Lecture Reviews

4th February – The Art of The River by Alexandra Epps

This was a fascinating lecture comparing and contrasting the work of various artists inspired by views and the history of the River Thames. Our lecturer, Alexandra Epps is an Official Guide and Lecturer at Tate Modern and Guildhall City Gallery. She is also a lecturer, History Tutor and a Qualified Guide to the City of London. Her lively lecture was illustrated with a wide selection of slides of the paintings which not only reflected great historical events but also the working and social life of the river.  The lecture was so full of information and insights that this report can merely scratch the surface.

Until fairly recently the Lord Mayor’s Day procession opened with a magnificent regatta – as depicted by Canaletto (c1746) hundreds of boats accompanied the procession filling the river with life and colour. Contrast this with Hockney’s interpretation of ‘The End of The Regatta’ painted in 2012 an iPad drawing that again is full of colour but on first viewing seems to have only one barge bearing The Queen and Prince Philip – closer inspection reveals hundreds of small boats streaming toward Tower Bridge.

‘Funeral Procession of Lord Nelson on the Thames’ 1806 contrasts sharply with Anthony Gross’s ink and water colour depiction of ‘Crowds on London Bridge, Sir Winston Churchill’s Funeral’ (1965). The opening of bridges across the Thames were cause for great celebrations illustrated by William Wyllie’s Opening of Tower Bridge and John Constables Opening of Waterloo Bridge, while the annual boat race brought spectators in their thousands as can be seen in Walter Greaves Hammersmith Bridge on Boat Race Day 1862.

‘The Great Fire Of London’ by Waggoner (c1666) and ‘Pool of London Docklands Air Raid’ by Charles Pears 1940 are painted almost entirely in red. While the cool colours of ‘A Frost Fair on The Thames at Temple Stairs’ by Abraham Hondius (1684) depicts the severity of The Little Ice Age. 

The busy and noisy day to day life of the working river is depicted by many artists in very contrasting styles and ‘isms’ – Fauvism, Pointillism and impressionism to name but a few. While many still depict the familiar curve of The Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral other focus on less familiar areas such as ‘Brymay Wharf’ by Walter Steggles (c1943).  The social and human relationship with the river was not forgotten. What stories lay behind such works as ‘Boulter’s Lock, Sunday Afternoon’  E.J Gregory, ‘The Last Evening ‘ (1873) or ‘On The Thames by James Tissot (1876) and “Found Drowned’ by GF Watts (c1850).

‘Nocturns in Blue and Silver’ by J.A.M Whistler ‘Nightfall Down The Thames’ John Atkinson Grimshaw and the work of many other artists bring a different perspective to the story as do the black and white paintings – ‘Landscape iv, London Paintings’ 2003 by John Virtues. The Thames is a River that continues to inspire artists with most recently an installation by Antony Gormley ‘Another Time’ and the ‘Illuminated River Project’ – Leo Villareal. 

This lecture has received excellent feedback from members.

… Lindi Reynolds

7th January – Painting Winter: Snow Scenes in Art – Stella Grace Lyons

This talk explored the variety of interpretations of this season through the works of Bruegel, Caspar David Friedrich, Monet, and Andrew Wyeth.

The lecturer, Stella Grace Lyons is a relatively new lecturer for The Arts Society. She gained her BA in the History of Art with a 1st class in her dissertation from the University of Bristol, and her MA in History of Art at the University of Warwick. She spent a year studying Renaissance Art in Italy at the British Institute of Florence, and three months studying Venetian art in Venice. In addition, she attended drawing classes at the prestigious Charles H Cecil studios in Florence. Stella also works as an artist’s model for the internationally renowned figurative artist, Harry Holland.

Wintry and snowy landscapes are not seen in early European painting since most of the subjects were religious. Stella began her lecture with a slide showing February in the famous cycle of Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry made by the Limbourg brothers 1412 -1416. Close inspection caused many chuckles as it depicts two labourers warming their naked nether regions at the fire. A close inspection of Avercamp’s vibrant painting of Winter Landscape with Skaters (circa 1608) also reveals several amusing details such as fallen skaters and naked buttocks.

It was early in the frigid winter of 1565 that Bruegel created The Hunters in the Snow, regarded as the first true winter landscape painting and illustrating how hard life was for villagers during ‘The Little Ice Age’.

Stella used slides of the work of various artists to trace the development of subject matter and techniques. Reaburn’s ‘The Skating Minister’ (1790) is unusual in both its composition and its setting. Friedrich’s ‘Winter Landscape’ 1811 needs close scrutiny to discern the church, the man and the cross through the gloom of a winter day. In contrast Monet’s ‘The Magpie’ 1868 depicts the light of the sun shining upon freshly fallen snow creating blue shadows. The painting features one of the first examples of Monet’s use of colored shadows, which would later become associated with the Impressionist movement.

… Lindi Reynolds