Stamford Raffles, Art Collector and Discoverer of Singapore


Tuesday 21st May 2024 at 10.45am

Lecturer: Denise Heywood

Raffles, whose name is synonymous with a luxury hotel rather than the greatest Buddhist temple in the world, was a scholar, polymath and the enlightened colonial administrator of Java. In 1804 he discovered the C8th temple of Borobudur, hidden under volcanic ash. He founded Singapore and also acquired wondrous artefacts in Java, such as shadow puppets and textiles, now in the British Museum.
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Alma Tad. of the Royal Acad.

Medieval revelry

Tuesday 16th April 2024 at 10.45am

Lecturer: Tim Stimson replaces Louise Schofield who is indisposed.

The lecture title is from the song celebrating this cheery Dutchman’s knighthood during Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. It conveys the widespread affection with which he was regarded by his public, and the riches he enjoyed through the popularity of his accurate and amusing recreations of Roman life. His pictures were once criticised as “Victorians in togas”, yet that is their charm now; and the parallels between the Roman and the British empires are entertainingly apt. The partially disguised eroticism, of course, did no harm to the sales of his sumptuous evocations of delightful decadence.

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Rosa Bonheur, Animal Painter Extraordinaire

The Horse Fair

Tuesday 20th February 2024 at 10.45am

Lecturer: Lois Oliver

French painter Rosa Bonheur had an extraordinary gift for painting animals that brought her international fame and recognition and in 1865 she was awarded the Légion d’Honneur, Defying convention, Bonheur obtained official permission to wear men’s clothing, so that she could study animal anatomy in the male-only spaces of livestock sales. Her painting ‘The Horse Fair’ was so famous that Queen Victoria requested a private viewing at Buckingham Palace.

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Charles I: King & Collector

Money Painting

Tuesday 16th January 2024 at 10.45am

Lecturer: Barbara Askew

Charles I’s obsession for collecting art began when he saw the magnificent collection of Spain’s King Philip IV. He then purchased the fabulous collection of the Dukes of Mantua including works by Titian and Raphael; he engaged Rubens to paint the ceiling of the Banqueting House in Whitehall and he appointed Van Dyck as his Court Artist. Overall, he amassed over 2000 works, thereby bankrupting the nation.

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Arts and Crafts of Mexico, Past and Present


Tuesday 16th July 2024 at 10.45am BUT meeting starts at 10.30am (AGM)


Lecturer: Chloe Sayer

Arts and crafts remain an essential part of Mexican life. After the Spanish conquest of 1521, the techniques and art styles of Europe merged with those of the New World. Drawing on skills inherited from Aztec, Maya and Spanish predecessors, makers bring a modern vision to ancient traditions. Exquisite textiles, silver jewellery, wooden dance-masks, imaginative toys and fine pottery are still used in many regions
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Grace Darling and the Fine Art of Saving Lives at Sea

Gertrude Bell

Tuesday 17th September 2024 at 10.45am

Lecturer: James Taylor

Darling’s daring rescue of steamship passengers off the Northumberland coast in 1838 brought her international fame. Discover more about her bravery and short life and the artistic contribution that has helped to keep her in the public eye. Grace became the ‘poster girl’ of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and was the first woman awarded their medal for gallantry.

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Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’: the Anatomy of a Masterpiece

Lancaster Priory

Tuesday 17th June 2025 at 10.45am

Lecturer: Hilary Williams

'The Night Watch' of 1642 is Rembrandt's greatest painting and the most famous painting in the Netherlands. But why is it so special? It has become an icon of the Golden Age and of the modern Dutch Nation. Why? How was it commissioned and constructed?  How did Rembrandt paint it and where has it been hung throughout its life? Who are the characters represented? Why is there a lone woman and what is meant by the dead chicken trussed up in her waistband? What does this all tell us about changing Dutch society? This work redirected how group portraits were conceived.

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The Twelve Plants of Christmas

Poinsettia plant

Tuesday 18th November 2025 at 10.45am

Lecturer: Timothy Walker

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.

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Grimsthorpe Castle, Near Bourne

Grimsthorpe Castle
Grimsthorpe Castle State Drawing Room

‘Grim by name but not by nature’ (according to Simon Jenkins), Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire is one of the great houses of England. It is a marriage of architectural styles, with the quirkiness of its Tudor façade contrasting with the Baroque splendour of its north front, and is Sir John Vanbrugh’s last masterpiece -  a ‘true northern Blenheim’.

In 1516, Grimsthorpe and its lands were presented by Henry VIII as a wedding present to William, 11thLord Willoughby de Eresby, and his Spanish bride, Maria de Salinas, lady-in-waiting of Queen Katharine of Aragon. For the next 500 years it remained in the same family, united under the ancient title of ‘Barony of Willoughby de Eresby’. Now owned by a Charitable Trust, it is occupied by the 27thBaroness Willoughby, and because the family held the hereditary office of Lord Great Chamberlain to the monarch, Grimsthorpe houses one of the largest collections of royal thrones and furnishings outside the Royal Palaces.

The Great Hall interior is to Pevsner ‘unquestionably Vanbrugh’s finest room’, having the scale of a Tudor great hall but the perspective of a Roman palace, with its walls of two storeys of arcades, a chimneypiece by Hawksmoor,  and a double flight of stairs rising to a landing, beneath which is Vanbrugh’s Piranesian undercroft. Upstairs, in the state dining room is the Coronation Throne used by George IV, and the King James Room has fluted gilt pilasters and a full-length portrait of King James I. At the end of the upper corridor is the chapel gallery, which houses an almost hidden treasure, Zurbaran’s portrait Benjamin, that has been separated from the rest of the set now at Bishop Auckland Castle, which we may coincidentally see on our visit there in September this year.

 After lunch, we will be invited back to Grimsthorpe to enjoy the Gardens that have been there since the early 1500s, evolving over the years due to Grimsthorpe’s long history of gardening, with intricate parterres with box hedges close to the House, and a dramatic herbaceous border framing views across the lake. Finally, the Georgian Coach House has been converted into a licensed tearoom, serving afternoon tea and home-made cakes, for anyone wishing to indulge, before we rejoin the coach for our homeward journey.

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