Lectures are held in the Sixth Form Lecture Theatre, James Allen's Girls' School (off Green Dale, London SE22 8TX) at 7.30 for 8.00pm. Parking is available via Green Dale. Click below to download the full season's programme. To join, go to the Membership page.
The Jewel in the Crown: The Arabs and Normans
- Date: Thursday 14 October 2021, 8.00pm
- Lecturer: Jane Angelini
In the mid-11th century, Palermo in Sicily was one of the greatest commercial and cultural centres of the Muslim world, a busy metropolis with 300+ mosques, markets, exchanges, craftsmen and artisans. All around were parks and pleasure gardens with fountains and running streams. In 1072 Palermo fell to the Normans under Roger I. During the 12th century it became the most intellectually active, artistically eclectic centre in Europe; the cathedrals of Cefalù, Monreale, the Palatine Chapel of the Norman Palace and the church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio were witness to a brilliant fusion of Norman, Arab and Byzantine art and architecture.
Isfahan and the history of Persian tilework
- Date: Thursday 11 November 2021, 8.00pm
- Lecturer: James Allan
This lecture explores the history of Persian tilework primarily through the monuments of Isfahan, though it will also refer to buildings elsewhere. From simple monochrome and turquoise inlays in the 12th century, tilework in Iran developed in both variety of colours and decorative complexity, until by the 17th century, enormous architectural surfaces were covered with brilliant ornament.
Dido Elizabeth Belle and the beginnings of abolition
- Date: Thursday 13 January 2022, 8.00pm
- Lecturer: Lesley Primo
In the late 18th century Britain was prominent in the slave trade, but the idea that slavery was wrong was beginning to take hold. The lecture will trace the origins of abolition through the eyes of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a black woman living in Kenwood House, and the only known portrait of her. What made Dido different from other black people at the time and how did she come to live at Kenwood? We will look at a variety of paintings in the context of abolition, attitudes towards the slave trade and the first stirrings of anti-slavery in Britain.
St Nicholas of Myra and Santa Claus - a case of mistaken identity
- Date: Thursday 9 December 2021, 8.00pm
How did the remains of Nicholas, a 4th century bishop from Myra, Turkey, reach Bari, Italy in 1087? And how did this rather obscure churchman become the patron saint of sailors, merchants, prisoners and children in the Byzantine Empire and Western Europe? This lecture explores the development of the medieval St Nicholas cult through its icons, wall paintings and illuminated manuscripts, and charts his eventual transformation into the much-loved Santa Claus.
Rick Mather's Millenium Museums: Dulwich, The Wallace and the Ashmolean
- Date: Thursday 10 February 2022, 8.00pm
- Lecturer: Andrew Hopkins
Many museums and galleries in the UK were renovated and extended for the Millennium by Rick Mather Architects, including Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Wallace Collection and the Ashmolean. This lecture looks at the architectural strategies and principles used by Mather to transform these spaces into modern masterpieces, at the same time preserving the historical buildings and creating places that people
GENTILITY, GOSSIP AND GALLANTRY: MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT JANE AUSTEN
- Date: Thursday 7 April 2022, 8.00pm
- Lecturer: Mary Sharp
Austen’s novels are often characterised as lightweight romances portraying a limited social sphere, reflecting the circumstances of the author’s life. This lecture suggests that Austen is not interested in romance but moral challenge, not a mild spinster but a social commentator and by no means inferior to Eliot and Dickens. The lecturer will discuss extracts from Emma and Pride and Prejudice, consider how we should view the tedious Miss Bates to whom Emma is so famously insolent, and how we should judge the over-excitable Mrs Bennet.
** This lecture will be held on the first Thursday in April, not the second as usual
William Morris, Socialist and Entrepreneur
- Date: Thursday 10 March 2022, 8.00pm
- Lecturer: Joanna Banham
Morris is renowned for wanting to make art and beauty available to everyone. He also wanted to overthrow Victorian capitalism and create a more equal society, yet much of the work his firm produced was too expensive for anyone but the wealthy. Without their patronage he would not have been able to maintain his artistic lifestyle nor support his many socialist causes. This lecture examines the contradictions in Morris’s life and ideas and the tensions between his roles as a revolutionary socialist and highly-successful businessman and entrepreneur.
The Unknown Art of Gothic Ireland
- Date: Thursday 12 May 2022, 8.00pm
- Lecturer: Colum Hourihane
The term Gothic does not sit easily with the art that was made in late medieval Ireland. Representing a fusion of the native and the international styles, a wealth of art from metalwork to manuscript still survives. Extending from the 13th to the end of the 15th century, this art is virtually unknown in the outside world. This lecture will introduce those works and look at the broader world in which they were created.
Awkward Bodies - a defence of Modernism
- Date: Monday 16 August 2021, 6.42pm
The pale flesh of Lucian Freud’s women; the red stars and barbs of William Coldstream’s nudes; the viscerally disturbing figures of Francis Bacon. This talk will explore the particular talent of British 20th century painters for representing the human form in a particularly expressive manner. As disturbing as they are sometimes cathartic, the changing attitudes to depicting the human body reflected artists’ changing relationships with 20th century society.
Statues of Discord in Whitehall and Trafalgar Square
- Date: Monday 16 August 2021, 6.42pm
This lecture will focus on the public spaces around Whitehall and Trafalgar Square, exploring the controversies that have surrounded the statuary. It’s not just about re-evaluating past heroes; there has been disagreement about the placement, design and intention of many works from their conception. A parliamentary committee in the 1840s said there shouldn't be a column to Nelson in Trafalgar Square, but their view was overridden. As more statues are removed, perhaps the succession of works on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth has something to teach us.