FROM YOUR CHAIRMAN
I am delighted to be introducing our first newsletter of 2019; we have much to look forward to this year.
Maggie Simons has given us a detailed overview of the lectures planned for the first half of the year. As always, we are pleased to receive your feedback or suggestions for subject matter for future speakers. We can also look forward to an interesting variety of trips planned.
In 2017, during our trip to Madrid, we visited the home of the 19th century artist Joaquin Sorolla which proved very popular in our party. I am pleased to see that his work will now be the subject of an exhibition at the National Gallery beginning in March. At the time of writing, there is some doubt as to the proposed trip to Berlin in September with the final date for booking being deferred. I do hope this very interesting visit will go ahead. However, in view of costs, etc. it may be time to review our policy of alternating trips between Britain and Europe. We will be looking to recruit someone to take responsibility for these extended breaks and welcome your feedback.
A reminder that our society is part of the broader Beds and Herts Area Society and from time to time we will be circulating news of events run by Area. Please let me know if you decide to take up these opportunities.
Finally, my usual conclusion to remind you all that the future of our society is dependent on the renewal and refreshment of the Committee and I am always available for a chat with anyone with an interest in seeing how we operate.
There is quite a mixture of subjects this year and the first lecture, on the 12th February, is given by Philip Venning whose talk is entitled ‘Historic Buildings: changing ideas of what we save and how we do it’. Until 100 years ago there were no laws protecting the country’s architectural and archaeological heritage and early campaigns had to rely on generating adverse publicity. The emphasis was very much on pre-Georgian buildings, though attitudes began to change in the 1930s with the founding of the Georgian Group. The loss of landmarks, such as the Euston Arch and the Firestone Factory gave impetus to the Victorian and Thirties (now the 20th Century Society) Societies respectively in their efforts to save other buildings. Philip’s lecture will look at changing attitudes to what is worth protecting, who makes the decisions, and how the legal systems of protection operate.
Gavin Plumley’s talk on the 12th March is about the art and culture of fin-de-siècle Vienna. At the turn of the last century, Vienna was the capital of a vast empire and one of the most exciting artistic places in the world. It produced painters such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, architects like Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, the composer Gustav Mahler and the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Gavin will discuss how and why Vienna became such a cultural centre.
We will learn about the art and culture of Mexico, past and present when Chloë Sayer visits us on the 9th April. Mexico has a rich and varied cultural heritage. Before the Spanish Conquest of 1519, the great cities were peopled by muralists, sculptors in stone, ceramic artists, feather- and gold-workers, jewellers, weavers and painters of sacred books. In the 20th century, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera mixed pre-Conquest and European traditions and today folk-artists create splendid items reflecting their cultural past. Chloë will bring items from her collection to show us.
We all know that the Huguenots settled in Spitalfields after fleeing from persecution, but do we know the whole story of that group of people? On the 14th May, Sue Jackson will explain, in her talk entitled ‘The Huguenot Silk Weavers of Spitalfields: from riches to rags’, how they were at first welcomed with open arms but later their fortunes fluctuated. Their early 18th-century houses still stand and Sue will show us how they were decorated and lived in. She will talk about the fashionable, patterned silk dresses and how the silk weaving trade died out, with some weavers dying in poverty.
For those of you who enjoy lute music, we have a treat for you on the 11th June when Adam Busiakiewicz will talk about how this Queen of Instruments is shown in Old Master paintings. Painters of the Italian Renaissance depicted angels plucking its delicate strings, evoking celestial harmony; in the sixteenth century, the lute became a pastime of educated courtiers, as depicted by Holbein and Titian; throughout the seventeenth century, the instrument continued to play a key role in emphasizing the intimate and transient pleasures of interior scenes by Jan Steen and portraits by Frans Hals. This lecture looks at the lute, and other musical instruments, as devices to express various aspects of the human character throughout the ages. Adam will bring his lute to play for us.
The lecture on the 9th July, ‘Wild Men of the North’: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven’, will be given by Ross King. In 1924 an exhibition in London of Canadian landscapes, which was highly acclaimed by critics, introduced the public to group of Canadian artists known as The Group of Seven. The landscapes of Canada’s northern lakes and rugged backwoods, painted in a boldly Post-Impressionist style, had been produced by this collective of Toronto-based painters, whose aim was to forge a national school of landscape painting. Ross will introduce us to the artists, including their colleague Tom Thomson, who died in 1917, and discuss their lives and careers.
We look forward to seeing you at these lectures and hope that you enjoy them and gain a little more knowledge.
The Outings Program 2019 is as follows:-
March Tuesday 19th – Legends and Landmark Tour of Covent Garden and the Royal Opera House
In this visit we will step back into history and discover more about the Royal Opera House and the legends of London’s Theatre Land. During the visit we will hear stories about the people and the performances that have taken place in and around Covent Garden and we will be able to follow in the footsteps of a favourite opera singer or ballet dancer from past to present as we enter the building via the world-famous stage door. From famous faces to hidden worlds, stunning architecture to society scandals, we will learn about the history of the theatres that have stood on this spot, and the other theatres nearby.
Our tour ticket will entitle us to 10% off at ROH Shop and café on the day of our tour. To get the discount we simply present our tickets at the checkout.
April Wednesday 17th – The Charles Rennie Mackintosh House and Galleries in Northampton at 78 Derngate and Haddonstone Show Gardens
78 Derngate - is a typical small terrace house built in 1815-20 and was of basement (at ground level at the rear due to the fall of the land) and three storeys. It was bought for W J Bassett-Lowke (of model train fame) by his father as a wedding present in 1916 for his impending marriage to Florence Jones. Bassett-Lowke was interested in modern design and “fitness for purpose”, and was recommended to use Mackintosh as the right man to renovate his house in conjunction with a local architect, Alexander Ellis Anderson. There is some doubt as to who was responsible for what but it is the stunning interior décor which is Mackintosh’s real contribution to the transformation of the house.
The house was bought by Northampton High School for Girls in 1964 and listed Grade II in 1968. In the 1990’s, the school decided to sell the property and, following a campaign by local people and the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, 78 and 80 Derngate were bought by the local council. Later, a trust was formed to maintain the properties and the Mackintosh-designed interior and exterior of 78 were restored and reinstated to the original 1916-1919 scheme.
Haddonstone Show Gardens – Haddonstone are leading manufacturers of garden ornaments and architectural stonework but also have show gardens displaying their ornaments in real gardens set mainly within the grounds of a manor house in the heart of a Cotswold style village. The gardens show how to use ornaments in many different garden settings. The gardens are on different levels with roses, clematis, climbers, herbaceous borders, ornamental flowers, topiary, specimen shrubs and trees.
May Thursday 23rd – Mount Ephraim Gardens and Provender House
Mount Ephraim Gardens – comprise ten acres of gardens in an 800-acre estate owned by the Dawes family since 1695. Highlights include the topiary garden, Japanese rock garden and rose garden. There is also an extensive display of spring bulbs, trees and shrubs.
Provender House – is a 13th Century house and walled garden in Kent and is the home of HH Princess Olga Romanoff. It has been the home of adventurers, explorers and nobles many of whom made additions to the house. Following the death of her mother, Princess Andrew, in 2000, Princess Olga embarked on a restoration project with conservation architect Ptolemy Dean in collaboration with architect Malcolm Simmonds, which reveals a record of English life over seven centuries.
September – trip to Berlin being organised by Jan Richardson.
October Thursday 17th – Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate
The idea of the Turner Contemporary Gallery was conceived as a centre to explore Turner’s connection with Margate and also to stimulate Margate’s culture-led regeneration. The building was designed by Chipperfield Architects and opened on Margate seafront in April 2011. It is on the site of Mrs Booth’s guest house where Turner stayed when he visited the town. “Everyone can now experience the same views and unique Thanet light he saw and that inspired much of his work.”
DAYS OF SPECIAL INTEREST
For those of you who may be newer members, I thought it might be helpful to explain what these days are! We hold two a year, in January and August, as there is no monthly lecture for members planned for these months.
The topics available by lecturers are excitingly varied and there is a huge choice! Once I have some ideas for the day, I present them to the committee and we all agree the subject and lecturer. The day usually starts around 10.30 and is split into 3, 1hour lectures on the given subject, thus giving the audience much more information and depth of knowledge throughout the day. Refreshments and lunch are also included.
Our August day is yet to be decided, but the topic will be announced, well in advance, and booking will take place on June 11th at the monthly meeting.
I also hope to choose the lecture for January 2020, so you can have a date for your diary well in advance!
As we move into another new year, I have slightly more encouraging news with regard to our support for local schools.
We were able to provide Hockerill with £250 towards the purchase of an electric piano for their music department, and £250 to Leventhorpe who will use the funding to develop lithograph printing. We agreed to continue our support to St Elizabeth’s primary area and will be sending them £300 towards improving their art facilities.
I have contact with another primary school who has requested support towards a project that we will discuss at our next committee meeting.
I have been able to engage with all of these schools because of personal contact and would encourage any of our members who do have links with parents or governors of local primary schools to get in touch with me so that we can move things forward even more.