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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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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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 (www.canvasandstonetours.co.uk)

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.

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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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Fashionable Folds: The Fan as the Ultimate Fashion Accessory

Scott Schiavone

20th January 2025

Fans have been used for millennia, principally for cooling but also for religious and ceremonial purposes. In Europe, they later developed into a ubiquitous accessory for the fashionable elite.

Fans were produced to commemorate births, marriages and deaths, were decorated with scenes of love and pastoral scenes of idyllic aristocratic life. They were also used as a conduit for communication through their handling and the subject matter painted upon their storied folds.

But most of all, fans were a tangible marker of taste, status and wealth, and, when worn alongside gowns, jewels and tiaras, were akin to a sceptre with all its majestic connotations.

This lecture explores not only the rise of the folding fan in Europe as fashion’s most statement-worthy accessory but also the artistry and craftsmanship of fan making in relation to the changing fashionable trends in dress throughout Europe from the 16th to the 20th century. 

Scott William Schiavone is a Fashion Historian and Curator. Scott is both University of Glasgow and London College of Fashion alumni having graduated from the MA (Hons) History of Art and MA Fashion Curation in 2004 and 2010 respectively. Scott has worked with fashion and textile collections across the UK including Glasgow Museums, National Museums Scotland and The Fan Museum in Greenwich. Scott recently relocated to Preston to join the Curatorial team leading the HarrisYourPlace project at The Harris Museum & Art Gallery, a £10.4 million Heritage Lottery Funded project that will transform The Harris into a community lead centre for arts and culture. In 2020, Scott launched his YouTube channel Fashion &… which now has over 4,500 subscribers. Scott is interested in manifestations of luxury and excess across the fashion timeline. His areas of expertise are nineteenth century womenswear, marginalised social histories of fashion, the 1970s and 80s and the rise of the superstar designer. 

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A Concise History of our Great British Public Parks

Paul Rabbitts

17th February 2025

This really is a fascinating insight into the history of one of our greatest ever institutions - our Great British Public Park. We have all enjoyed them at some time in our lives but what do we really know about them? What are their origins? This talk illustrates their origins from the great Royal Parks to the Pleasure Gardens of the eighteenth century, to their Victorian heyday. It discusses what makes a great park, it’s ‘parkitecture’ with examples of lodges, lakes, bandstands, fountains, lidos, palm houses and to their wonderful floral displays, to their great decline in the sixties, seventies and eighties. However, the subsequent revival has led to a major shift in interest in our parks and once again we are very much in love with them. This is a highly illustrative lecture accompanied by slides with examples of parks from across the UK and their designs and architecture and can be shaped to the locality of the lecture.

Paul Rabbitts graduated at Sheffield with a BA Honours in Geography followed by a Masters Degree in Landscape Architecture at Edinburgh. He is a qualified landscape architect and celebrated parks and open spaces manager and has worked for several local authorities across the UK, including Carlisle, Middlesbrough, Watford, Southend-on-Sea and now at the City of Norwich. He is a passionate advocate for public parks and in particular, the Victorian and Edwardian bandstand and is a prolific author on the subject. His first of now 34 books was published in 2011 on the iconic bandstand and was followed rapidly by books on the Royal Parks, Great British Parks and ‘Parkitecture’, Grinling Gibbons and Sir Christopher Wren. He has also completed the first full biography of Decimus Burton, Gentleman Architect, which was published in late 2021.  His latest book is called People's Parks - The Design and Development of Public Parks in Britain - out in late 2023. Now a UK leading expert on bandstands he has been asked to assist in localised restoration projects nationwide and has been a regular and popular speaker on bandstands and public parks for many years.

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Queens, Consorts and Courtiers: Female Art and the Patrons in late Stuart England

Amy Lim

17th March 2025

In an era when married women’s property automatically belonged to their husbands, could women still play a role as patrons of the arts? Female patronage has often been hidden within the historical record, but new research has shown that the patronage of these women has been considerably underestimated. From Queen Catherine of Braganza’s patronage of Catholic artists, to the Duchess of Marlborough’s politically-charged London mansion, we will look at some of the most important works of art and architecture commissioned by women in late Stuart England, and consider how they used art to carve out their position in society.   

Dr Amy Lim is an art historian and curator, specialising in British fine and decorative arts from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries. She is curator of the Faringdon Collection at Buscot Park, Oxfordshire, and of the Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham. She is also an exhibition researcher at Tate, contributing to British Baroque: Power and Illusion (2020) and the forthcoming Women Artists in Britain. Amy has degrees in History and Literature & Arts from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. She runs an online art dealership, and has published articles and essays on a variety of art-related topics from gothic garden monuments to female patronage.

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How to build a Renaissance Palace

Sarah Pearson

21st April 2025

Constructing a new palace in 15C Italy was a tricky business with many pitfalls. In Florence excessive spending was frowned upon and could be regarded as a political challenge to the republic. In Venice meanwhile, the wish for a fine façade had to be balanced by the massive cost of foundations and the difficulty of sourcing building materials. In Rome, city of the Popes, greater opulence was the norm as families positioned themselves in the hope of achieving Papal favour. This lecture examines the challenges of Renaissance palace construction in Florence, Venice and Rome, and considers differences in building style and form between these locations.

Sarah holds a First Class BA in Art History from Reading University, an MA in World Art Studies from the University of East Anglia and a PhD in Architectural History, also from Reading. Lectured for 10 years at Reading and at the University of East Anglia, and now works as a freelance lecturer and adult education provider. Has published articles and a book chapter on the architect Francesco di Giorgio and is currently researching the development of the Riddlesworth estate with a view to future publication.

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Indians, Buffalo and Storms, The American West in 19th Century Art

Toby Faber

19th May 2025

This lecture will use art of the nineteenth century to tell the story of the westward expansion of the United States from the first explorations and contacts with native Americans to the near-extermination of the buffalo.

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 do, at the very least, tell a story.   

Toby is an experienced lecturer and public speaker who has been accredited by The Arts Society since 2012. 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. Toby has written three narrative histories: Stradivarius – Five Violins, One Cello and a Genius; Faberge’s Eggs; and Faber & Faber – The Untold Story, as well as a novel, Close to the Edge. Of these, only the obvious one is published by the family firm.

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An Artist's Best Friend: The Dog in Art

Alexandra Epps

16th June 2025

Dogs are man’s most loyal friend and 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 whippets of Freud and many more, explore how dogs have provided inspiration, solace and companionship throughout artistic lives.  

Alexandra is an Official Guide and Lecturer at Tate Modern, Tate Britain and the Guildhall Art Gallery. Qualified Guide to the City of London, offering walks, talks and tours 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.

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The Mayan Civilisation of Central America

Duncan Pring

15th September 2025

The Maya lived in Central America between 1000 B.C. and 1528 at which time they were conquered by the Spaniards. The peak of their civilization was between 300 and 900 AD. During that time, they built enormous monuments, produced jade and ceramic items of great beauty and developed a calendar that was far more advanced than anything in Europe at the time. They had an advanced understanding of mathematics and astronomy and developed a hieroglyphic script which scholars are beginning to decipher, allowing us to understand their achievements much more fully. 

Duncan has been educated at Oxford (BA, MA) and London (MA, Ph.D) universities. PhD thesis on “The Preclassic Ceramics of Northern Belize”. Subsequent articles, mainly on Mayan ceramics. The Protoclassic in the Maya Lowlands published in 2000 by British Archaeological Reports. Recent publication on Early Maya Ceramics in "Pre-Mamom Pottery Variation and the Preclassic Origins of the Lowland Maya" ( Ed. Debra Walker University Press of Colorado 2023).

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Seafaring: Art and Life at Sea from Turner until Today

James Russell

20th October 2025

Based on the lecturer's critically-acclaimed 2022 exhibition at Hastings Contemporary, Seafaring brings to life the perils and pleasures of life at sea, with stunning artworks by Turner, Gericault, Tissot, John Everett, Ravilious, Ronald Searle and many more. 

Having studied History at Pembroke College, Cambridge, James Russell enjoyed a lengthy stint selling contemporary paintings and sculpture in Santa Fe, New Mexico, an experience that inspired him to begin writing and lecturing on 20th century art. Of his dozen or so books, one was a Sunday Times book of the year, while his writing has been described by critics as 'insightful', 'informative' and 'enjoyably readable'. James has curated major exhibitions at Dulwich Picture Gallery and for museums around the country. He bases his lectures on wide-ranging original research into the subjects that fascinate him.

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Pigments of the Imagination: Ten things you should know about Icons

Helen Dejean

17th November 2025

With the seemingly unstoppable appetite for Eastern Orthodox icons in the West, and the inevitable misunderstandings that have arisen as to meaning and function, terminology and theology, maybe it is time to address some of the key facts? Expect a few hot potatoes!

Helen is an established professional artist, iconographer and independent art history lecturer specialising in Byzantine and Late Medieval Italian art. She holds a Masters degree in each of these subjects from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, where she is currently reading for a PhD in Byzantine art history and will be teaching on the Short Courses programme from autumn 2024.  Additionally, Helen holds a first-class BA Hons, History of Art from the Open University, a diploma in Fine Art as well as an Adult Education Teaching qualification. Helen has worked at London’s leading Russian Art Auction House (MacDougall Arts) and Christie's, as well as in museums and further education. For many years Helen has combined her specialist of art history with her art practice. She is the founder and owner of two businesses: ‘Icon Adventures’ which provides interdisciplinary courses in icons and late medieval panel painting online and in person, and ‘Elenis Icons’ - through which Helen continues to undertake significant commissions for churches and cathedrals worldwide. 

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The Twelve Plants of Christmas: The National History, Botany, and Folklore of the Plants that surround us at Christmas

Timothy Walker

15th December 2025

Apart from the pear tree in which sat the partridge, there are no plants in the 12 days of Christmas according to the folk song. Sadly, even that reference is erroneous, because partridges are ground dwelling birds. And yet at Christmas we are surrounded by plants. This talk puts the record straight and rewrites the zoocentric song replacing partridges with poinsettias, and maids with mistletoe.

I read Botany at University College Oxford. After graduation, I worked as a trainee at Oxford Botanic Garden, the Savill Garden Windsor, and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. In 1985 I was awarded a Master of Horticulture by the Royal Horticultural Society of London. From 1988 to 2014 I was director (Horti Praefectus) at the Oxford Botanic Garden. Between 1992 & 2000 the OBGHA won 4 gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show London. In 2009 the Botanic Garden was awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for providing imaginative educational programmes for adults, students, children, and the general public, thereby breathing new life into education for people of all ages and enriching their lives. In 2010 I was elected as a Fellow of the Linnaean Society of London. In the same year I presented a 3-part series of films on the history of botany on BBC4. Since 2014 I have been a tutor in Plant Biology at Somerville College, Oxford.    

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