Programme Jan – Jun 2018

Theme: From West to East – Decoration and Design in Sacred Spaces

Illustrated Seminars and Group Visits

Wednesday 10 January 2018, 10.30 – 12.30, Winchester Discovery Centre
In Search of Giotto
Illustrated seminar by Dr Antonia Whitley

What do we really know about Giotto? Why does he stand out amid his contemporaries? And do his works still have the power to move the viewer in a secular age? Giotto’s most important frescoes are found in Franciscan churches, an association that would endure throughout his working life. His cycles at Santa Croce in Florence, Santa Chiara in Naples and at San Francesco in Assisi are testament to that fact. His finest surviving works, however, a series of early 14C frescoes in the Arena Chapel in Padua, brought Italian narrative painting to a new pitch of expression, in which we can observe an artist keenly attuned to the world around him.
In considering his oeuvre, I want to give an overview of our understanding of his critical reception in his own day and beyond, as well as to sketch out some of the problems that still attend to Giotto scholarship six and a half centuries after his death. As we shall see, ‘the idea of Giotto’ has travelled a great distance from Trecento Italy, but what remains beyond doubt is Giotto’s artistic stature and historical importance.

Wednesday 24 January 2018, 10.30 – 12.30, Hampshire Record Office
The Painted Church: Medieval Wall Paintings in England and Wales 800 – 1540
Illustrated seminar by Roger Rosewell

Before the religious reformations of the sixteenth century, the walls of British churches, monasteries and cathedrals were often painted with decorative and figurative schemes. Many of the latter included carefully chosen Bible stories, images of Christ and the Virgin Mary, episodes from the lives of saints, warnings about the inevitability of death and the inescapable certainty of Judgement, as well as exhortations to worshippers to live pious lives. This extensively illustrated seminar will explore the purpose and function of these remarkable paintings, their history and changing styles, the artists and patrons who made them, the techniques that were used, their relationship with other church art of the period (such as stained glass) and, finally, what happened to them, and why, during the upheavals of the Reformation.

Thursday 1 February 2018, Visit to Oxford – the Ashmolean Museum’s exhibition Imagining the Divine and the Bodleian Library’s exhibition Designing English

Travel to and from Oxford will be by coach. We leave Winchester at 9.00am and arrive at the Ashmolean Museum for coffee. We will have an introductory lecture on the exhibition Imagining the Divine followed by a visit to the exhibition. This explores the images which resulted from the exchange of ideas between the developing world religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism – in the first millennium.
After lunch at the Ashmolean we visit the Weston Library, part of the Bodleian Library, to view the exhibition Designing English which shows examples of the graphic design of handwritten manuscripts and inscriptions from Old English picture books to medieval manuscripts.
Maximum number: 30. Cost from £45.50 to £51 (depending on concessions). The fee includes coach travel, private lecture at the Ashmolean,  entry into the Ashmolean’s exhibition, (the Bodleian’s exhibition is free), coffee/teas and lunch.  

Wednesday 7 March 2018, 10.30 – 15.30, Winchester Discovery Centre
The Architecture of Sicily
Study Day led by Gerald Deslandes

Sicily has often been described as a stepping stone between Europe and Africa. In the first millennium BC it was the focus of rivalries between the Greeks and the Phoenicians and the Romans and the Carthaginians.  After the fall of Rome it came under the influence of the Byzantine empire. Then in 728 AD it was captured by the Moors before being re-conquered by the Normans within a decade of their victory at Hastings.
This turbulent history has meant that many religious sites contain an extraordinary mixture of architectural styles and liturgical functions. In Palermo, for example, the architects of the Martorana combined columns salvaged from classical temples with mosaics by Byzantine craftsmen. The church of San Cataldo contains bulbous Moorish domes or cubole and overhanging arches or merlons. Like the Capella Palatina in the former Moorish palace, it contains a Byzantine apse. This comprises the proskomedia, where offerings were prepared, the angels’ gate at the centre and the diaconicon or vestry to its right.
The chapel has been called a seemingly effortless fusion of all that is most brilliant in the Latin, Byzantine & Arabic traditions’. It contains Moorish ceiling arches or murquanas and a cycle of mosaics that links the Old and New Testament and the eight feasts of the Byzantine church. This mingling of the Byzantine and Lateran traditions can also be found in the patronage of former Basilian monasteries such as San Felipe di Fragola by the Norman counts. Their desire to create a counterweight to the power of the nobles also inspired their invitation to the Benedictines to build the most sublime of their Norman cathedrals, Monreale. This contains acres of mosaics and intricately carved cloisters, which echo the carvings of local Fatimid craftsmen.
The three talks will span the ancient, Moorish and Byzantine and Norman periods. They will also show how many of its religious buildings and traditions were converted in the Baroque period. The speaker will compare Norman Sicily to the Crusades and the re-conquest of Spain. He will place the Sicilian mosaics in the context of those at Constantinople and Ravenna and explain their links to the Viking sagas, the murder of Thomas a Becket and the Winchester Bible.

Wednesday 14 March 2018
Visit to the National Gallery – A Celebration of Passion Week
Guided tour led by Dr Antonia Whitley

Dr Antonia Whitley will lead a tour of the National Gallery which focuses on a selection of the wonderful paintings that cover the Passion Week, starting with Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem and ending with his appearance to his disciples after the Resurrection. Before the tour there will be coffee and pastries on arrival at the National Gallery in the Sainsbury Wing restaurant. Audio equipment will be available for the tour which starts at 11.00.
Maximum number: 20. Cost £30pp to include a two-hour guided tour and refreshments on arrival.  Independent travel to London by rail. 

Wednesday 21 March 2018, 10.30 – 12.30, Winchester Discovery Centre
Modern Stained and Painted Glass in Religious Settings
Illustrated seminar by Beth Taylor

The making of coloured glass is an ancient art and windows glazed with stained and painted glass have been used to illuminate the sacred buildings of the major Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – since early times: in England, for example, the earliest known dates from the 7th century.  Such installations provide light, opportunities for religious teaching, whether through symbols and geometric designs as in Judaism and Islam, or by figurative representation as in Christian churches.  All styles can provide a visual experience which has a transcendent impact.
In this seminar, the impact of the varied roles and styles of stained and painted glass windows will be explored from the Biblical and Koranic sources which define a theology of ‘light’ – to the writings of medieval theologians and patrons like Durandus, Bishop of Mende and Abbot Suger of St. Denis and to the aspirations of the religious leaders, architects and artists of the twentieth century. We will investigate the role, design and techniques used in such windows, citing examples from the earliest known, the medieval and Victorian period which have influenced 20th century artists and the opportunities provided by the new materials and new styles of the 20th century.
The main focus of the seminar will be on twentieth century examples. The “Century of Total War” in the view of Raymond Aron, and the century of Modernism in art and architecture – brought both challenges and opportunities.  We will explore examples from the time of WW1 and review some key windows by renowned artists and stained glass makers in France, Germany and the UK as well as wider afield.  The views of the role of stained glass in this century and the changing theological approaches of the period will be cited. Whose views dominated in its style and technique?  The commissioners, the artist, the architect, the maker?  Undoubtedly it was the artist in cases like Matisse’s designs for the Chapel at Vence.  In other cases, it was the architect, like Basil Spence at Coventry.  Modern buildings provide new opportunities for the stained glass artist and the glass craftsmen – like Charles Marq who worked with Chagall and Patrick Reyntiens who worked with John Piper.  What is notable is that, just as in past centuries, the scale and style of the stained and painted and etched glass of the twentieth century can have a major impact, even in our more secular times.

Wednesday 18 April 2018, 10.30 – 12.30, Winchester Discovery Centre
Western Artists in China, and Chinese Export Art
Illustrated seminar by Dr Patrick Connor

Until recent times China has been almost inaccessible to Western artists.  Western merchants were confined to the southern ports of Canton and Macau; only ambassadors and missionaries could reach Peking.  We’ll look at some of the pioneer artists – notably William Alexander, who accompanied the first British Embassy to China in 1793, and George Chinnery, the flamboyant, extravagant artist who fled from his creditors in Calcutta in 1825 and became a legendary figure on the China coast.
Meanwhile the Chinese artists of Canton were developing their own attractive and hybrid style, designed to appeal to the visiting merchants and ships’ officers who came to the city.  These ‘export’ artists painted portraits, plants and animals, scenes of rice, silk and porcelain production, and highly detailed port scenes.  Some of their earliest and most appealing works were ‘reverse-glass paintings’, often part mirror and part landscape.  We’ll look at their subjects and techniques, and consider also how tastes and fashions changed after the ‘Opium Wars’ of the mid-19th century.

Wednesday 25 April 2018, 10.30 – 12.30, Winchester Discovery Centre
The Sacred Art of the Silk Road
Illustrated seminar by Jonathan Tucker

The ancient trade routes between Europe and the Orient endured for almost two thousand years. Stretching from the former Chinese capital of Xian across the expanses of Central Asia to Rome, the Silk Road was a vibrant network of arteries that carried the lifeblood of nations across the world. From the East came silk, precious stones, tea, jade, paper, porcelain, spices and cotton; from the West, horses, weapons, wool and linen, aromatics, entertainers and exotic animals.
From its earliest beginnings in the days of Alexander the Great and the Han dynasty, the Silk Road expanded and evolved, reaching its peak during the Tang dynasty and the Byzantine Empire and gradually withering away with the decline of the Mogul Empire.
This seminar will include an introduction to the origins and history of the Silk road and an illustrated survey of religious art along these ancient highways. It will include examples of sculpture, painting, manuscripts and ritual objects from the Silk Road’s various faiths and will also examine the manner in which artistic styles were disseminated.

Wednesday 16 May 2018,  10.30 – 12.30, Winchester Discovery Centre
Design and Decoration in Islamic Sacred Spaces
Illustrated seminar by Professor James Allan (Followed by AGM)

It is generally believed that there are no depictions of living creatures in Islamic art. That is certainly not the case in the secular world of Islam, but is generally true of orthodox (Sunni) Islamic religious art. From Morocco to India we find sacred spaces in which calligraphy, geometry and the arabesque, singly or together, offer an extraordinary interplay of designs and decoration. These are full of intrinsic beauty, but the calligraphic compositions also provide the viewer with many of the Koranic texts on which Islamic theology is built, as well as information about the patrons of some of the buildings. However, Shii Islam takes us into another world, where calligraphy still abounds, but the themes of succession and martyrdom are played out visually through representations of members of the Prophet’s family and of the Battle of Karbala, the cause celebre of Shiism.

Monday 11 June 2018
A tour of Sussex Churches with Wall Paintings
A guided tour led by Chris Maxse

Transport will be by minibus from Winchester for this all-day tour.  The tour of churches begins in Corhampton with its 11th Century paintings depicting the life of St Swithin. There then follows visits to Idsworth which has an important set of wall paintings dating from the 1330s. Trotton church follows with some really interesting and rustic 14th Century paintings including an illustration of the Seven Deadly Sins and Virtues. After pausing for lunch we visit West Chiltington before finishing at Hardham, a simple Saxon church whose entire interior is covered with a major set of Romanesque wall paintings from the famous Lewes School.
Maximum number: 15. Cost £60 to include minibus travel and a guided tour of the churches. Please note that during the morning and afternoon visits to the churches there will not be an opportunity for a coffee or toilet break. A menu will be circulated in advance so that we can order lunch at a local pub. The lunch is payable on the day of the visit.  

Wednesday 13 June 2018,  10.30 – 12.30, Winchester Discovery Centre
The Sacred Art of Japan
Illustrated seminar by Dr Meri Arichi

This seminar will focus on two main areas of sacred art in Japan: the cult of Amida Buddha, as exampled in the Phoenix Hall on the outskirts of Kyoto, and the profound influence of Zen Buddhism on the formation of Japanese visual culture.
The cult of Amida Buddha (Sk. Amitabha) gained an overwhelming number of followers from the 10th century onward in Japan, due to the apocalyptic theory which predicted that the world was to enter the period of “Mappo” (latter days of the Buddhist Law) in the year corresponding to 1052 in the western calendar. During the dark age of Mappo when Buddha’s teaching would decline, the only hope of salvation was to be reborn in the Western Paradise (Pure Land) of Amida Buddha. The Phoenix Hall, which is the oldest surviving Amida Hall in Japan, is located in the outskirts of Kyoto, and was created in 1052 by an aristocrat to house a beautiful statue of Amida Buddha. The architecture and the interior of the hall were designed to recreate the magnificent paradise where all devotees hoped to be reborn after their death.
Zen Buddhism has exerted a profound influence on the formation of Japanese visual culture since its introduction in the 13th century to the present day. Zen Buddhism’s emphasis on the practice of meditation, self-discipline, and an austere lifestyle appealed to the patrons from the warrior class, and Zen teaching became the dominant philosophical basis that supported the development of the distinctive aesthetics of the 15th and 16th centuries. Many of the art forms, such as ink painting, dry landscape gardens and Noh drama developed during this period. We will examine the beauty of simplicity, the spiritual essence, and the close affinity to nature that characterise the arts of Zen.