Members of The Arts Society High Weald  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 High Weald 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.

The Arts Society High Weald

Programme of Lectures for 2020


January 28th 2020 – Lucrezia Walker – Van Gogh

We all know van Gogh. We know the Sunflowers, Starry Night, his self-portraits, the bright prismatic colour applied with energetic strokes of the brush. We know his life was not an easy one. But why is he so famous? What makes him possibly the best-known artist in the world? Why does every gift shop in every gallery have a Vincent gift on display? What makes his paintings instantly recognizable? His failure to find sales or success during his lifetime, his suffering leading to self-mutilation & later to suicide at the age of 37 are all well known. What happened during his short life, and afterwards to transform him into the world’s best-loved artist?

February 25th 2020 –  Susan Whitfield – The Silk Road & the Arts of China

The opening of trade routes across Eurasia by land and sea enabled the movement of peoples, along with their cultures, arts, beliefs, technical skills and aesthetics. This was to have a profound influence on the arts of China, introducing new forms, designs, and materials, along with the craftsmen to pass on their skills.

This lecture will look at several examples of masterpieces of art from China in the first millennium AD to illustrate this influence and show how the arts of China were greatly enriched by its Silk Road links.

March 24th 2020 – Ian Swankie – Pots & Frocks The World of Grayson Perry from Essex Potter to Superstar National Hero

Best known for his outlandish appearances dressed as his feminine alter ego, Claire, Grayson Perry is now a core part of the art establishment, a Turner Prize winner, Royal Academician, popular broadcaster and colourful character. He’s possibly one of the world’s best-known contemporary artists. His works of ceramics, textiles, tapestries and prints are highly sought after. Often controversial, he tackles difficult subjects in a poignant yet witty way and holds a mirror up to society. This talk will examine Grayson Perry’s work, his exciting and thought-provoking exhibitions, and the unique character inside the flamboyant frocks.

April 28th 2020 –  Mark Cottle – From Holbein to Byrd Drawings Paintings Miniatures and Music

England’s Tudor century was an explosive one. It transformed or swept away much of its medieval inheritance for new worlds – geographical, political, religious and cultural. This lecture focuses on the cultural:

Holbein’s portraits, in particular his drawings from the Royal collection

The miniatures of Hilliard and Oliver – ‘England’s greatest contribution to the art of painting during the Renaissance’ (Roy Strong)

Music from the recently rediscovered Nicholas Ludford to the later works of Tallis, Byrd and Elizabeth’s Madrigalists

May 26th – Jo Mabbutt – Field of Cloth of Gold. 6,000 Englishmen in France for 18 days. How did they do it?

In June 1520 Henry VIII and Francis 1 meet to ratify an Anglo-French alliance and celebrate the betrothal of Henry’s daughter Mary to the Dauphin. The two handsome ‘Renaissance Princes’ are in their 20’s with similar reputations in military prowess, sport and patrons of the arts. Both have imperial ambitions and are eager to display themselves as magnificent nobleman and warrior kings. Each brings an entourage of 6,000 to a field south of Calais for 18 days of various events and entertainments staged to display the skill and splendour of each King and country.

June 23rd 2020 – Sarah Dunant – The Borgias. The most infamous family in History ?

Murder, poison, corruption and incest: all perfect ingredients for sensational popular culture. But in an age known for its brutality and church corruption were the Borgias really so bad? This lecture reveals the real family that dominated the Papacy and Italian politics during the last decade of the 15th century: the charismatic figure of Pope Alexander VI, living inside his sumptuously decorated apartments, the career of his son, Cesare, cardinal, general, employer of Da Vinci and the model for Machiavelli’s The Prince, and the journey of Lucrezia Borgia from “the greatest whore in Rome” to a devout and treasured duchess of the city Ferrara. Sometimes truth is more intoxicating than myth.

Sept 22nd 2020 Simon Seligman – Debo Mitford, Cavendish, Devonshire Duchess, Housewife 1920-2014

Deborah Devonshire, the youngest of the Mitford sisters and wife of the 11th Duke of Devonshire, was hefted by marriage to one of Europe’s greatest treasure houses, Chatsworth. In the second half of the 20th century, in partnership with her husband, she imbued it with a spirit, elegance and sense of welcome that transformed it from being the worn-out survivor of decades of taxation, war and social change into one of the best-loved, most-emulated and popular historic houses, gardens and estates in the country. With responsibility for Lismore Castle and Bolton Abbey as well, no wonder her passport stated her profession as ‘housewife’.

October 27th 2020 = Nicholas Reed – The So Called Bayeux Tapestry Created in Canterbury for the Earl of Kent

The surprising title of this talk reflects the general opinion of modern historians. But these discoveries are little known, partly because medieval and later historians of the time tell a quite different story. It used to be thought that the Bayeux Tapestry was commissioned by Queen Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, and was produced by French needlewomen, to commemorate the Norman conquest of Britain.

It is now generally agreed that the tapestry was commissioned by Odo, William’s brother, and that it was made in Canterbury.

November 24th 2020 – Sian Walters – Raphael A Master in the making. 500th Anniversary of his death

Raphael is often referred to as one of the three giants of the High Renaissance in Italy, alongside Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, yet his fame and position in the canon of art history may seem hard to explain. He made no discoveries like those of his celebrated rivals: although undoubtedly a draughtsman of exceptional talent he made no great progress in the fields of anatomy, science and construction nor did he share the wide-ranging talents which Leonardo and Michelangelo demonstrated in so many disciplines. Furthermore, his career was short-lived as he died tragically young, aged 37.

December 8th – Andrew Prince – From Downton to Gatsby Jewellery Fashion & Glamour

For the series Downton Abbey, Andrew was commissioned to produce many jewels for the main characters, and this inspired him to create a talk based on Downton and the changing styles of the time portrayed.

Jewellery and Fashion are often seen as two entirely separate and distinct fields of design, but this is very far from the case.