28 January 2020
‘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’.
Along the way, she became a best-selling author and sell-out speaker, champion of the countryside, its skills, traditions, livelihoods and food, trustee and patron of numerous charities, businesses and good causes, and the most famous poultry keeper in the country. She met Hitler and Churchill, was a trusted confidant of the Prince of Wales, played her part as the steady heart of the Mitford sisters’ melodrama and was friends with a dazzling array of some of the brightest and most fascinating of her contemporaries, including President Kennedy, Evelyn Waugh, Oscar de la Renta, John Betjeman, Lucian Freud, Tom Stoppard, Neil MacGregor, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Alan Bennett.
She said herself that charm was the hardest quality to describe in another person; hers lived in her unique turn of phrase, her stoic Mitfordian perspective on life’s challenges, her curiosity about everyone she met, her stylish beauty, quick wit and delight in all that life offered her. Debo had a lasting impact not just on Chatsworth but on everything she touched and everyone she met; I was lucky enough to work for and with her over more than 20 years and in this lecture I pay tribute to an astonishing life.
25 February 2020
The Subtle Science and Exact Art of Colour in English Garden Design
In 1888 Gertrude Jekyll wrote a short but seminal article in The Garden in which she urged the readers to “remember that in a garden we are painting a picture”. As an accomplished watercolour artist, Miss Jekyll was familiar with the principles of using colours, but she felt that in gardens these principles “had been greatly neglected”. This talk looks at how to apply these principles in designing a border, but it also looks
at the ways in which a border is different from a painting. However, it goes further than this and looks at how contemporary work of the likes of Turner, Monet, Rothko, Jackson Pollack, and Hockney evolved in parallel with ideas about what a garden or border should look like.
24 March 2020
‘Cradle of Impressionism’: Ups and Downs in the lives of the Impressionist Painters
A tiny section of the Seine to the West of Paris, which would have represented the perfect antidote to the claustrophobia of mid 19th century Paris, has been termed the Cradle of Impressionism. It was here, to five neighbouring riverside villages, that the artists who would later become known as the Impressionists, became frequent visitors. In some cases they even set up home for a while. The lives and early works of Monet, Renoir, Pisarro, Sisley and Morisot will be explored in this lively and entertaining lecture. Their desperation to gain recognition and make their mark is apparent and both the painting styles adopted and subject matter depicted were to cause a revolution in the Art world.
28 April 2020
Australia’s Fontainebleau and the Heidelberg School
The Heidelberg School shelters under its own unique umbrella taking their academic influences equally from the Royal Academy School in London and the French Impressionists. Key members were Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin and Charles Conder and their art evolved from informal, evocative and naturalistic into nationalistic expression. In 1901 McCubbin bought a cottage on Mount Macedon, its surroundings became the inspiration for some of his best known works; the family named the property Fontainebleau. Its guest list ranged from Ellen Terry and Dame Nellie Melba to his myriad students who camped in the gardens.
19 May 2020
Art Behind Bars The role of the arts in the cycle of crime, prison and re-offending.
Years of working as an artist within the Criminal Justice System in England and Germany have given Angela unique insights into the destructive and costly cycle of crime, prisons and re-offending.
In this thought-provoking talk she offers a deeper understanding of the minds, lives and challenges of offenders. And, with extraordinary slides of art projects and prisoner’s art, she demonstrates how within the process of creating art of any discipline, there are vital opportunities for offenders to confront their crimes and develop the key life skills so essential in leading a positive and productive life.
29 September 2020
The Hidden World of Canal Architecture
This lecture examines the unique buildings and structures associated with the UK’s canal network, with a vast array of distinctive designs, landmark features and unusual artefacts: only the National Trust and the Church of England have more listed structures than our canals.
Look out for lock flights and lighthouses; cottages and clock towers; warehouses and lots of whimsical architecture – our canals delight the eye and refresh the spirit.
Available also as a tour and lectures are always tailored to include local and regional examples which reflect the unique distinctiveness of our inland waterways.
20 October 2020
‘Something of Me’: (Self) Presentation in Portraits of Cecil Beaton
In the National Portrait Gallery, London, there are 347 different portraits of (royal) photographer, costume designer and serial socialite Cecil Beaton. By way of comparison, there are 819 of Queen Elizabeth II and just 47 of Princess Diana. Why should this be so? This illustrated lecture examines the many self-portraits of Cecil Beaton (in paint and print) and considers how contemporary friends and artists, not least Beaton himself, regarded and depicted his intriguing character. More generally, it considers the role of portraiture and self-presentation during the interwar period. Figures included in this humorous and humbling story include Henri Cartier-Bresson, Rex Whistler, Lady Diana Cooper, Christian ‘Bébé’ Berard, Patrick Procktor, David Hockney, Augustus John and Francis Bacon.
Dr Benjamin Wild