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 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 2018

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 Bohemian Paris – Martin Heard

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’.


Programme of Lectures for 2019

22 January 2019 – Degas, Manet & Baudelaire : Paris, City of Modernity – Daphne Lawson

Second Empire Paris was the most fashionable capital in Europe, and this talk focuses on how the new artists of modernity, Baudelaire’s Painters of Modern Life, interpreted their rebuilt city. Caillebotte, Monet, Manet and Degas are all examined in detail.

26 February 2019 – How to ‘read’ the English Country Church: the Pre-Christian to the Tudors – Rev Dr. Nicholas Henderson

A typical country church: A guide to help you look at the architecture, outside and inside, the church furniture, those mysterious nooks and crannies, high and low. How and why did it all come to look this way? A fascinating journey through English history unravelled before your eyes.

26 March 2019 – Chinese Imperial Court Costume & Accessories (1644-1911) – David Rosier

This lecture provides an insight into mandated Court Costume, plus dress accessories, that would have been worn by men and women on formal and semi-formal occasions whilst at Court or positioned within Central or Provincial Government during the Qing Dynasty. (Part of this lecturer’s collection of Chinese costumes will be on display).

30 April 2019 – Samuel Palmer: Shadows on the Wall – Prof. William Vaughan

Samuel Palmer is one of the most original and inventive painters of the Romantic era, in the early nineteenth century. A friend of the visionary painter-poet William Blake, he is best known for the vivid pictures he made as a young man when living in the Kent village of Shoreham.

28 May 2019 – Joaquin Sorolla – Painter of Sunlight – Gail Turner

The Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923) was a phenomenal international success in his own lifetime. His paintings of fishermen, his beach scenes, portraits and regional studies of Spain – all permeated by colour and light – were eagerly bougtht by European and American collectors. His passion was painting sunlit scenes, so there is a wonderful optimism about his works. His former home and studio is now one of Madrid’s most popular small museums, and his work in the Hispanic Society in New York is a major attraction there.

25 June 2019 – Plants in Art & Culture : How plants created Society – Dr. Mark Spencer

In recent years, the concept of ‘plant blindness’ has been coined to identify our tendency to overlook plants. Yet, plants are the dominant aspect of the natural world around us. However, we often talk of our own cultural identities in terms framed by language referring to plants – the ‘English’ oak or Acanthus to decorate our public spaces and Convolvulus to embrace a picture frame or White Lillies for mourning or Laurels for celebrations of victory. We are plants.

24 September 2019 – The Magnificent Maya – Fact and Fantasy – Dr. Diane Davies

The Maya created one of the most sophisticated civilisations in the ancient world. Their achievements in the Arts and Sciences, along with their complex social, political and economic systems make them one of the most remarkable culture groups in the Pre-Columbian Americas.

22 October 2019 – Vintage Pens – Mark Hill

In today’s digital world, the art of writing has largely been lost. The tools of writing date back to pre-history and peak in the golden age of the fountain pen. We look at the history, major makers, identification, dating and value, with Mark Hill from the BBC Antiques World (Previously cancelled in February 2018 due to the ‘Beast from the East’ visiting Benenden!).

26 November 2019 – Zaha Hadid – Architectural Superstar – Prof. Colin Davies

Zaha Hadid died on 31st March 2016 at the age of 65. Architectural historians of the future will surely recognise her as one of the most important architects of the early 21st Century. She was born in Iraq and her reputation was global but she made Britain her home. This lecture tells the story of her career, ending with the prolific crop of successful projects built all over the world in the last decade of her life.

10 December 2019 – Food & Art through the Ages – from Renaissance Sugar Sculpture to 3D Printing – Tasha Marks

This lecture is a whistle stop tour of the history of food as artistic medium, starting with 16th century sugar sculpture and ending with artistic food of the future. Tasha Marks, food historian says this lecture will be a treat for those with a sweet tooth as she explores the realms of the dessert as a sweet spectacle.