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St Bees Arts Society


Arts Society programme 2016-17

All lectures in Management Centre of St Bees School  8pm. Annual Subscription £25 Single session £6.50


Wednesday 28th September 2016

Bernini’s Rome Making the Baroque city
The Rome we see today is in many ways the legacy of Bernini and the patronage lavished on him and the city by a succession of seventeenth century popes. Beginning as a sculptor, Bernini progressed from portrait busts and depictions of mythological scenes to architectural and town planning projects. According to the contemporary writer Filippo Baldinucci, Bernini liked to boast that in his hands 'marble could become as impressionable as wax and as soft as dough'. 

The interior of St. Peter's is the product of many years' work led by Bernini,  complemented later in his career by the colonnade which sets the scene for its facade. He also worked on the Palazzo Barberini, home of his most devoted patron, Urban VIII, who a year after his accession to the papacy in 1623 was reputed to have summoned the sculptor to his presence, where he told him 'It is your great good fortune for Cavaliere Bernini to see me become pope. But we are even luckier in that the Cavaliere Bernini lives at the time of our pontificate'. Bernini was certainly instrumental in promoting the power and legacy of Urban and his family through his art, but his career was not always an easy one; after the death of Urban he was out of favour for a number of years before returning to prominence with projects such as the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona. We'll look at these and other works to gain a view of Bernini's career overall.

Lecturer Peter Jennett M.A.


Wednesday 26th October 2016

Art and Astronomy
In this visually stunning presentation Professor David Hughes shows how astronomers, famous artists, and the specialist scientific artist have all depicted astronomical objects over the centuries.
Astro-art was first produced by astronomers keen to have a permanent visual record of their observations.  Before photography, the astronomers had to get out their sketchpads, pencils, and paints to record the comets, planets, moons and galaxies they saw. Their artistic skills were also used to map the stars in a constellation, or represent the path of an eclipse.
True artists, exemplified by Monet, Van Gogh, Escher, and Palmer, have also been inspired by celestial phenomena but are less concerned with scientific accuracy.
The scientific artist, an amalgam of the astronomer and the artist first worked in the twentieth century. These visionaries use their paints to show us what it would be like, for example, to stand on an orbiting rock in the rings of Saturn; to fall into a black hole; or to witness the birth of the planets.

Lecturer Professor David Hughes


Wednesday January 25th 2017

Gustave Caillebotte The unknown Impressionist
Caillebotte was a talented artist who painted scenes of modern life including city streets, domestic interiors, portraits and leisure activities such as boating and gardening, both of which he loved. Personally wealthy, he had no need to sell his own pictures and he used his fortune to support his Impressionist friends, from paying their rent to purchasing their paintings. He also was a key organiser of some of their exhibitions.
Caillebotte died young and bequeathed his dazzling collection to the French state which initially refused it. This slide-illustrated talk will cover the range of styles and subjects in his intriguing career and also, the controversial saga of the Caillebotte Bequest. It will become clear why, according to Denys Sutton,
'The name of Caillebotte is inscribed in gold letters in the annals of artistic patronage in France'.

Lecturer Margaret-Louie O’Keeffe


Wednesday 29th March 2017

Francis 1 of France  Renaissance Prince and Patron

How did the Mona Lisa, an Italian painting, come to be in the Louvre, in Paris?
Why did Leonardo da Vinci, an Italian, spend the last years of his life in France?
When Henry VIII was king of England, who was King of France ?
What was he like?

All these questions will be answered in this lecture which introduces Francis I and examines his reign. Francis was a dashing, exciting and impetuous monarch who came to his throne by a circuitous route. He was the first king of France to collect works of art systematically. A passionate supporter of the Italian Renaissance, his reign was important for introducing its ideas to France. His patronage drew many Italian artists to the French court, including Andrea del Sarto, Rosso, Cellini and Leonardo.
The paintings, statues, books and manuscripts amassed by Francis 1 formed the bases of the collections in the Louvre and in the Bibliotheque National. He was hailed in his lifetime as ‘Le roi-chevalier’ and ‘le pere de lettres’. He was brave and energetic, despite ill health, a devoted father and, by the standards of the day, humane.
He is well worth getting to know.

Lecturer Fenella Billington M.A.


Wednesday 26th April 2017

The Painted Garden An artistic history of gardens from the ancient Egyptians to the present day

“The Painted Garden is two talks in one - a virtual tour through some of the major art galleries of the world and a journey through the history of gardening. From Egyptian tomb paintings to London Underground posters via an unseemly scramble for very expensive tulip bulbs and the landscapes of Capability Brown, all the major trends and fashions in the history of gardening are explored through the medium of paintings.  Russell Bowes holds the Diploma in Garden History from the University of London and has been giving garden history talks all over the country for the last 15 years.  He has recently moved to a house that has a completely derelict 120 foot garden and is still wondering where the best place is to start.”

Lecturer Russell Bowes