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The Arts Society Wirral lectures are held at Heswall Hall on the 3rd Monday of every month. They start at 2pm and the doors are open from 1.00pm.  The lectures will run for approximately 1 hour. There are no lectures in the summer months of July and August.  

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Behind the Scenes at the National Gallery

Sian Walters

16th October 2023

In 2024 the National Gallery celebrates its 200th birthday. In the run up to this special anniversary, join me as I explore some of the nation’s best-loved paintings in a new light, revealing details which cannot be seen with the naked eye and discussing what goes on behind the scenes in the conservation, framing and scientific departments. The lecture will result in a greater understanding of not only the art itself, but also of the work the National Gallery does to care for it, present it and interpret it.

Few of the gallery’s works retain their original frames but an expert team will often source and adapt examples which complement the paintings historically, or indeed hand-carve new ones from scratch. We will also look at the technical challenges involved in hanging, displaying, moving and framing the collection and the various solutions devised by the Art Handling Team. Many of the paintings in the gallery were designed for a very specific function, an altarpiece such as Piero’s Baptism of Christ for example, so how do the curators allow us to interpret and view these within a museum context? Finally, we’ll talk about restoration and conservation, exploring extraordinary details from works such as the Wilton Diptych, which have only been discovered recently thanks to scientific analysis.

Join me on a journey of discovery as we explore the hidden secrets of masterpieces by Bellini, Leonardo, van Eyck and many more. I have been a lecturer at the National Gallery for nearly 20 years.

Siân Walters is an art historian and the director of Art History in Focus. She has been a lecturer at the National Gallery for 20 years and taught their first online course, Stories of Art, in September 2020. She also lectures for The Wallace Collection, The Art Fund and many art societies and colleges throughout Europe, and taught at Surrey University for many years.

Her specialist areas include 15th and 16th century Italian Art, Spanish Art and Architecture, Dutch and Flemish painting and the relationship between Dance and Art (she is an honorary advisor to the Nonsuch Historical Dance Society). Siân studied at Cambridge University where she was awarded a choral exhibition and a 1st for her dissertation on the paintings of Arnold Schoenberg. She has lived in France and Italy where she worked for the eminent Haydn scholar H.C. Robbins Landon and for the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice. She spends much of the year organising and leading specialist art tours abroad, including bespoke trips for The Arts Society.

In recent years Siân has been asked to represent the National Gallery at the international Hay Festival and was named a Highly Commended finalist in the World’s Best Guide Awards. In 2018 she was invited to be the guest lecturer on the inaugural BRAVO Cruise of Performing Arts alongside Katherine Jenkins, Julian Lloyd Webber and Ruthie Henshall. 


The Great Age of The Shogun: Art and Culture in the Edo Period Japan

Marie Conte -Helm

20th November 2023

During the Edo period of rule by the Tokugawa Shogunate (1615-1868), the arts of Japan gained in richness and diversity. With the rise of the merchant class and the growth of cities such as Edo (modern-day Tokyo), a new vitality was injected into traditional forms and an emerging middle class culture gave rise to exciting developments in the visual and performing arts. This lecture will consider the arts of the period including castle architecture, golden screen painting, ukiyo-e prints, textiles, lacquerware, and netsuke, as well as the emergence of the flamboyant kabuki theatre. It will provide a snapshot of both aristocratic and popular taste as Japan made the transition from feudal kingdom into modern state.

Professor Marie Conte-Helm is a long-established Arts Society Lecturer with a BA in History of Art and an MA in Asian Art and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She was Director General of the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation from 1999-2011 and has held senior academic posts at various UK universities. She has most recently served as Executive Director of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group, and as a member of the Board of Governors of the University for the Creative Arts. She is widely published and has lectured throughout the UK and abroad. She is also an experienced cruise speaker and a Resident Historian with Viking Ocean Cruises, lecturing on many aspects of Asian Art and East-West Encounters. She was awarded an OBE in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to UK-Japan educational and cultural relations and the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette by the Government of Japan in 2019.


In the Frosty Season:  How the Romantics Invented Winter

Annalie Talent

11th December 2023

But when first the ice fell on the lake, and the whole lake was frozen…O my God!  What sublime scenery have I beheld. 

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1799

During the Romantic period, there was a surge of artistic interest in the season of winter. 

The coldest months of the year inspired a number of writers and artists; the poet William Cowper wrote pleasurably about the season from the warmth of his fireside; Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Caspar David Friedrich were both inspired by the sublimity of the winter landscape; while William Wordsworth and Henry Raeburn created iconic ice-skating scenes in verse and painting.

This seasonal lecture will explore why Romantic writers and artists were so keen on ‘the frosty season’.  We will learn how their depiction of winter departed from that of earlier times, and how their legacy lives on today in our own ideas about this time of year.  

Following a career in teaching, Annalie spent several years working on education programmes at museums and literary houses across the UK, including the Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere; Wordsworth House in Cockermouth; Jane Austen’s House in Hampshire; and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. At Jane Austen’s House, Annalie won 2 Sandford Awards for Excellence in Heritage Education; she also worked with the British Library, the Bodleian Library, and Chawton House Library in promoting Austen’s work to young people. 

Annalie’s lectures focus on aspects of Romantic and Victorian literature. She uses her knowledge and personal experience of literary houses - and their collections - to offer a unique perspective on writers and their works. She is particularly interested in the material culture of writers’ lives, including the quirky and interesting; from the collar worn by Emily Bronte’s dog, Keeper, to William Wordsworth’s ice-skates. 


The Textiles of Bhutan

Zara Fleming

15th January 2024

The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is well known for its intricate brocades and unique weaving tradition, unmatched anywhere else in the world. Textiles are woven into every aspect of Bhutanese life, they represent status, wealth and expressions of spiritual devotion. The weavers (always women) are renowned for their stunning mastery of colour, pattern and design; whilst the men (usually monks) are highly skilled in embroidery and applique used to create Buddhist images, monastic furnishings and dance costumes. Bhutan had no currency before the 1960s, so cloth was the major form of wealth. It was used to pay taxes, to bestow as diplomatic gifts and to mark any social occasion. This lecture will introduce this outstanding art form and explain how textiles are crucial to Bhutan’s cultural identity.

Zara is a freelance lecturer, art consultant and exhibition curator specialising in the art and culture of Tibet, the Himalayan areas and Mongolia. Initially based at the V&A, but also worked with the Central Asian Department of Bonn University, the Orient Foundation, the Royal Academy, Tibet House, the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside and Asia House. In addition to lecturing for The Arts Society, she lectures for museums, universities, Asian art societies, and private associations. Guest lecturer and tour guide on numerous trips to the Himalayas. Edited Masterpieces of Mongolian Art: Vol 1 and has published many articles in the field of Buddhist art and culture.


Music in Art

Sophie Matthews

19th February 2024

So many of our historical references for musical instruments can be found in works of art. Not only can these windows into the past show us what the instruments looked like but also the social context in which they would have been played. Music and different instruments also play a strong role within symbolism in art. Sophie explores the instruments in selected works and then gives live demonstrations on replicas of the instruments depicted.

Sophie is a musician well-known for her prowess on the English border bagpipes and has become one of the foremost players of the instrument in the UK. She also plays a variety of early woodwind instruments such as shawm, rauschpfeife, crumhorm and recorder. She’s also one of a handful of British players of the baroque musette, an 18th century French bagpipe similar to the Northumbrian smallpipes.

When not touring with GreenMatthews, Sophie also makes instruments (she made her own baroque oboe) and works with respected luthier Tony Millyard on his flutes. Sophie is self-taught on all of her instruments.


Berthe Morisot : Une Finesse Fragonardienne

Lois Oliver

18th March 2024

Impressionist Berthe Morisot is known for her light-filled canvases of modern life: afternoons boating on a lake, young women in ballgowns, children playing. Yet, her contemporaries perceived a connection with the eighteenth century. Renoir considered her ‘the last elegant and ‘feminine’ artist that we have had since Fragonard.’ And the art critic Paul Girard, surveying the 1896 retrospective of her work in Paris,  declared, ‘it is the eighteenth century modernised.’

Eighteenth-century art fell from favour following the French Revolution but was ‘rediscovered’ in the mid-nineteenth century by collectors including Louis La Caze and Hippolyte Walferdin. Morisot copied works by Boucher in the Musée du Louvre and elsewhere; she experimented with red chalk, a technique closely associated with Rococo drawings. She also greatly admired the English painters Gainsborough, Reynolds and Romney, whose work she first encountered on honeymoon in the Isle of Wight and London in 1875.

Dr Lois Oliver studied English Literature at Cambridge University, and History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, completing an MA in Venetian Renaissance Art and a PhD thesis on The Image of the Artist, Paris 1815-1855. She worked at the Harvard Art Museums before joining the curatorial team at the V&A and then the National Gallery, where she curated several exhibitions and contributed to major re-displays of the collections. Currently Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Royal Academy, Associate Professor in History of Art at the University of Notre Dame in London, and a Visiting Lecturer at the Courtauld Institute, Lois also writes audio and multimedia tours for clients including the National Gallery, Royal Academy, Royal Collection, and Tate, and has appeared on BBC Radio and TV. Also a keen violinist, Lois plays regularly with Kensington Chamber Orchestra and the Endellion Festival Orchestra.


A Brief History of Wine

David Wright

15th April 2024

Wine has been part of our global society for over 7,000 years, and the story tells of its origin and appearance in all societies across the Mediterranean and through Europe. There is rich evidence of the role wine has played in these societies and how it became an important component of faith, well-being and festivity. From the kwevris of Georgia in 5,000 B.C., the symposia in ancient Greece, the thermopolia of Pompeii, the hospices of Europe, to the dining tables of fine society wine has been ever present. Drawings, paintings, engravings, buildings, pottery and wine labels themselves all contribute to the story.

I have been a wine retailer, importer and distributor for 30 years. In that time, I have publicly presented tastings and talks on wine to trade and private audiences. These have taken the form of wine ‘tastings’ or charity events where a particular subject is presented and wines tasted. I have developed a talk, A Brief Story of Wine, a great subject, and full of rich evidence, going back 7,000 years, in the form of paintings, decorated drinking vessels, buildings and literature that contribute to the story.


Passionate Potters

Julian Richards

20th May 2024

William Morris led a revolution against the products of the machine age. The first of our ‘passionate potters’, William de Morgan, was a friend of Morris who rediscovered the secrets of Near Eastern lustre glazes. In contrast, the eccentric and argumentative Martin Brothers created a range of elaborate salt glazed pots unparalleled in their imaginative breadth. Sir Edmund Elton, the ‘potter baronet’, made pots which combine startling glazes with exotic forms. And finally, Bernard Leach, the father of English studio pottery, not only married the arts of Japan and England but created a legacy that is still alive today. 

This lecture explores the lives of these truly passionate potters and celebrates their extraordinary and beautiful creations.

Studied archaeology at Reading University and has since worked as a professional archaeologist, in commercial archaeology, for English Heritage, for the BBC and as an independent. Elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1992 and is being awarded an honorary doctorate. Has been involved in teaching and outreach projects, lecturing widely in continuing education, to groups and societies and to special interest tour companies. A career in broadcasting involved researching and presenting Meet the Ancestors and Blood of the Vikings for BBC2, and Mapping the Town for Radio 4. Author of a number of English Heritage publications on Stonehenge, including the previous and current guide books to the monument and landscape. Guest curator of Wish you were here, an exhibition of his own extensive collection of 'Stonehengiana' which is currently on display at the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre. Also curated an exhibition for the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Vienna, in 2016. 

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The Art of 1935

Pamela Campbell-Johnson

17th June 2024

Can a single year adequately encapsulate an artistic environment in British art history?This lecture, The Art of 1935, explores that year’s many aspects of decorative and fine art, demonstrating how these artistic forms reflected the period in a fitting and cohesive manner. Set against the backdrop of the 1935 Silver Jubilee Celebrations of King George V and Queen Mary, audiences are transported back to this fabulous time and learn about this pivotal year. The fully illustrated talk examines the range of contemporaneous art forms; including the work of the celebrated British portrait photographer, Cecil Beaton; magazine, poster and Penguin paperback book design; architecture; Silver Jubilee memorabilia; commemorative stamps; locomotive design and fashion. An exploration of the year 1935 would not be complete without a study of certain significant works by the Polish-born artist Tamara de Lempicka which have come to personify the age of Art Deco. We also review Art Deco interiors on stylish cruise liners and film sets, as well as acknowledging the importance of The Lansdowne Club which opened its doors for the first time on 1 May 1935. Sporting and motoring trivia are also revealed.


Pamela has an MA Hons Art History, St Andrew's University. Over 30 years of lecturing experience to undergraduates, adult groups, and to Friends and Patrons of the Royal Academy of Arts as part of the Adult Education Department's programme of events. Also conducted numerous guided tours and focused gallery talks on individual works of art. Specialises in British Domestic Architecture and Modern British Art. Over 12 years' experience at the Royal Academy. Work experience also undertaken at Bonhams, Art Loss Register, National Trust. Now a freelance art consultant and lecturer. Recently curated a collection for the Lansdowne Club.


Bruegel: The Seasons and the World

Gavin Plumley

16th September 2024

In 1565, Pieter Bruegel the Elder was commissioned to create a series of paintings for a dining room in Antwerp. The images, charting the course of a year, changed the way we view the world through art. Landscape had previously been a decorative backdrop to dramas both sacred and profane. But in Bruegel's hands the landscape and our interaction with it became the focus. Looking at paintings such as The Return of the Herd, Hunters in the Snow and The Gloomy Day, this lecture explores how Bruegel pioneered a whole new way of thinking about the environment and our individual places within a shifting cosmos.


A writer and broadcaster, appearing on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 and contributing to newspapers, magazines and opera and concert programmes worldwide. Lectures widely about the culture of Central Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries. Recent talks include the Royal Opera House, the National Gallery, the National Trust, the National Theatre, the British Museum, the V&A, the Southbank Centre, the Tate and the Neue Galerie, New York. His first book, A Home for All Seasons, is published in June 2022. 


Food and Art through the Ages: From Renaissance Sugar Sculpture to 3D Printing

Tasha Marks

21st October 2024

Food and Art Through the Ages is a whistle-stop tour of the history of food as artistic medium; starting with 16th century sugar sculpture and venturing all the way up to 3D dessert printing and beyond. Hosted by Food Historian Tasha Marks, this lecture is a treat for those with a sweet tooth, as Marks feels the subject of food and art through the ages is most exciting in the realms of the dessert. Topics covered include; the origins of dessert, the crossover between sugar and art, architecture and dessert (including Renaissance banqueting houses), sugar and spectacle, food as artistic medium, and the future of food. This exploration into the realms of dessert as spectacle includes an accompanying display to illustrate and enhance the historic subject.


Tasha Marks is an award-winning food historian and artist, who explores the relationship between food, art and history. Her practice, AVM Curiosities, champions the use of food as an artistic medium, with projects ranging from museum-style exhibitions and sculptural installations, to interactive lectures and limited-edition confectionery. Recent academic achievements include publication in the Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, where Tasha authored the entry on Mrs Beeton, one of the Victorian era’s most influential cooks.


Britain as Workshop of the World. The great Exhibition of 1851 and The V & A Museum

Anna Warrillow

18th November 2024

This lecture focuses on the design impact of the Great Exhibition and the need for a 'legacy institution' in the form of the South Kensington Museum. We look at the building as a work of art and explore the work of William Morris, Fredrick Lord Leighton and other influential designers of the Victorian Age.

I graduated as a Blue Badge Guide early in 2013 and won an award for the best new guide at Westminster Abbey. Since then I have been conducting bespoke private tours for discerning visitors to London. I established my own guiding company Canvas and Stone Tours in 2018 (

My background and passion is Art & History. I studied for my BA in History of Art & Italian at the University of Sussex and did my MA in Renaissance Decorative Arts & Design at the Royal College of Art. 

I worked for 6 years as a curator in the Sculpture Department at the Victoria & Albert Museum as well as in smaller collections such as the Henry Moore Family Trust. As well as guiding I am an adjunct lecturer at Richmond The American International University in London where I teach undergraduates The History of London. 

I lecture regularly for art, history and academic societies as well as providing training courses and Continual Professional Development courses for students and guide members of the Institute of Tourist Guides.


the Three Kings - The Real Story

Tony Rawlins

16th December 2024

A light-hearted seasonal lecture for Christmas, describing what we actually know about the three kings – or rather what we don’t know! For a start we don’t know how many “kings” there were. Matthew doesn’t tell us. We assume they were 3 because they brought 3 gifts.

But why gold, frankincense and myrrh?

Also, there’s no reason to suppose they were kings of anywhere. We don’t even know their gender – some of them might have been women.

And since they gave away the location of the baby Jesus to Herod the alleged baby slayer, we can reasonably assume they weren’t too clever – let alone wise!

Tony was educated at Highgate School, starting his career in advertising in 1965 as a mail boy in J.Walter Thompson. He graduated through the training system there to become an account director and subsequently worked in a number of agencies before setting up on his own in 1985. There he handled primarily Guinness advertising in Africa and the Caribbean, where he produced many commercials and print ads for them over a period of 15 years. He remains active as a consultant in the industry, but now concentrates on more philanthropic projects - producing a film in the rural villages of Nigeria for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. More recently he has completed a sanitation project in Haiti after it was devastated by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.  

He has been a member of The Arts Society for many years. His earlier lecturing experience includes presenting to client groups, sales conferences and students of creative advertising in the UK and overseas. More recently he has been lecturing to Arts Societies in the UK and Europe.

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