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.  

With the relaxation of Covid regulations, Heswall Hall will still be providing hand sanitisers and following their strict cleaning regime. We would encourage everyone to wear a face mask, for the safety of all our members. Many thanks for your consideration.

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Indians Buffalo and Storms: The American West in 19th century art. 

Toby Faber

19th September 2022

Artists were never far behind the explorers who opened up the west of America in the 19th Century. Sometimes they painted what they saw. Sometimes they painted what they wished they saw. Either way, painters like Alfred Miller, Frederick Church and Albert Bierstadt have left us a powerful, if romanticised, record of the country and people that the settlers found. Now we can use their pictures to chart the  history of the opening of America’s west - the arrival of the railroad, the confinement of native Americans into reservations, and the extermination of the buffalo.

This is a story on a big scale and it seems appropriate that among the pictures illustrating the lecture are some of the largest and most grandiloquent paintings of the era. After a period of deep neglect, they are now very much back in vogue, but whatever one thinks of their artistic merits, I hope audiences will agree with me that they are, above all, great fun. 

Toby, a frequent visitor to Wirral, has written two works of narrative history, Stradivarius and Fabergé's Eggs, published by Macmillan in the UK and Random House in the US, and given lectures associated with these two subjects at venues including The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Library of Congress and the Huntington Library, as well as a number of literary festivals. His career began with Natural Sciences at Cambridge and has been through investment banking, management consulting and five years as managing director of the publishing company founded by his grandfather, Faber and Faber, where he remains on the board. He is also non-executive Chairman of its sister company, Faber Music and a director of Liverpool University Press and the Copyright Licensing Agency.


Portmeirion: A Welsh Italianate Fantasy

Matthew Williams

17th October 2022

Portmeirion is an extraordinary surprise; a colourful and delightful fantasy village on the coast of north Wales.   Created from the 1920s by the remarkable architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion was his personal defiance against the advance of modernism and what he saw as the despoilment of Britain. By the 1950s it had become the playground of artists, intellectuals, aristocrats and the merely rich. Regular visitors included H G Wells, Bertand Russell and Noel Coward (who wrote Blithe Spirit at Portmeirion).

Sir Clough’s daughter Susan created Portmeirion Pottery, which during the 1960s and 70s, was synonymous with cutting-edge ceramic style.


This lecture looks at the place, its architecture and associations. Matthew also draws on some personal memories, as his uncle was Resident Director of Portmeirion for 30 years.

Mathew lectures widely on the subject of design, and is especially interested in that of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A recognised expert in the work of the designer William Burges, he has been the Curator of Cardiff Castle since 1990 and has published widely in art and architectural journals. A long standing member of The Arts Society, Matthew has been a Volunteers Representative, a Programme Secretary and a Chairman. He has been an accredited lecturer of The Arts Society since 2001.


William Morris and Wallpapers

Joanna Banham

21 Nov 2022

William Morris was a one-man pattern-making phenomenon whose work had a powerful and lasting impact on many areas of interior design. He is probably best-known today as a designer of wallpapers and this lecture examines the development and production of his work in this genre from his early medievalising patterns to his more elegant mature style. It explores the sources and inspiration for his wallpapers, changes in style, and how and where they were used, all within the context of 19th century design.

Jo Banham is a freelance curator, lecturer and writer. From 2006-2016 she was Head of Adult Learning at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and before that Head of Learning and Access at the National Portrait Gallery, and Head of Public Programmes at Tate Britain. She has also been Curator of Leighton House and Assistant Keeper at the Whitworth Art Gallery. She has published on many aspects of Victorian and early 20th century decoration and interiors. She is currently curating an exhibition on William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement for the Juan March Fundacion in Madrid and the Museu Nacional d’Art Catalunya in Barcelona. She is also Director of the Victorian Society Summer School.


The Kingdom of the Sweets: All about the Nutcracker.

Nigel Bates

5th December 2022

The Nutcracker has delighted audiences at Christmas for many decades yet it was deemed a failure at its first performances.  We take a close look at how this well-loved ballet now takes its rightful place on stage and how the music of Tchaikovsky along with story-telling, design and dance all come together to make the most magical escape for young and old alike.  Includes several performance video clips.

Nigel Bates is the Music Administrator of The Royal Ballet and has been a performer for nearly forty years in and out of the Royal Opera House, including seventeen years as Principal Percussionist with the Orchestra. He has worked with many of the leading figures in the classical music industry and was also a producer for both the BBC'sMaestro at the Opera and Pappano's Classical Voices documentary series.


Venice - Queen of the Adriatic

Hugh Ellwood

16th January 2023

What was once a refugee camp on the coast of the Adriatic became a wealthy republic and trade centre. A link between east and west, it produced some of the finest art, architecture and music in the world. 

Hugh studied philosophy in Rome, followed by a degree in architecture at the University of Manchester. Previously an architect partner with Building Design Partnership, the largest multi-discipline design organisation in the UK, and was for some years an external examiner in architecture at the University of Manchester. For several years he was a visiting lecturer in the history of art and architecture at the University of Central Lancashire. A watercolourist, and has also lectured extensively to various societies and organisations, including cruises, on art and architecture.


The Power of Photography

Roger Mendham

20th February 2023

Photographs have the ability to stop time, to provide a freeze-frame of a moment in time and space. They give the observer the opportunity to think, to react, to feel and to soak in the details of the circumstances surrounding the image. This talk examines some the most important images and photographers of the past century. It explores why these images are so powerful and influential in our understanding of history. 

A keen and accomplished photographer Roger is now retired and has many years’ experience of public speaking. His interest in art was sparked by his wife’s academic studies into the History of Art and has a particular interest in 20th century art. Because of his passion for photography he tends to focus on the visual aspects of art and is currently studying public art.  He has researched numerous statues and monuments and is interested in how they have evolved in response to cultural changes over the past century. 


Life and Art of Marianne North: Botanical Painter and Traveller

Twigs Way

20th March 2023

An unconventional life painting exotic and rare plants in their native lands. Living and travelling with the ‘liberty of a wild bird’, but maintaining the dress and manners of a Victorian lady. The pursuit of plants took her around the world whilst her paintings were destined for Kew. This talk explores Marianne North’s work, her social context and the eventual creation of her gallery at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

Twigs Way is a professional researcher and writer fascinated by the past and intrigued by the role of flowers, gardens and landscape in art and culture of all kinds. 

Her work explores themes of symbolism and meaning, class and gender, art and literature...and she enjoys following lesser known paths in garden history towards the unexpected. Her original work was on the history of women in the garden and she retains an active research interest in this topic.

Recent publications include the art and culture of specific flowers including the carnation and the daffodil and her book on the Chrysanthemum in Art and Culture was published October 2020 by Reaktion Press, and she is currently working on the Daffodil in art and culture.


The Stirling Prize

Brian Stater

17th April 2023

The Stirling Prize has celebrated the very best contemporary buildings since 1996. Some winners, such as Norman Foster’s Gherkin, of 2004, have become enormously successful and appreciated by the wider public. Others have proved harder to love. This entertaining lecture looks at some of the hits, some of the misses, and several buildings that arguably should have won, but didn’t.

Brian Stater lectured at University College London for 25 years, retiring in 2021 as a Senior Teaching Fellow. His principal academic interest lay in the appreciation of architecture and he has a lifelong enthusiasm for photography. He therefore offers lectures to The Arts Society on each of these subjects.

He has written on architecture for a wide range of publications and an exhibition of his own photographs was held at UCL. He is a member of the Association of Historical and Fine Art Photography and he works with a pre-War Leica camera, as used by his great hero, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and many others.

Brian is an engaging and amusing speaker who seeks to entertain as well as inform his audience.


A Survey of Royal Patronage of Silver

Christopher Garibaldi

22nd May 2023

This lecture aims to give an overall impression of the nature of Royal patronage of silver and silver-gilt and give (in broad outline) an impression of what is contained within the Royal Collection. It explains how the modern Royal Collection has come about, evolved and changed in character from the holdings of previous monarchs and attempts to explain its significance within the wider context of Royal patronage. The lecture focuses on some of the pre-eminent pieces of silver in order to examine the particular significance of individual members of the Royal Family (not just the monarch) in the history of building one of the most important collections of plate in the world.

Christopher is an independent Researcher. 2010–2019 Director of Palace House, Newmarket (National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art: 2008–2010 Co-Director of the Attingham Summer School for the Study of Historic Houses and Collections. 1998–2003 Senior Curator & Assistant Keeper of Art (Decorative Art) at Norwich Castle Museum: co-curator of Flower Power – The Meaning of Flowers in Art and Eat, Drink and Be Merry, the British at Table 1600 to 2000. 1994–1997 Catalogued the silver in the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and other royal residences.


An Artist's Best Friend - The Dog in Art

Alexandra Epps

19th June 2023

Dogs are man’s most loyal friend. They are often used in art, as in life, to project our ambitions and anxieties. From the poignancy of Landseer, Queen Victoria’s favourite animal painter; to the dachshunds of Bonnard and Picasso; the xolos of Kahlo; the whippets of Freud and many more, explore how dogs have provided inspiration, solace and companionship throughout artistic lives.

Official Guide and Lecturer at Tate Modern, Tate Britain and Guildhall Art Gallery. Qualified Guide to the City of London, offering lectures and walks about many aspects of the arts for societies, corporations and private individuals. Member of the City of London Guide Lecturers Association. Co-author of the book Lord Mayor's Portraits 1983-2014 (2015). Alexandra’s background is in design having practised as a graphic designer running her own design consultancy for many years. BA Saint Martins School of Art, MA London College of Printing.


Vienna - the melting pot of European culture

Peter Medhurst

18th September 2023

Despite the enormous political challenges that Vienna faced between 1780 and 1830 - including major wars against Napoleon, - the city thrived, culturally.  In fact, it could be argued that Vienna never had a finer moment in terms of its artistic achievements.  It was a period of outstanding writers, poets, architects and painters, but above all, it was a period of great composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert who made Vienna the musical capital of the world.  The lecture explores the history and the arts of Vienna in the late Classical and early Romantic eras.

Peter appears in the UK and abroad as a musician and scholar, giving recitals and delivering illustrated lectures on music and the arts. He studied singing and early keyboard instruments at the Royal College of Music and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.


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.