Events in 2020/21

Here are the events for next year as they stand. We will update this list as it develops. Go to the Online Lectures page for lectures and virtual tours during lock-down.

    Our Lectures


  • October - Bodley's Buildings
  • November - The Artist in the Machine
  • December - Thomas Lawrence in Bath
  • 2021

  • January - Picasso's Guernica
  • February - Is this the Real Life ?
  • March - The Lute in Paintings
  • April - A Garden Like No Other
  • May - Carmen in Seville
  • June - This won't hurt a bit !
  • July - The healing power of plants
  • Our Visits

    Our Study Day

    Wessex Area Study Days


  • April - Aztec, Maya and Inca Art
  • Other Events

Close All Events


Wednesday 21st Oct 2020Bodley’s Buildings: The architecture of the Bodleian Library Complex at Oxford
by Justin Reay

The Bodleian Library presents a fascinating subject combining history, architecture, patronage and scholarship. One of the oldest libraries in Europe, and in Britain second in size only to the British Library, it incorporates a group of five buildings in central Oxford: the oldest dates from 1488, built to house a collection donated by the Duke of Gloucester, but it only lasted for 60 years.

It was Sir Thomas Bodley who rescued the site and founded the Bodleian, refurbishing the building from 1598 to 1602, and it was his idea to ensure that a copy of every book published in England would be deposited in the new library.

Since 1602 it has expanded over the centuries, slowly at first but with increasing momentum over the last 150 years, The New Bodleian was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and was built between 1937 and 1940. Thus it has kept pace with the ever-growing accumulation of books, papers and manuscripts which have established it as a centre of research for scholars from around the world. The combined Bodleian Libraries now hold over 13 million printed items!

Justin Reay trained as an officer in the Royal Navy before a long career in business. After retiring early in 2001 he studied the History of Renaissance, Baroque and Modern Art and Architecture at the University of Oxford, and was awarded the University’s Diploma with Distinction in 2005.

A frequent lecturer and tutor in naval history, Justin is also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Historical Society, a member of Council and online Forum Editor of the Society for Nautical Research, Executive Committee member of the Samuel Pepys Club, a member of the Navy Records Society, an advisor on naval history and marine art to English Heritage, the BBC, the Bodleian Library, and museums and history foundations in Spain, France, the USA and Australia.

Justin’s current research into naval and maritime art in the National Trust will produce a catalogue raisonné of key artworks in a major national collection.

Wednesday 18th Nov 2020The Artist in the Machine. The world of AI-Powered Creativity.
by Prof. Arthur Miller

Today machines have already shown glimpses of creativity in art, literature and music. As Artificial Intelligence develops, completely new forms of the arts, currently unimaginable, are bound to emerge. I will explore this brave new world, probing questions like, Will computers be creators like us and even go beyond us? Will we have to rethink concepts like 'art' and 'creativity' and, if so, how? I will discuss all this and much, much more.

(The example below is a computer image of the photo (top left) in the style of Van Gogh's Starry Night.)

ARTHUR I. MILLER is fascinated by the nature of creative thinking. He has published many critically acclaimed books, including Insights of Genius; Einstein, Picasso (shortlisted for a Pulitzer) and writes for the Guardian, The New York Times and Wired. He is professor emeritus of history and philosophy of science at University College London. His latest book is a tour of creativity in the age of machines. Moreover it is not a dystopian account – rather it celebrates the creative possibities of AI in the arts.

Wednesday 16th Dec 2020The Wonder of the times: Thomas Lawrence in Bath
by Amina Wright

Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) had very little education and as an artist was self-taught. He began drawing as a child in Devizes, where his father was the innkeeper of The Bear Hotel, and at this popular stopping off point for visitors to Bath he would be paid for capturing images of the guests. In 1780 his father became bankrupt and the family moved to Bath for the next seven years, where Lawrence supported his parents through his paintings.

He became one of the most successful portrait painters of his time, and one of the last in the Romantic tradition. He succeeded Joshua Reynolds as official painter to George III, was the youngest member of the Royal Academy at the age of 25, and in 1820 became its president. Patronised by the wealthy and famous, from The Duchess of Devonshire to Mrs Siddons and The Duke of Wellington, he was always in demand.

This portrait of Arthur Atherley, below, was recently acquired by the Holburne Museum, Bath.

As Curator of Fine Art and Senior Curator of the Holburne Museum in Bath, Amina Wright was a key member of the team that delivered the museum’s highly successful redevelopment. 

She has produced a number of major exhibitions on 18th century British Art and Old Masters, published books on Georgian Bath, Joseph Wright of Derby and George Stubbs, and lectured widely in these areas. The Thomas Lawrence exhibition at the Holburne in Bath has had to be postponed, probably until early 2021, but her latest book, 'Thomas Lawrence: Coming of Age' is due to be published in October 2020.

Wednesday 20th Jan 2021Picasso’s Guernica
by Paul Chapman

Guernica is regarded by many art critics as one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history. Outraged by the brutality of the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica durIng the Spanish civil war, Picasso created the piece in 1937 but maintained that it would not return to Spain until democracy had been restored. Picasso died in France in 1973. It was only some years after General Franco’s death that the enormous mural returned to Madrid in 1981.

Paul Chapman is an art historian and a National Gallery trained guide. As a freelance Paul delivers courses and lectures for a wide range of educational organisations and is a guest speaker in local schools giving talks and assisting pupils with their art history projects. He says of Guernica: “It shows the horror, cruelty and devastation of modern warfare. Picasso explores many themes, love, death, nationhood, motherhood and his own life at that point in time. The painting is full of cross references to the history of art”.

Wednesday 17th Feb 2021Is this the Real Life ?
by Mary Sharp

From Plato's cave to the Matrix movie, an exploration of the ways writers and artists have challenged our perceptions of reality.

Mary has a degree in drama from Manchester University. She worked for many years for BBC Radio 4 on some of its most popular programmes including Start the Week and Woman’s Hour as well as six years as a Commissioning Editor for all Sunday programmes on Radio 4. She then moved into teaching, first at Beaconsfield High School and then for eight years she was Assistant Head at Dr Challoner’s High School where she taught English Literature and was the Director of the Sixth Form. She now runs a wide range of literature courses for adults and is an accredited lecturer for the Arts Society.

Wednesday 17th Mar 2021The Lute within Old Masters’ Paintings
by Adam Busiakiewicz

Delighted to announce that Adam has agreed to bring this forward to 2021 !

The lute holds a special place in the history of art: painters of the Italian Renaissance depicted golden-haired angels plucking its delicate strings, evoking celestial harmony; in the sixteenth century, during the rise of humanism, the lute was a becoming pastime of educated courtiers, as depicted by the likes of Holbein and Titian; throughout the seventeenth century, the instrument continued to play a key role in emphasising the intimate, debauched and transient pleasures of interior scenes by Jan Steen and portraits by Frans Hals.

Adam Busiakiewicz is an art historian, lutenist and lecturer. After graduating in history at UCL in 2010 he was Head of Historical Interpretation (curator) at Warwick Castle for three years, and then took a Master’s Degree in Fine and Decorative Art at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in Art History at Warwick University. He regularly gives talks, tours and lectures to both public and professional audiences at the Wallace Collection and has lectured at the National Gallery, including a series of talks there on the lute in paintings.
Adam gave us a marvellous lecture on Armour from the Leeds Armoury last year.

Wednesday 21st Apr 2021A Garden Like No Other: Edward James and Las Pozas.
by James Russell

[Rescheduled from 2020.]
In the depths of the Mexican jungle lies what looks like the remains of a lost civilisation, with arches and stairways which tower over waterfalls and pools. However, these were built only in the last century by a rich English eccentric and surrealist, Edward James.

This colourful lecture tells the story of his garden at Las Pozas, including an array of intriguing characters and exploring the wider theme of the modern artist-gardener.

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. Based in Bristol, he has given illustrated talks and run study days for many museums, including the Victoria & Albert, Dulwich Picture Gallery, National Maritime Museum and Salisbury Museum.

Wednesday 19th May 2021Carmen in Seville
by Simon Rees

Bizet’s opera Carmen, first produced in Paris in 1875, is about the flamboyant, tragic figure of the gypsy woman Carmen and her lovers, the soldier Don Jose and the bullfighter Escamillo. Based on a novella by Prosper Mérimee, and set in the ancient and beautiful city of Seville, it has become one of the best loved of all operas.

Simon Rees studied at Trinity College, Cambridge where he gained a BA and an MA in English Literature. He has taught in Italy and Japan, exploring the art and architecture of both countries. From 1989 to 2012 Simon was Dramaturg at Welsh National Opera in Cardiff. He is now a freelance writer and lecturer and travels extensively presenting lectures on opera, art history and literature. Simon has published several novels (including the award-winning The Devil’s Looking-Glass), poems and opera librettos.

Wednesday 16th Jun 2021This won’t Hurt a Bit !
by Geri Parlby

For more than 5000 years artists have been attempting to depict illness and healing in their art.  From Egyptian wall paintings, medieval manuscripts, Renaissance masterpieces, and 19th and 20th century realism, the mysteries of medicine have inspired artworks around the world.  In this lecture we will look at some of the bizarre, amusing and often startlingly realistic depictions of medicine in art throughout the ages.

Geri was a former Fleet Street journalist and film PR before gaining a first-class honours degree in History and Theology, a Masters in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute and a Theology doctorate from Roehampton University in London. She has been researching and lecturing for the past 14 years both in the UK and internationally; initially pursuing her interest in religious art, she has gained an eclectic knowledge of many subjects. She has lectured all over the country and is principal lecturer on the Arts Society South West Area’s History of Art course. Her lectures are renowned for their light touch and humour.

Wednesday 21st Jul 2021The Healing Power of Plants
by Tim Walker

Why plant derived treatments are not an alternative; instead they are the real thing.

Mankind has exploited the medicinal properties of plants for thousands of years, yet the role of plants in modern medicine is still considered to be peripheral by many people.  This talk attempts to put the record straight and to show that plant products are used everyday by all of us to relieve pain and suffering, to heal wounds and cure diseases.

Botanist, gardener, lecturer, presenter, author and after-dinner speaker, Timothy Walker was Director of the Oxford University Botanic Garden from 1986 to 2014, during which time he started lecturing - he has now spoken at over 1500 venues! Since 2014 he has been a college lecturer and tutor at Somerville College Oxford, and now holds similar positions at Pembroke College and Hertford College. In 2001 he was elected a Fellow of the Linnaean Society of London.

Those fortunate enough to attend Timothy’s Study Day in March 2019 will verify that he is a captivating and humorous speaker, with an astonishing knowledge of plants. Not to be missed!


Study Day

Wessex Area Study Days

Wednesday 14th Apr 2021The Art and Culture of the Aztecs, Maya and Incas.

Rescheduled from 2020.
Two days exploring the ancient and modern splendours of Mexico and Peru.
The Aztecs, Maya and Incas, as well as the modern artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
Day 1: Ancient Mexico, Modern Mexico, Peru: The Incas and their Predecessors.
Day 2: Maya Dynasties and City States, Arts of the Ancient Maya, The Maya Heritage, Past and Present.
Dates: Wednesday 14th April and Thursday 15th April 2021
(and a second date of Wednesday 28th April and Thursday 29h April 2021.)
Each day starts at 10:15 for 10:25 and ends at about 15:00
Location: Market Lavington Community Hall.
See the Wessex Area website for more details and the application form.

Chloe Sayer is a freelance specialist in the art and culture of Latin America. She has lectured around the world and has worked on television documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4. In 2016 Chloe was awarded the prestigious Ohtli medal by the Mexican Government for her long-standing commitment to Mexican culture.

Other Events