Members of High Weald Decorative & Fine Arts Society enjoy an incredibly high standard of lecture, provided by nationally approved speakers – often leading experts in their field – in the comfortable surroundings of Benenden village hall.

Mosaics in Ravenna, Hockney,  Peter the Great, English Watercolours, Islam & the Mosque, and Leonardo da Vinci at the court of Milan have been amongst our most popular titles, hinting at the breadth of subjects covered.   We spent three years with lectures run chronologically from Priam’s Treasure: gold from Troy, through Velasquez, to end with modern architecture.   And even where a subject may lack initial appeal, subsequent response shows that members are often fascinated  by an unknown subject and wish to know more.

An annual meeting where most of the three hundred or so accredited speakers take part, enables the Programme Secretary to meet and hear what is on offer.  The committee then approve the proposed programme.   A survey was held amongst HWDFAS members to glean what subjects were the most popular and the findings used in part to construct the programmes.  A rigorous feedback system is in place to maintain the standard of lecture.

Remaining Programme for 2017

Tuesday November 28th 2017 – Lecturer: Rt. Revd. Christopher Herbert
Holy Poverty & Artistic Magnificence – The Contradiction of Assisi

The Rt. Revd. Christopher Herbert was until recently Bishop of St. Albans and a member of the House of Lords. He has lectured at the National Gallery, The Courtauld Institute, King’s College, London, Westminster Abbey and at churches and cathedrals through England and Italy. He has an MPhil and Phd in Art History from the University of Leicester.
Francis of Assisi, a man devoted to poverty, within a few years of his death, was being celebrated with some of the greatest artworks of the medieval period. How and why did this happen? This lecture provides some answers by exploring the glorious art of the Basilica and other churches in Assisi.

Tuesday December 12th 2017 – Lecturer: James Taylor
Brilliant British Humour in the forgotten art of the picture postcard 1909 – 1939.

James Taylor is a former curator of paintings, drawing and prints and co-ordinator of various exhibitions and galleries at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich.
From the Edwardian era to the outbreak of World War Two, millions of artist-drawn humorous postcards were produced, not just for entertainment, but to bolster morale, to inspire, instruct, motivate and persuade. Discover the popular themes and styles of the period by the masters of the medium such as Mabel Lucie Attwell, Dudley Buxton, Donald McGill and Fred Spurgin and the reasons why their popularity waned with the British Public.

The Arts Society High Weald

Programme of Lectures for 2018

23 January 2018 – The Bronzes of Ife & Benin, Nigeria – Dr. Richard Thomas

Africa is not generally associated with great art but Nigeria is associated with three major artistic traditions; the 2,000 year old Nok terracottas of the North, the Bronzes of Ife from the C12-C15 and the later Benin Bronzes. Richard lived in Nigeria in the 1960’s, near Ife, and became familiar with the art of Ife and Benin and the role they played in society. The art, the technology (using the lost wax process) and the cultural relevance of the Bronzes will be illustrated and discussed in the lecture.

27 February 2018 – Vintage Pens – Mark Hill (from the BBC Antiques Roadshow)

The pen is mightier than the sword! In today’s digital world of emails and tweeting, the art of writing has largely been left behind. Adding personality and individuality to communication, the tools of writing have a fascinating history dating back to pre-history and peaking in the golden age of the fountain pen in the 20th century. As well as a full history of development, major makers, keys to identification, dating and value are examined.

27 March 2018 – Glorious Things: Discovering Byzantium through its Art – Dr. Helen Rufus-Ward

Inspired by the Royal Academy’s 2008/2009 ‘Byzantium Exhibition’ this lecture will reveal the diverse richness of the decorative arts of Byzantium. The aim is to trace the fascinating story of the Byzantium Empire, which flourished for over a thousand years, through the art of the period. Mosaics, ivory carvings, enamels, holy relics, silverware and icons are just some of the ‘glorious things’ to be examined and discussed. Along the way the audience will encounter all manner of characters from emperors, empresses, Roman matrons, virgins and whores through a variety of art works from fourth century buried treasure to tenth century pornography – all with the ability to bring this colourful world back to life.

24 April 2018 – A History of Western Painting in Twelve Masterpieces – Ms Aliki Braine

From the beginning of the Renaissance in 13th Century Italy to the birth of Abstraction in the 20th Century this lecture charts the main developments of Western European painting. Focusing on a limited number of acclaimed masterpieces this dynamic lecture charts both the stylists and thematic development of European painting alongside the historical contexts in which they were created.

22 May 2018 – Arts of Zen – Arts of Japan Aesthetics of Simplicity – Dr. Meri Arichi

Zen Buddhism has exerted a profound influence on the formation of Japanese visual culture since its introduction in the 13th century to the present day. Zen Buddhism’s emphasis on the practice of meditation, self -discipline, and the austere lifestyle appealed to the patrons from the warrior class, and the Zen teaching became the dominant philosophical basis that supported the development of the distinctive aesthetics of the 15th and 16th centuries. Many of the art forms, such as ink painting, dry landscape gardens and Noh drama developed during this period. This lecture will examine the beauty of simplicity, the spiritual essence, and the close affinity to nature that characterize the arts of Zen.

26 June 2018 – Tamara de Lempicka – Mistress of Art Deco – Dr, Claire Walsh

Tamara de Lempicka dazzled Paris’ artistic circles in the 1920’s and 30s and seduced with her stylish portraits. These heady years saw her immortalise the atmosphere of wealth and decadence of Paris. Other painters oscillated between Cubism and Fauvism but de Lempicka was one of the few to be able to embody the decorative style of Art Deco in the world of fashion and photography as well as presenting herself as the quintessential modern, independent young woman. She was glamorous and notorious, but her extraordinary talent confirmed her reputation as one of the most iconic painters of her generation

25 September 2018 – Sir Stamford Raffles – Art Collector and Founder of Singapore – Ms Denise Heywood

Raffles whose name is synonymous with a luxury hotel rather than the greatest Buddhist temple in the world, was the enlightened colonial administrator of Java, Indonesia. He discovered the 8th century temple of Borobudur hidden under volcanic ash, in 1804, acquired wondrous artefacts in Java, such as shadow puppets and textiles, now in the British Museum, and founded Singapore – the most important trading post in the East. This lecture tells the story of Raffles, a scholar and polymath, looks at the objects he collected, reveals the mystical temple in Java and its radiant carving, and shows the architectural heritage of Singapore inspired by his vision and its revival today as innovative art galleries and museums.

23 October 2018 – St Cecilia in Music and Art – Peter Medhurst

Peter Medhurst tells the remarkable story of St. Cecilia, a 3rd Century Roman patrician and martyr who became the patroness of music (her feast day is 22nd November). He then goes on to perform, introduce and discuss the legacy of works that she has inspired down the centuries. These include compositions by Purcell and Handel, paintings by Raphael and Waterhouse as well as the writings of Dryden and Auden.

27 November 2018 – Toulouse-Lautrec and the Music Halls of Paris – Peter Webb

This lecture will discuss Paris and in particular Montmartre during the 1890s when it became famous (or notorious) for its night–life which centred around music halls and cabarets such as the Moulin Rouge, the Jardin de Paris and the Folies Bergere. Artists such as Manet, Renoir, Degas and Van Gogh had found their subjects there earlier, but it was Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec whose paintings and posters gave lasting fame to the night–life of Montmartre. Toulouse–Lautrec was born into an aristocratic family in the South of France, but childhood accidents to both legs left him a cripple, unable to take part in the country life of his birthplace. He went to Paris to follow a career as an artist and as a social outsider he found his friends in the music halls and brothels. His subjects were dancers and singers such as Yvette Guilbert, La Goulue, Jane Avril, Aristide Bruant, Valentin Le Desosse and Loie Fuller. His famous poster for the new Moulin Rouge helped make it the most popular night spot and at the same time revolutionised advertising.

11 December 2018 – Giles, His life, times and Cartoons – Barry Venning

The cartoonist, Carl Giles, once said that he loved his creation, Grandma Giles – that fearsome, black–clad, gambling, drinking battleaxe – because she allowed him to say things through his cartoons that he was too polite to say in person. She helped him poke fun at authority in all its form, from Hitler to traffic wardens and even his employers at the Daily Express, who didn’t trust him and had sub–editors scouring his cartoons for subversive background details. His admirers included Prince Charles, Sir Malcom Sargent and Tommy Cooper, and it was no surprise when he was voted Britain’s best-loved cartoonist in 2000. Few people realise, however that this likeable and humane satirist was also a war correspondent who witnessed the horrors of Belsen, where he found that the camp commandant, Josef Kramer, was also a great fan of his work. Giles gave us a remarkable picture of a half century of British life. He was also, as his editor John Gordon put it, ‘a spreader of happiness’ and a ‘genius….. with the common touch’.