Events in 2019/2020



  • October - John Ruskin
  • November - Dust Bowl Blues
  • December - The Art of Partying
  • 2020

  • January - Street Art
  • February - Peggy Guggenheim
  • March - Cleopatra - CANCELLED !
  • April - The Lute : CANCELLED !
  • May - Picasso's Guernica - CANCELLED!
  • June - A Garden Like No Other
  • July - Carmen in Seville
  • Visits


  • April - Chawton House - CANCELLED !
  • July - Berkeley Castle, Glos
  • Study Day


  • March - The Art of Garden Design
  • Wessex Area Study Days


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


  • November - New Members Reception
  • December - Christmas Party
  • 2020

  • February - Artfest Devizes

Close All Events


Wednesday 16th Oct 2019John Ruskin: A Flawed Genius
by Julian Halsby

John Ruskin (8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900) was one of the great visionaries of the 19th century but he was also controversial and contradictory. An artist, author and critic, his interests covered geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany and political economy. He was a passionate believer in improving working conditions and warned of the pollution created by the Industrial Revolution. He believed the beauty of nature was a form of art available to everyone. Towards the end of his life he had given away his large inheritance to support philanthropic works.

Julian Halsby studied History of Art at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and went on to become the Senior Lecturer and Head of the Postgraduate Conservation Department at Croyden College of Art. Himself an artist in oils, he enjoys painting in Venice, France and the South and West country. He is a Member of the Royal Society of British Artists, the International Association of Art Critics, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the Critics Circle. He says: “For me it’s the people who make art history as fascinating as their work”. He and his wife, Miranda, run the Newland Gallery near their house in Sherborne.

Wednesday 20th Nov 2019Dust Bowl Blues: Texas and Oklahoma Photography, Art and Music
by John Francis

In this neglected era (1930’s), set against a back drop of the Wall Street crash and a questioning of the success of the American dream the WPA (Works Progress Administration) and the New Deal were created. The Roosevelt government initiative meant employment for over eight million largely unskilled Americans and importantly 5,300 artists. Murals, painting, photography, graphic design all flourished. In this lecture we will explore some of the key artists at this time. The abstract painters Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning will be evaluated along with the social realism of Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Ben Shahn. The soundtrack of the era was provided by Woody Guthrie and Jimmie Rogers.

John Francis has a relaxed, distinctive lecturing style that successfully employs humour and innovation to encourage learning. He is an experienced University Lecturer, consultant, researcher and visual artist. After growing up in Merseyside, he won a scholarship to the Brooklyn Museum in New York, and then spent some time in Nantucket on Cape Cod and in Texas. He is a former lecturer at Art Institute Bournemouth and Exeter University, educating students on film and animation

“For me the Arts are not just about looking, they're about the backstory. In my lectures we consider the social, political and cultural context. Some of the best art such as Turner, Picasso, even Miles Davis, all combine experiment with popularity. Their work takes the audience from somewhere familiar to somewhere new. In my lectures, this is what we do.”

Wednesday 18th Dec 2019The Art of Partying
by Alice Foster

The depiction of parties has always been popular in the history of Western Art. Everyone loves a party. To illustrate this Alice Foster takes her references from a wide variety of historical sources: weddings in the Bible, 2nd century Greek mosaics, Renaissance allegories of refinement and excess, 16th century peasant parties, 18th century harlequins and the celebratory styles of 20th century painters. The focus is on the variety of merrymaking, banqueting, dances and music in a feast of colour.

Alice Foster has lectured for Oxford University Department of Continuing Education since 1998. She lectures regularly at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and at the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock. Her busy freelance career includes organising History of Art study days with colleagues, and regular weekly classes in Oxfordshire and Worcestershire. In 2004 Alice joined The Arts Society and has lectured in Britain and in Europe. Since 2003 Alice has been a tutor on study holidays. In 2010 she was elected President of Banbury Fine Arts Society.

Wednesday 15th Jan 2020Hidden Canvases: Street Art and the City
by Doug Gillen

Most of us are familiar with Banksy, but do we notice street art or understand how significant its message can be? Do we glance past colour, writing and images on a building without wondering why it is there? Doug Gillan will help us to re-assess their value, how to look at them, learn to grasp their meaning, and open our eyes to an important art form of modern times.
"Art is a voice for those who demand to be heard, and what better gallery to exhibit in than the streets in which we live?"

Doug has a degree in Cinematography and Film/Video Production from Queen Margaret University. He has directed many projects, from charities to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and worked alongside the team involved with the Olympic Developments Committee. He documents the street art scene in London and abroad through his Fifth Wall TV and contributes his weekly news round up on the Breakfast Show on London Live once a week, with topics ranging from arts and culture through to worldwide news and events.

A keen volunteer, he helped to clear up, support families and build a community centre after the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, as well as working at an elephant orphanage there and a turtle sanctuary in Costa Rica.

Wednesday 19th Feb 2020Peggy Guggenheim
by Alexandra Epps

The 'poor little rich girl' who changed the face of twentieth century art and was the woman who helped define it. She discovered a new generation of artists producing a new kind of art, recognising their importance ahead of her time. Through collecting not only art but the artists themselves, her life was as radical as her collection.

After years in London, Paris and New York, she spent the last 30 years of her life at the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, her home on the Grand Canal in Venice, now a gallery displaying some of her fine and varied collection of modern art.

Alexandra Epps has a BA from Saint Martins School of Art and an MA from the London College of Printing and practised as a graphic designer running her own design consultancy for many years.

Alexandra is an Official Guide and Lecturer at Tate Modern, Tate Britain and Guildhall Art Galleries, a member of the City of London Guide Lecturers Association and is a Freeman of the City of London. She offers lectures and walks about many aspects of the arts for societies, corporations and private individuals. She is co-author of the book Lord Mayor’s Portraits 1983-2014.

Wednesday 18th Mar 2020Cleopatra: CANCELLED !
by Lucy Hughes-Hallett

In view of the Coronavirus situation and the risk of infection in a crowded hall, we have reluctantly decided to cancel this lecture.

April's lecture (The Lute by Adam Busiakiewicz on 15th April) has also now been cancelled.

Please pass this information on to other members.

Lucy Hughes-Hallett is a British cultural historian, biographer and novelist.
Her biography “Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions” was published in 1990. She has written book reviews for all of the British broadsheet newspapers including The Sunday Times and The Guardian and was television critic of the London Evening Standard for five years. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Historical Association and teaches Creative Writing at Arcadia University and at Arvon.

Wednesday 15th Apr 2020The Lute : CANCELLED !
by Adam Busiakiewicz

Sadly, this lecture has now been cancelled, due to the coronavirus.

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 20th May 2020Picasso’s Guernica – CANCELLED !
by Paul Chapman

Sadly, this lecture has now been cancelled, due to the coronavirus.

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 Jun 2020A Garden Like No Other: Edward James and Las Pozas.
by James Russell

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 15th Jul 2020Carmen 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.


Tuesday 21st Apr 2020Chawton House: CANCELLED !

In view of the Coronavirus situation we very much regret that we are cancelling the trip to Chawton House. We are following The Arts Society Head Office lead who are cancelling all their study days, visits and the "directory day" until at least the end of April. We hope to reschedule the trip once the crisis is over, possibly later in the year. Those who had booked on the trip should receive an email from the Treasurer about repayments. If not, please contact him (Our Society > Committee section).

Jane Austen’s brother, Edward, inherited Chawton House in 1798 at the age of 30. It is situated in 275 acres deep in the Hampshire countryside, 17 miles north east of Winchester. The House dates from the 1580s and has undergone many changes while retaining its original Tudor features. There is much to enjoy, from portraits, stained glass windows, carved fireplaces, gleaming wood panelled walls and furniture to a library of leather bound books.

Edward gave the nearby bailiff’s residence to his mother and his sisters Jane and Cassandra. Here Jane wrote much of her work and it is now the Jane Austen’s House Museum, five minutes walk from Chawton House, where Jane was a constant visitor.

The extensive and beautiful garden, with parkland beyond, includes terraces, herbaceous borders, a lime avenue, a fernery, shrubbery, and a walled garden which includes a recently created Herb Garden inspired by Elizabeth Blackwell’s guide to plants and their medicinal properties.

The large library includes an extensive collection of women writers' manuscripts.

The 2020 exhibition in Chawton House highlights the lives of eighteenth century women who stepped outside traditional female roles, risking physical perils and public outrage in disguising themselves as men.

Tuesday 7th Jul 2020Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire

Berkeley Castle's origins date back to the 11th century, and it has been designated by English Heritage as a grade I listed building. It is the third-oldest continuously occupied castle in England, after the Tower of London and Windsor Castle, and the oldest to be continuously owned and occupied by the same family, the Berkeleys. Situated close to the River Severn in the Bristol Estuary, it has been the scene of many historic events and visitors and still retains most of its original features.

The Great Hall and Armoury is the centrepiece of the Castle where kings and queens throughout the centuries have been wined and dined. Measuring 32 feet high and 62 feet long, this magnificent hall dates from the fourteenth century, built on the site of the original hall in the reign of King Edward III. The walls are hung with a fine series of Oudenarde tapestries illustrating the history of Queen Esther, and stained glass in the windows depicts the various alliances of the family.

The King's Gallery, with the cell and dungeon where King Edward II was imprisoned and murdered. Portraits of many of England's monarchs line the walls, alongside some of Francis Drake's furniture.

The Picture Gallery displays a collection of mainly Dutch paintings, including a number of sea pictures featuring ships with a Berkeley connection, while the centrepiece is a fine painting by George Stubbs.

The gardens have evolved over time, fed by water diverted from the River Severn. The present planting of the terraces was carried out with the help of Gertrude Jekyll at the turn of the last century. The garden also contains a butterfly house.

Study Day

Monday 2nd Mar 2020From Monochrome to Polychrome : How colour transformed the art of garden design.
by Timothy Walker

[Please note that this event will take place in the Conservative Club, Long Street]

View, Print or Download the booking form :
Study Day Booking Form (2nd March 2020)     Download

In 1888 Gertrude Jekyll wrote a short but seminal article in The Garden in which she urged the readers to “remember that in a garden we are painting a picture". But nature can be a fickle pallette; we shall learn how garden design has evolved.

The three lectures are titled: Broadening the Palette, Seeing the Light and Planting the Picture.

The lens through which the discussion is focused will be the 400-year-old Oxford Botanic Gardens and gardens created by the lecturer and his wife. However, other examples of gardens from around Britain and other parts of the world will be included to illustrate the answers to the questions.

This study day will try to answer some overlapping questions:
   What influences garden design?
   Is garden design art?
   What role does colour play in the design of gardens?
   In what ways are the principles of garden design different from those of fine art?

Timothy Walker was Director of the Oxford University Botanic Garden from 1988 to 2014, during which time he gave many lectures. Since 2014 he has been a college lecturer and tutor at Somerville College Oxford. He says: “Botanic gardens are often described as living museums, and garden curators lecture about them in the same way as museum curators talk about their collections. Gardens are often thought of as a place where science and art meet on equal terms. My lectures investigate this relationship”.

View, Print or Download the booking form :
Study Day Booking Form (2nd March 2020)     Download

Wessex Area Study Days

Wednesday 15th Apr 2020The Art and Culture of the Aztecs, Maya and Incas.

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 15th April and Thursday 16th April,
(and possibly a second date of Wednesday 29th April and Thursday 30th April if there is sufficient demand.)
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

Wednesday 20th Nov 2019New Members Reception

At 12.15 pm following the lecture by John Francis.

The committee hopes that our new members enjoyed the lecture in October and that you will be able to stay after the November lecture for a short time to say hello and find out a little more of what the Society does by supporting/involvement in Young Arts, Church Recording & Heritage Volunteering. Please let us know your initial views on the Society.

Tuesday 10th Dec 2019Christmas Party

Our Christmas Party will take place on Tuesday 10th of December at 12 noon in our usual meeting room. Liz Lipscombe will entertain us with her violin before and during our three course meal and drinks. After which we shall be joined by Tim Charity and members of The Devizes Good Afternoon Choir, to sing Christmas Carols. There will be a bar to purchase additional drinks. At £30 per head and places for only 100 members, you’ll need to book soon.

Closing date is 23rd (the end of the third week) November.

Click below for the menu and booking form.

Christmas Menu     Download

Wednesday 19th Feb 2020ARTFEST Devizes

Although the Wessex Area is not involved in this, we have decided to have our own ARTFEST at the February meeting next year. All art can be included, as per last year. Multiple entries are allowed. Please put this in your diaries if you are interested in having your work shown. Further details to come later.