Programme Sep – Dec 2020
The seminars listed below have been scheduled, provisionally, for the autumn season. Arrangements are being made with the speakers to enable the seminars to be delivered using the online platform, Zoom. When confirmed, the status of each seminar will be updated on the WAHG website.
As and when the Winchester Discovery Centre is able to host our meetings in the usual way, the situation will be reviewed.
Members will be kept informed of any new developments regarding forthcoming seminars.
Theme for the Sep – Dec 2020 Programme – Patrons and Collectors
The support of patrons and collectors for artists has been fundamental to the development of Western art since the middle-ages. The motivation of these patrons and collectors and the influence they had has varied greatly over time. This programme’s theme concentrates on different patrons and collectors, looking not only at what they commissioned or collected but also what motivation and influence they had. We look at the Medici influence on church art in Renaissance Florence and the motivations behind the extensive Gemaldegalerie collection in Dresden. We investigate the connoisseurship and collecting of the 17th century English court as well as the important wealthy collectors of the 19th and early 20th century in Russia. We assess Durand-Ruel’s massive influence on both the Impressionists and on modern art dealerships and also compare the widely differing approaches to the collecting of Solomon and Peggy Guggenheim. Separately from the theme, we also take a look at Palladio and his immense influence on the English Country house – a talk that we were able to reschedule from March.
Wednesday 9 September 2020, 10.30-12.00 – Zoom Seminar Confirmed
My Madness has been Wisdom: Paul Durand-Ruel, Impressionism and the Beginnings of the Modern Art Market
Presented by Richard Stemp
In 1920 Paul Durand-Ruel lamented, “I was, in short, a bad dealer in paintings,
because I never liked what sold and what I liked I never managed to sell”. He bought to excess: around 1,500 Renoirs and over 1,000 Monets – not to mention the other artists. It was only later that he realised his ‘madness’ had been ‘wisdom’, when the Impressionists began to be seen as great innovators and not unsellable, maverick frauds.
Durand-Ruel succeeded his father as a dealer of Old Master paintings, but was there at the very beginning of Impressionism – even before. He first encountered Monet and Pissarro when they were all in London during the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian war and he started collecting their works the following year. The first Impressionist exhibition wasn’t until 1874.
His unconventional methods are now seen as the start of the modern art market. He sold paintings to museums at reduced prices, because he knew it would be good publicity, and lent works to international exhibitions so his artists would become better known. He invented the monographic exhibition and opened his apartment to visitors, so people could see what it was like to live with ‘modern’ art.
In this talk we will explore Durand-Ruel’s life, the art he bought, and how he sold it, to get a better understanding of the development of Impressionism and his essential role in its success.
Wednesday 23 September 2020, 10.30-12.00 – Zoom Seminar Confirmed
The Whitehall Circle: Connoisseurship and Collecting at the Stuart Court
Presented by Dr Gillian White
In the opening decades of the 17th century there was a revolution in English art collecting and connoisseurship. The insular tastes of the Elizabethans were swept away as English collectors embraced the art of the continent and England moved back towards the European mainstream. A new group of collectors emerged at court that would become known as the Whitehall Circle or Whitehall Group. Most prominent amongst these was Charles I. However, our focus will not be on him but on two of the most prolific collectors at his court: Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, and George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Howard has been described as ‘the first heroic figure in the history of British collecting’. He was Rubens’s earliest English patron and the artist called him ‘one of the evangelists of our art’. In Howard we meet a true connoisseur but in Villiers we find a collector more driven by worldly status. His collection was smaller than Howard’s but the Duke’s personal influence on Charles was greater. Villiers encouraged van Dyck’s introduction to England and, most importantly, Villiers accompanied the Prince to Spain in 1623. Meant to be courting a Spanish infanta, Charles was in fact seduced by the royal art collection and both men returned home with their luggage full of art works. So we shall look at art for art’s sake and art for power’s sake, explore the world of early Stuart court collecting, and learn how these two men influenced the greatest of royal art collectors.
Wednesday 7 October 2020, 10.30-12.00 – Zoom Seminar Confirmed
Important Russian Art Collectors: Tretyakov, Shchukin, Morozov
Presented by Jane Angelini
Pavel Tretyakov is arguably the greatest-ever collector of Russian art. He made his fortune from textiles and spent much of it on his art collection. Almost from the very beginning, his patronage was guided by his ultimate aim of establishing a national museum of Russian art. As a result, he bought a wide variety of works representing all the various contemporary painting genres and movements and commissioning many artists to produce works especially for the collection. In 1874, he founded a public gallery to house his collection next door to his Moscow mansion. In 1892, he donated both the gallery and the mansion, together with his and his brother’s art collections amounting to approximately 2,000 items, to the city of Moscow. Following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the institution was taken over by the new State and renamed the Tretyakov gallery.
Both Shchukin and Morozov came from fabulously wealthy merchant classes and both were prodigious art collectors. In the final years of the 19th century Sergei Shchukin, who belonged to a family of art collectors, became a regular at Paris galleries, purposefully and with extraordinary acumen buying Impressionist masterpieces long before they became appreciated by others: Monet, Matisse, Cezanne, Gauguin, Derain amongst others. His great passion was for Gauguin and Matisse and later for Picasso. Sergei Shchukin may well have been the best investor in the entire history of world art. Today, according to Sotheby’s evaluation, his collection would be worth $8.5 billion. Working somewhat in the shadow of Shchukin, Morozov also collected French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists as well an equally large collection of Russian art by all of the great Russian artists of the 19th and early 20th century. The collections formed by these two men had a pivotal influence on contemporary Russian artists, who had no need to travel to acquaint themselves with leading French modernists. After the 1917 Revolution the collections were confiscated by the State and are now distributed between the Tretyakov Gallery, the Hermitage, and the Pushkin Museum.
Wednesday 4 November 2020, 10.30-12.00 – Zoom Seminar Confirmed
Pious and Political Impulses: The Medici and Church Art
Presented by Dr Antonia Whitley
The Medici came to prominence in 14th century Florence with Giovanni di Bicci and then died out, as a dynasty, with Anna Luisa, the last descendant of the main branch in 1743. From bankers to political leaders, from dukes to grand dukes, the family went from strength to strength, despite two periods of exile from Florence. Additionally they produced four popes and two queens of France.
A handful of family members associated with significant ecclesiastical projects form the focus of this seminar. Issues to consider: did they influence church art in Florence and indeed in Rome? And if so how? What was their motivation? Did they privilege certain religious orders? Were certain artists favoured? Were some artistic styles preferred? Furthermore, did the Medicis’ prominent political and social position influence the art commissioned by other private patrons?
The evolution of patronage by the family at the church of San Lorenzo in Florence, over circa two centuries, provides a fascinating record of how their objectives altered over time. Other elements were at play. Following the close of the Council of Trent (1563), there began a wave of renovations of monastic and mendicant churches which would restrict the control that private families had previously had on the decoration of their chapels within these churches. Grand Duke Cosimo I’s support for these Tridentine changes was most noticeable in two Florentine churches, whose interiors would be transformed.
Wednesday 18 November 2020, 10.30-12.00 – Zoom Seminar Confirmed
Peggy and Solomon R. Guggenheim: Their Collections and Museums
Presented by Barry Venning
The name Guggenheim is now an intercontinental art world brand, with high profile museums in New York, Venice, Bilbao and Abu Dhabi. Solomon R Guggenheim (1861-1949) and his niece, Peggy (1898-1979), whose passion for acquiring art laid the foundations for this global presence, could not, however, have been more different in their approach to collecting modern art.
Solomon R Guggenheim, a wealthy mining magnate, discovered modern art relatively late in life, in 1927, at the age of 66. His acquisitions of modern art were guided by the German abstract artist, Hilla Rebay (1890-1967), whom he appointed as the first director of his Museum of Non-Objective Art in New York. This eventually became the stunning Frank Lloyd Wright building on 5th Avenue that bears Guggenheim’s name. Unlike her uncle, Peggy Guggenheim lived in Montparnasse, among the cash-strapped artists she admired; her commitment to the 20th century avant-garde was based on her personal (and sometimes romantic) relationships. Although her fortune was much smaller than her uncle’s, she nonetheless set out very deliberately to rival him not only as a collector of modern art, but also as a dealer and tastemaker. She eventually established her own remarkable gallery in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal, Venice.
Wednesday 2 December 2020, 10.30-12.00 – Postponed for technical reasons
(The new date for this seminar will be announced in the New Year.)
Palladio and the English Palladian Country House
Presented by Barbara Peacock
The work of the Italian architect, Palladio, has been an enormous source of inspiration to British architecture. This lecture will discuss Palladio’s importance on the development of the Palladian country house in England. We shall look at Palladio’s work in the Veneto, where he built villas for gentlemen-farmers in the 1550s-80s and see how his ideas were brought to England in the early 17th century by Inigo Jones. Jones’s buildings and designs and Palladio’s seminal work The Four Books of Architecture (1570) were going to have a profound influence on the form and decoration of our great early Georgian houses, like Houghton, Holkham, and Chiswick and countless others built in the great building boom of the 1720s-50s. The English gentry saw Palladio’s villas as an evocation of the Roman villa they had read about in the classical authors and as a perfect setting for the works of art they had collected on the Grand Tour. The lecture will discuss the architecture, interior decoration and furnishing of these great houses and see to what extent they followed Palladio’s ideals, and will consider how the influence of Palladio is still alive in country house design today.
(Rescheduled from 18 Mar 2020)
Wednesday 9 December 2020, 10.30-12.00 – Zoom Seminar Confirmed
The Gemaldegalerie, Dresden
Presented by Hendrika Foster
With a ‘Cabinet of Curiosities ‘collecting became a passion for members of the family of Wettins who lived in Dresden, Saxony, during the 16th century. This grew to a ‘Kunstkammer’, a larger collection in which paintings played a very small part. It was a ‘Universal Collection’ of rarities from every conceivable field. It was the acquisition of things no-one else could possess – something rare or precious – something from a far-flung land that represented the exotic. Many such collections were created north of the Alps during the 16th century as a result of the rise in interest in Humanism and the spread of ideas from Italy.
In the 17th and 18th century Elector Frederick Augustus began to collect objets d’art and paintings, soon outstripping many royal colleagues. Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus and Rubens’ Diana Returning from the Hunt entered his collection. The next addition was a sculpture collection. His son Augustus III saw the collection reach its zenith in a newly built gallery, adding sometimes whole collections which came onto the art market across Europe.
The Dresden Collection was primarily works of art acquired not by scholars, but by two rulers who were connoisseurs and lovers of art, over a period of 50 years. Acquisitions continued throughout the 19th century as the Collection was used by rulers to ‘inform and educate’ visitors as well as become a significant expression of civic pride in Dresden.