Programme Jan – Jun 2022

This season’s seminars will be either face-to-face or online (via Zoom) meetings.  Hybrid sessions will not be available.

These arrangements depend on national and local COVID-19 regulations and are subject to last minute changes.

Theme for Jan – Jun 2022 – Galleries and Curating

The intention of this programme is to examine the role that galleries and curation play in the world of art and the strong influence that display has upon how the art is viewed and perceived. In order to do this we examine an individual gallery, how and why it came into existence and how it has changed over time in response to contemporary demands. We will look at some of the reasoning behind the display of a selection of individual works in a well-known gallery, address the issues surrounding the curation of a large and varied bequest and explore the curation of a specific collection of unusual works in a lesser known gallery. We will address the particular demands of sculpture and the need to ensure an aesthetic balance between the artwork and its surroundings. Current challenges to ownership of items and the context within which they are displayed will also be investigated, as well as challenges by artists themselves to traditional means of display. Finally, we will look at the role that exhibitions play in both attracting viewers to the gallery and making art accessible to the wider public, as well as the process of curating a large exhibition.

Wednesday 12 January 2022, 10.30-12.30, Online via Zoom
Curating the Pitmen Painters’ Collection
Illustrated seminar by Dr Veronica Davies
This seminar will focus mainly on the work of the Ashington Group of artists, originally members of a WEA art appreciation class in the north-east in the 1930s and generally known now as the ‘Pitmen Painters’. They developed over the years into a distinctive group as learners and practitioners. Their work was not originally made with a view to exhibition, collection, or even preservation, making them an interesting case study. We will trace how they developed over the years into a group of artists with a very clear identity and ethos, and the ways in which they disseminated this by exhibiting their work. In terms of curating, exhibition and conservation, we will evaluate how their values have endured in the way that the work of these artists continues to resonate in the UK and internationally, even though the local mining culture and way of life that formed their subject-matter has largely vanished. This can be seen not only in books, drama and documentary, but in the establishment of a gallery at Woodhorn Colliery Museum, on the site of a former mine, dedicated to permanently displaying the Ashington Group’s collection of paintings to inform and inspire later generations.

Wednesday 2 February 2022, 10.30-12.30, Hampshire Record Office
Curating Bacon at the Royal Academy of Arts
Illustrated seminar by Sarah Lea
In this talk, exhibition curator Sarah Lea will give an overview of Francis Bacon: Man and Beast, on view in the Main Galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts from 29 January 2022 and running until 17 April 2022.
This powerful exhibition of 46 paintings will focus on Bacon’s unerring fascination with animals and the impact this had upon his artistic practice. It explores how Bacon was mesmerised by animal movement, observing animals in the wild during trips to South Africa; filling his studio with wildlife books, and constantly referring to Eadweard Muybridge’s 19th-century photographs of humans and animals in motion. Whether chimpanzees or bulls, dogs or birds of prey, Bacon felt he could get closer to understanding the true nature of humankind by watching the uninhibited behaviour of animals. Spanning Bacon’s 50-year career, highlights include some of Bacon’s earliest works and his last-ever painting, alongside a trio of bullfight paintings which will be exhibited together for the first time.
Sarah will offer biographical information on the artist, explore some of the exhibition’s key works in detail, and give behind-the-scenes insights into the process of mounting an ambitious exhibition such as this.

Wednesday 16 February 2022, 10.30-12.30, Hampshire Record Office
‘Let There be Sculpture’: The Life and Work of Jacob Epstein (1880-1959)
Illustrated seminar by Monica Bohm-Duchen
Monica Bohm-Duchen will provide a broad yet detailed overview of Jacob Epstein’s colourful and unconventional life and powerful, often controversial career as a sculptor and draughtsman, setting them in their wider cultural context. Born in 1880 in the Lower East Side of New York City to Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe, Epstein moved to Paris in 1902 and settled in London in 1905, becoming a British citizen in 1911. In due course he would become one of the grand old men of modern art (he was knighted in 1954), but not before provoking many a scandal in the British art world and beyond.
Key works to be examined in detail include his Tomb of Oscar Wilde in Paris, the British Medical Association sculptures in London’s The Strand, Rock Drill, Risen Christ, Rima in Hyde Park and St. Michael for Coventry Cathedral.
Although as Henry Moore rightly observed in 1959, Epstein was the man who “took the brickbats for modern art, and as far as sculpture in this country is concerned, he took them first”, we will see that this is far from the whole story, as responses to Epstein’s work were often also fuelled by prudishness, xenophobia and even racism.

Wednesday 9 March 2022, 10.30-12.30, Hampshire Record Office
Uncomfortable Truths: Colonialism and Conflict in the British Museum
Illustrated seminar by Alice Proctor
This seminar will discuss how museums were created as colonial institutions, and what this means for their future, using the collections of the British Museum. From the first collectors and curators who shaped the British Museum into the institution it is today, to the contemporary artists whose work challenges our assumptions and preconceptions about the past, we’ll explore how museums have evolved since the 18th century, and how the ideals of enlightenment philosophy are still present in the galleries. We’ll also consider how the repatriation of objects can create new understandings of the history of the British Empire, and what happens in the collections they leave behind.

Wednesday 23 March 2022, 10.30-12.30, Hampshire Record Office
Presenting the Davies Sisters’ Collection
Illustrated seminar by Oliver Fairclough
Gwendoline Davies (1882-1951) and her sister Margaret Davies (1884-1963) were among the first British collectors of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. Mostly acquired between 1908 and 1923, their collection of some 260 works included great paintings by Turner, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and Van Gogh, and sculptures by Rodin and Degas, and was later bequeathed to the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.
Although the sisters were brought up in rural Montgomeryshire, far from the source of their wealth in the Rhondda Valley, they were committed to the material and cultural improvement of their fellow countrymen. They believed that the experience of the best in art (and music) enriched people’s lives, so their collection, at the time one of the most progressive in Britain, was always widely shown and shared. They lent generously to exhibitions and the collection was hung during the 1920s and 1930s at their home, Gregynog, which became a centre for the arts and for the exploration of the social problems of the day.
The seminar will have a focus on the collection’s presentation from its first showing in Cardiff in 1913, and will conclude with an account of its celebration there in 2007, and of an exhibition based on that event which subsequently toured in the United States during 2009-10.

Wednesday 4 May 2022, 10.30-12.30, Hampshire Record Office
History of the Royal Academy of Arts as a Gallery
Illustrated seminar by Peter Sawbridge
From the 18th century to the 21st, the Royal Academy of Arts in London has occupied a prominent, occasionally controversial and always individual position in the art world. Its Annual Exhibitions, now known as the Summer Exhibitions, have seen artistic reputations rise and fall, and its enduringly popular international loan exhibitions have helped to shape the public’s appreciation of the visual arts. The Academy continues to be overseen and run by its Royal Academicians, the practising painters, sculptors, architects and printmakers who comprise its membership and who alone may place the letters RA after their names.
This illustrated talk by the author of A Little History of the Royal Academy (2018) will guide the audience through the Academy’s fascinating 253-year story, and provide intriguing glimpses of some of the people, places and events that have helped to make the institution such an influential and integral part of British cultural life.

Wednesday 18 May 2022, 10.30-12.30, Hampshire Record Office
Artists, Curators, Exhibitions and the Changing Face of Contemporary Art
Illustrated seminar by Barry Venning
The world of contemporary art has changed almost beyond recognition in the last half century: accompanying the extraordinary rise of video, installation and performance based art, there have been profound shifts in attitudes towards museums and galleries on the part of artists and curators. There was a reaction against what Brian O’ Doherty described as the ‘White Cube’: the supposedly neutral, value-free art spaces beloved of modernist bastions like the MoMA New York; in addition, the role of the museum as an authoritative arbiter of quality and  significance came increasingly under fire from artists like the minimalist sculptor, Donald Judd, who bought up vast amounts of unwanted real estate in the small, remote, decaying town of Marfa, Texas, to show his work and that of his friends. At the other extreme from Judd’s grand vision is Filip Noterdaeme’s HOMU  (Homeless Museum of Art), which began in 2002 as a whimsical, fictitious museum to mock the cultural establishment, but still exists two decades later, albeit in a state of perpetual flux, defying the rules of the established art world. In addition, there is the tendency described by the critic and curator, Nicolas Bourriaud, as ‘relational’ art: works that place a greater emphasis on the involvement of the spectator rather than ‘passive’ encounters with art objects in big museums. These three examples begin to  suggest the ways in which the experience and the presentation of art have broadened in recent years.

Wednesday 25 May 2022, 10.30-12.30, Hampshire Record Office
Sculpture & Sight: The Garden and the Plastic Art
Illustrated seminar by Timothy Revell
This seminar will focus on the idea of sculpture as a three-dimensional tool of manipulation, whilst also showcasing the ability of artists and designers to use the urban and natural landscape as (and with) plastic forms in terms of phenomenological experience. Forms, ideas and even styles migrate through time and place in a process art historian Aby Warburg called Bildwanderung. Thus, examples will be drawn from antiquity to the contemporary Sculpture Park, including the Flavian ‘museum’, the so-called Forum Pacis, to artists and patrons such as Lorenzo ‘the Magnificent’ de’ Medici, Popes Julius II and Sixtus V all the way to Peter Randall-Page and Barbara Hepworth exhibited at the Roche Court Sculpture Park.
The larger theme of the lecture will be the interwoven quality of display and its efficacy on the beholder throughout the history of art.
Followed by the WAHG AGM

Wednesday 8 June 2022, 10.30-12.30, Hampshire Record Office
Star pieces from the Tate Permanent Collection
Illustrated seminar by Richard Thomas
Ophelia by John Everett Millais remains a starring attraction from when ‘The National Gallery of British Art’ first opened its doors in 1897. Henry Tate had established a collection of contemporary British art, and that contemporary emphasis remains central. It is only since the mid 1950s that the Tate has developed displays of historic British Art. While a comprehensive view of the past still lies far ahead of us, Flatford Mill by John Constable and Nebuchadnezzar by William Blake have become outstanding features of the collection. In 1926 modern international art was given space, and soon Matisse and Picasso commanded attention in the recently renamed Tate Gallery. After obtaining The Snail by  Matisse, Picasso’s The Three Dancers was added; stated by Picasso to be his second best picture. In 1953 the gallery reluctantly accepted the gift of  Study for Three Figures from the Base of a Crucifixion by Francis Bacon but became proud of this acquisition after he achieved international acclaim. Multimedia combinations of installation, video, performance and body art have recently gained institutional support. Concert for Anarchy is by Rebecca Horn, one of the radical pioneers, and this piece is now a very memorable recurring feature of Tate displays.