Programme Jan – Jun 2021

During this programme it may become feasible to stage simultaneous Zoom and live seminars at the Winchester Discovery Centre.  Members will be kept informed of any new developments and will be given the option of taking advantage of face to face seminars nearer the time.

Theme for Jan – Jun 2021 – a  ‘Pot Pourri’ 

The intention of this programme is to look at aspects or types of art that don’t fall easily into a more general art history theme and to address what makes these topics interesting in themselves. To address, for example, the age and uniqueness of cave art and the difficulties in determining how and why it was made, or how and why 16th and 17th century tapestries were made and collected and their status relative to painting and the ‘fine arts’. The aim is to look at the theory behind Dada, its shock-effects and the reactions it produced, to look at the large and varied scope of the work of Natalia Goncharova as a Russian female in the early 20th century and also at the great variety of contemporary sculpture, what it is trying to express and how best to look at it. In addition, the programme incorporates topics rescheduled from last year’s WAHG programme, looking at the exquisite medieval manuscripts for which East Anglia was particularly renowned and, more recently, the different groups comprising the German Expressionists. We also look at the less formal groupings of both the Glasgow Boys and the Young British Artists. 

Wednesday  13 January 2021, 10.30-12.00, online via Zoom
German Expressionism
Illustrated seminar by Richard Thomas  (Postponed from 22 Apr 2020)
The visual languages formed before the First World War in Dresden by the Die Brücke Group and in Munich by the Der Blaue Reiter Group characterise German Expressionism. We will look at the contrasting attitudes and ideas that developed in these two centres. The Der Blaue Reiter Group brings to mind the spiritual notions and abstract emphasis of work by Kandinsky and Schoenberg. The Die Brücke Group brings to mind the emphasis on an untamed inner self, filled with Dionysian joie-de-vivre, and the work of Kirchner and of Nolde. ‘German Expressionism’ is a term that can be traced to a wide variety of sources. It provided a counterweight for the journalists to the word ‘Impressionism’. An exhibition in Bonn organized in the summer of 1913 was the first that appeared with the heading ‘Expressionists’ but was not intended to offer any kind of programme. The first monograph on the subject of Expressionism by Paul Fechter (Munich 1914) prescribed limits that remain largely valid but the terminology remained undefined. The seminar will consider the varied intentions represented by German Expressionism and their possible relationship to the context of cultural criticism responding to mass urbanisation and the new consumerism. We will also consider the huge success of the movement and its opposition from both the political left and the right.

Wednesday 3 February 2021, 10.30-12.00, online via Zoom
The YBAs (Young British Artists)
Illustrated seminar by Barry Venning (Postponed from 17 Jun 2020)
The label ‘Young British Artists’, later abbreviated as YBAs, was first coined by Michael Corris in the journal Artforum in 1992 to refer to a loose affiliation of artists, many of whom, such as Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Sarah Lucas and Michael Landy, had studied at Goldsmith’s College of Art under Jon Thompson and Michael Craig-Martin in the late 1980s. There was no ‘group style’ to their work, although it often appeared brash and crude, frequently using unconventional materials, sometimes borrowing from mass culture and deliberately courting controversy.  The original core of the YBAs showed their work at the influential self-curated exhibition, Freeze, in 1988. After attending the private view, Charles Saatchi began to acquire substantial holdings of their works, together with those of other Young British Artists such as Jake & Dinos Chapman, Chris Ofili, Rachel Whiteread, Yinka Shonibare, Tracey Emin, Sam Taylor Wood and many others. Saatchi displayed them in a series of high profile exhibitions, first at his own galleries (in Boundary Road and County Hall) and later, in 1997, at the Royal Academy’s Sensation exhibition, which attracted 300,000 visitors, many of whom were drawn by the media frenzy that surrounded the show. Sensation subsequently travelled to Berlin and then to the Brooklyn Museum, New York. There it received acclaim and abuse in equal measure (Rudy Giuliani threatened to withhold the museum’s funding), but it also demonstrated conclusively that the art of the YBAs was no less strident, challenging, sophisticated and spectacular than that of their American contemporaries.

Wednesday 24 February 2021, 10.30-12.00, online via Zoom
Prehistoric Cave Art
Illustrated seminar by Dr David Saunders
500 years of trying to understand prehistoric cave art: starting the journey on a small miner’s train we look at some of the earliest people to explore cave art from François de Belleforest within the Grotte de Rouffignac in 1575 to Ruben de la Vialle in the Niaux cave in 1660 before investigating why western thought appears to have had no concept of prehistory. We then look at some of the most famous specialists to have studied cave art over the past 100 years. These include Henri Breuil, the ‘Pope of Prehistory’, and his hunting magic theory, Annette Laming-Emperaire, a doctorate graduate whose thesis on cave art composition changed an entire discipline, and André Leroi-Gourhan’s style dating. Finally we look at the improvements that have occurred with regard to the various dating methods, including both radiocarbon and the recent uranium–thorium dating method which may identify that European art was being produced before homo-sapiens arrived in the continent.

Wednesday 10 March 2021, 10.30-12.00, online via Zoom
Natalya Goncharova 1881-1962
Illustrated seminar by Jane Angelini
At a time when huge strides were being made in the artistic communities of both Europe and Russia and as dramatic social and political changes were ongoing around them, Goncharova stood as a woman driving forward a movement that defined 20th-century art. She was a trailblazer for the avant- garde movement in Russia. Her artistic output was immense, wide-ranging and, at times, controversial. She paraded the streets of Moscow displaying futurist body art and created monumental religious paintings. After moving to Paris, with her husband Larionov, she designed costumes and scenery for Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, took part in avant-garde cinema, experimented with book designs and designed for fashion houses in Moscow and Paris.

Wednesday 24 March 2021, 10.30-12.00, online via Zoom
Recent and Contemporary Sculpture
Illustrated seminar by Mary Acton
There is no doubt that modern sculpture has changed radically; it has moved from carving and modelling to construction and installation, using new materials, the found object and the so-called readymade. However, traditional subjects like the human figure have remained important, allowing for sculpture to move between tradition and innovation in often unexpected ways. This lecture will explore continuities, contradictions, and innovations in recent and contemporary sculpture from about 1945 to the present day, including artists such as Rachel Whiteread, Cornelia Parker, Andy Goldsworthy and Antony Gormley.

Wednesday 21—Tuesday 27 April 2021: Art and Architecture of Portugal
Tour Lecturer Barbara Peacock
Tour details circulated separately
Contact for further information

Wednesday 5 May 2021, 10.30-12.00, online via Zoom
The Macclesfield Psalter and East Anglian Medieval Manuscripts
Illustrated seminar by Dr Stella Panayotova (Postponed from 20 May 2020)
The discovery of the Psalter at Shirburn Castle, in the library of the Earl of Macclesfield, caused a furore in 2004. The Macclesfield Psalter has been pronounced ‘a world heritage item’, ‘a treasure-trove of European culture’, ‘the most important discovery of an English work of art in a century’, ‘a window into the world of medieval England’ and ‘the missing link in the development of East Anglian illumination’. Indeed, the manuscript demonstrates the vigorous exchanges between local traditions, metropolitan fashions and continental trends in 14th century England. This small prayer book is one of the most imaginative and finest illuminated manuscripts to survive from a particularly dynamic and transformative period in the history of English painting. Its 250 leaves are painted with incomparable skill in gold and precious pigments. The seminar will focus on the Psalter’s design, production, patronage and meaning by exploring its profuse illustration, peculiar iconography and diverse painting materials and techniques. It will discuss these aspects with comparison to related East Anglian Manuscripts, placing them in the context of religious, cultural and political events of the period c.1300-1340.

Wednesday 19 May 2021, 10.30-12.00, online via Zoom
Illustrated seminar by Richard Thomas
On February 5, 1916, Dada was launched at the opening of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. It was collaboration amongst an international set of dissident artists escaping and reacting to the nightmare of the First World War. Dada, a word meaning many things in various languages, conveyed their refusal to fit in with the established order: a name without fixed meaning as befits an anarchic spirit in art and culture.
Dada artists produced photo-montage, collage and assemblages that appropriated and subverted material from mass-media communications, industrial manufacture and propaganda. Dada is the art of Max Ernst in Cologne, of George Grosz, Hannah Höch and John Heartfield in Berlin, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray in New York, of Tristan Tzara, Emmy Hennings, Hugo Ball and Hans Arp in Zurich and of the omnipresent Picabia in Barcelona, Paris and New York simultaneously. Picasso’s Cubism had already assassinated symbolist and romantic dreams. Dada now aggressively set out to shatter the remaining illusions fostered by war-mongering capitalists. Later in the century there would be a Dada spirit recognised in the work of Niki de Saint-Phalle, Jean Tinguely, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and then again in the do-it-yourself anarchist aesthetic of ‘Punk.’
Expect Jarry, Nietsche and buffoonery to be mentioned…
Followed by AGM

Wednesday 26 May 2021, 10.30-12.00, online via Zoom
Glasgow Boys
Illustrated seminar by Rosalind Whyte (Postponed from 03 Jun 2020)
The Glasgow Boys were a group of radical young artists who challenged the art establishment and the dominance of classical subject matter in Scotland.  In the early 1880s, united by their disillusionment with academic painting, they painted contemporary rural subjects, often working outside directly in front of the motif.  This allowed them to produce paintings that were true to nature and to paint realistic objects in their natural environment. They were influenced in this by the social realism of certain Dutch and French artists, particularly the naturalist painter, Jules Bastien-Lepage.  Their scenes of Scottish rural life challenged the art promoted by the Edinburgh-oriented Scottish art establishment of the time and began a shift to Glasgow as the epicentre of art, which was supported by a group of wealthy industrialists in that fast-growing and industrialising city. They were always a loose grouping of artists, who provided each other with support, but all of them also continued to look elsewhere for inspiration.  By the late 1880s several of them began to take an interest in Celtic design and Japanese prints, so that the early rural naturalism evolved in many separate and distinct directions, often in stark contrast to their early work.

Wednesday 9 June 2021, 10.30-12.00, online via Zoom
The Royal Tapestry Collection from Henry VIII to Charles I
Illustrated seminar by Dr Gillian White
The tapestry collection of King Henry VIII was the largest in the world. It outnumbered the collections of the King of France, the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope, and its size and quality brought honour and renown to the English king. On the walls of Henry’s palaces hung colourful, shimmering, vibrant textiles that bathed his court in magnificence. Nature, religion, history, myth, allegory and politics all contributed to the role tapestries played in the theatre of majesty and to the propaganda of Henry as the greatest prince in Christendom. Of course, not all the tapestries were brand new: Henry’s collection owed something to his father and a great deal to Cardinal Wolsey, himself an outstanding collector of tapestries. But Henry also commissioned new sets of tapestries, like the extraordinary Story of Abraham tapestries, the ‘Tenne peces of newe Arras’ still to be found at Hampton Court. These expensive and modern artworks provided not just pretty pictures on the wall but a visual metaphor in support of the politics of Henry’s reign. Tapestries were power. In truth, the later Tudors add little to this story but their Stuart successors were more active. In 1619 James I founded the Mortlake Tapestry Works west of London. It was not the first tapestry workshop in England but it was the first to have the prestige of direct royal patronage. Royal money and connections brought the leading German designer Francis Cleyn to Mortlake and there, following his designs, Baroque tapestries were created that rivalled the output of the continent. Charles I began his interest in the Mortlake Works whilst still Prince of Wales and his acquisition of Raphael’s cartoons for the Acts of the Apostles tapestries was both an artistic and a political act. Tapestries were still power, even in the age of the great paintings collectors. In this seminar we’ll look briefly at the materials and techniques of tapestry, and then move quickly to the collections and patronage of these monarchs, seeing how styles developed but also how the political power of woven images remained the same.