally new way of seeing: Cubism. Painter, draughtsman, sculptor and ceramicist, Picasso revolutionized all hitherto accepted modes. Twentieth century art cannot be understood without assessing Picasso’s important achievements.
READING: Richardson, J., 1990s/2000s Picasso (several volumes). Stassinopoulos Huffington, A., 1988 Picasso. Simon & Schuster Mathews Gedo, M., 1980 Picasso – Art as Autobiography Chic. Catalogues of Picasso Exhibitions in recent years
AUGUSTE RODIN – THE FIRST MODERN SCULPTOR?
This lecture will investigate the important role played by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) in the evolution from traditional to modern sculpture – as he succinctly put it himself: “I am the link, the bridge between the past and the future, between yesterday and tomorrow.” The talk will focus on Rodin’s famous masterpieces such as The Age of Bronze, The Gates of Hell, The Burghers of Calais and Balzac – looking at the ideas behind these works as well as the new techniques employed by the sculptor.
READING: Elsen, A., 1963 Rodin. Champigneulle, B., 1967 Rodin. Thames and Hudson Exhibition Catalogue Royal Academy London 2006/7
HENRY MOORE – BRITAIN’S GREATEST SCULPTOR
Henry Moore’s (1898-1986) life and career spanned most of the twentieth century and his work is celebrated internationally. This lecture will explain the reasons for Moore’s “infamous holes” and set his sculpture into the context of his time. The British Museum and Picasso provided his early inspiration before Moore arrived – in both, his drawings and his sculpture – at his own distinctive style with his key-theme of the human figure.
READING: Russell, J., 1973 Henry Moore Pelican. Exhibition Catalogue Royal Academy London 1988
THE ‘NEW’ BERLIN – ART AND ARCHITECTURE
After unification of East and West in 1989, the formerly battered and divided city has miraculously risen like a “phoenix from the ashes” to become once again the German capital and a veritable cultural treasure-trove. Everywhere in Berlin, spectacular buildings are being erected, designed by leading architects from all over the world … Sir Norman Foster’s new Reichstag is only one of many famous examples. Rich art-collections are presented all over the ‘new’ and ‘old’ Berlin in splendid museums and historic palaces. The talk will be infused with “Berliner Luft”, that typical Berlin-atmosphere that the lecturer can add as a born-and-bred native of the metropolis!
READING: Berlin – Open City Nicolai and other recently published guides
DRESDEN TODAY – ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The city of Dresden celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2006. Renowned as the “Florence of the North”, its eighteenth century buildings have been faithfully restored. The famous Green Vaults display an array of dazzling artefacts. The Old and New Masters Picture-Galleries are among the finest in Europe. Superb Oriental and Meissen porcelain is on view in the historic Zwinger Palace, a jewel of Rococo architecture. Not far from Dresden, we shall also look at the charming town of Meissen and its famous factory as well as the Saxon rulers’ hunting-lodge at Moritzburg and the Decorative Arts Museum at Pillnitz on the Elbe.
READING: Dresden 800, 2005 Nicolai
MUNICH – METROPOLIS WITH A HEART
The capital of Bavaria is famous not only as the most beautiful city in Germany with its great variety of historic and modern architecture, but also for its unique charm and “joie de vivre”. The Wittelsbach Residenz features sumptuous interiors, a magnificent Treasury and the charming Rococo Cuvilliés Theatre. Fine ancient art and architecture are on view in the Glyptothek. The collections at the three Pinakothek galleries span eight centuries of artistic activity. The Lenbachhaus concentrates on the “Blue Riders” with their leader Kandinsky. Nearby palaces such as Nymphenburg, Herrenchiemsee, Linderhof and Neuschwanstein remind us of Bavarian history while the famous Passionplay takes place every 10 years (next in 2020) at Oberammergau. Die Wies is the most stunning Rococo church in Europe.
READING: Munich, 1996 Prestel Journey through Munich, 2007 Stürtz
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The lecture will provide a brief historical survey of this exciting city before focusing on New York’s traditional and modern architecture. Highlights of sculpture and painting from ancient Egypt to modern times will be shown by “visiting” the rich art-collections in the Metropolitan and Cloisters museums, the Frick Collection, the Guggenheim and the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art). There is never a dull moment in the “Big Apple”!
READING: Hughes, R., 1997 American Visions, Knopf, New York. Morrone, F., Architectural Guide-Book New York. Recently published books on New York (green Michelin)