Synopsis of Lectures The following lectures are intended for societies or groups who are interested in the visual arts. Each lecture covers the design and history of the architecture, sculpture and painting of a particular period, place or individual. In many cases, lectures may be put together to provide a study day. A more detailed synopsis of the available study days is given in the next section.
The Mediterranean – Cradle of Western art and culture Many different civilisations have flourished around the shores of the Mediterranean, interacting and influencing each other. As each flourished and declined, the banner of culture was developed and passed from one to the other to form our own inheritance. This lecture is an overview of the art and architecture of the Babylonian, Cretan, Greek, Roman Byzantine and Islamic cultures tracing the story and unique influences of our Western Art.
The Glory that was Greece The classical tradition which so influenced the culture of the West for over two thousand years began in the city states of Greece. Their art and architecture laid down the principles that were followed in the subsequent centuries. The earliest art forms were pottery and simple piece of sculpture beginning nearly three thousand years ago. There architecture, in terms of their temples, was technically simple but in terms of aesthetics was the most sophisticated ever known to man.
Cities of Asia Minor The major ancient cities of Asia Minor were all located in the vicinity of the eastern coast with easy access to the Aegean, ranging from Troy in the north to Hierapolis in the south. They were generally laid out on some variation of a rectangular grid with the major elements of agora, sanctuary, theatre, gymnasium and other public buildings
The Grandeur that was Rome The Romans conquered the world and founded their empire on the ruins of the Hellenistic kingdoms. Their art, sculpture and architecture are built on the achievements of the Greeks to which they added their own outstanding achievements in engineering. This lecture traces the developments and advances of Roman engineering, architecture, sculpture and painting over a period of some five hundred years.
Byzantium – the new Rome The Roman Empire moved east and changed the direction of art and culture for the next millennium. Whilst the empires in the east and the west declined, the influence of Byzantine art moved west to Europe and north to Russia. The driving force behind the spread of Byzantine culture was Christianity, which lasted long after the political empires waned.
Christian & Islamic Art In the Iberian Peninsula the Christian and Islamic traditions met to intermingle and influence each other. This melting pot of cultures produced examples of art and architecture to be found nowhere else in Europe. New forms of art and architecture were developed as exemplified in the Hagia Sophia of Constantinople and the mosaics of Ravenna.
The Golden Age of Islam As well as a world religion, Islam also produced a civilization and culture of art, architecture and science stretching from India to Spain. Assimilating the achievements of Greece and Rome, this knowledge was developed and fed back into Europe. The Golden Age of Islam is from the 8th to the 15th centuries. During this time, Arab scholars developed medicine, astronomy, mathematics and other sciences to an astonishing degree.
Istanbul – Beauty on the Bosphorus The two great religions of Christianity and Islam interacted with each other in the city of Constantinople. Christianity was the driving force behind the design of the cathedral of Hagia Sophia during the Byzantine era. When the Ottoman Turks took the city in 1453 this Christian cathedral became the prototype of the Islamic mosque.
Origins of the Early Renaissance After the fall of the Roman Empire, Western Europe became a political backwater and this period is known as the ‘Dark Ages’. However, the spreading of Christianity meant that Classical art and architecture continued to serve the needs of the Church right through to the Renaissance. While Western Europe disintegrated between the 5th and 10th centuries under invasions from the north, the artistic achievements of Rome continued to survive.
The Renaissance – the rebirth The Italians of the 15th century believed that art, science and scholarship had flourished in the classical period and had been destroyed by the northern barbarians. It was their task, as direct descendants of ancient Rome to recreate this glorious past and usher in a new era of art and culture. The movement bagan in Florence and flourished in Rome where Renaissance man was skilled in all the arts of architecture, sculpture and painting.
Andrea Palladio Born in 1508 into war-ravaged northern Italy, Andrea Palladio was apprenticed as a stone-cutter. Thanks to the encouragement and patronage of a nobleman he became an architect and an intellectual. He made several visits to Rome to study classical architecture and also the new Renaiisance buildings of the time. By the end of his life he had succeeded in determining the direction of Western architecture for the next four centuries.
The English Renaiisance – a new direction In 1533 Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn. Three years later he executed her and the day after he married Jane Seymour. Between those two dates the art of the Renaissance first made its mark in England. However, it did not sweep through the country as it did on the continent; ratherr it entered England slowly and lagged behind the continent by a century. Some magnificent country houses were built by courtiers and the new style of building was finally established by Inigo Jones.
The Exuberance of the Baroque Artists, sculptors and architects developed the new classical art of the Renaissance along increasingly elaborate lines and new forms. It was a continuous search for the sensational. This development spread across Europe and the New World. As well as the patronage of the Church and royalty, any prince or nobleman with aspirations adopted this lavish style to portray the magnificence of his status.
The Gothic art & architecture of France Whilst the tribes of northern Europe were viewed as barbarian invaders by the south and their culture as foreign, nevertheless their Gothic art and architecture produced a tradition on a monumental scale which lasted for centuries in several countries. The structural principles of Roman architecture were developed along more innovative lines and resulted in magnificent cathedrals like Notre Dame, Chartres, Reims and Amiens.
The Vaulting Achievement of the English Cathedrals Even before the Norman Conquest, French architecture had begun to cross the channel and for the next four hundred years it developed a particularly English character. Over the centuries it was continually creative and innovative and produced some of the finest building in Europe as the techniques and skills of the Gothic masons developed
St Petersburg – the design of a new city Because of the drive of two powerful individuals, a new city emerged to give Russia access to the Baltic. As well as Russian culture, it drew heavily on the traditions of classical Italy and established some of the greatest collections of art in the world. Peter the Great founded his city in 1703 as a fortress against the Swedes and as the capital of Russia.
St Petersburg – Parks and Palaces Around the city the Tsars laid out magnificent parks and palaces for themselves and the nobility. As well as being summer retreats, these exuberant and lavish designs were intended to reflect the image and power of Russia. The main parks are the Oranienbaum, the Pavlovsk, Peterhof and Pushkin Park housing the Cathering Palace. In all the parks there were weveral smaller palaces and pavilions as well as the min complex.
Venice – Queen of the Adriatic What was once a refugee camp on the coast of the Adriatic became a trade centre and then a wealthy republic with its own empire. A link between east and west, it produced some of the finest art, architecture and music in the world. Founded in the 6th century, Venice was never part of the Roman Empire but initially came under the control of Byzantium until it gained independence in the 8th century and was ruled by a succession of Doges.
Antonio Gaudi In the city of Barcelona at the end of the 19th century an astonishing genius produced forms of architecture unique to Catalonia. Widely regarded in Barcelona he was known to the rest of the world for his design of the cathedral of La Sagrada Familia. He built a succession of town houses and estates for several wealthy industrialists which continued until the death of his main patron, Guell, in 1918. He took over the design of the Sagrada Familia cathedral and worked on this until his own death in 1926.
The Far Eastern & Orient Express A luxury train journey in the Far East from Singapore to Bangkok takes several days. This exotic journey is one of contrasts and starts with the thrusting modernity of Singapore. Stopping along the way for excursions, including the infamous bridge over the river Kwai, we visit the different artistic traditions and cultures of Malaysia and Thailand and their capitals of Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.
Cambodia – a lost civilisation The story of a lost civilisation, influenced by Hinduism and Budhism, that disappeared some six hundred years ago, leaving behind an incredible array of buildings and sculpture that was only re-discovered in the 19th century. Between the 8th century and the 12th century, huge complexes of palaces and temples were built, the most famous being Angkor Wat.
Pugin – God’s Romantic Victorian Architect An extraordinary story of a self-educated man who was shipwrecked, bankrupted, widowed twice, yet kick-started the Gothic Revival and changed the face of Victorian England before he went mad and died at the age of 40. He lived a turbulent and romantic life at breakneck speed despite continual bouts of severe illness. His most famous work is the detailing of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
Budapest – Diva of the Danube Budapest is the ultimate turn-of-the-century City, united only in 1872. In Pest, the neo-Classical unity of the buildings, enlivened by decorative flecks of Art Noueau and extravagant eclecticism obscures the city’s Medieval and Baroque past. In Buda, the pattern is reversed. There is an aesthetic tension in Budapest that matches the city’s stormy political history. The result is a fascinating mosaic of Central European influences from Habsburg to Turkish, from French to Slavic. All these elements fuse in a flash of brilliance that is peculiarly Budapest.
Vienna – A waltz on the Danube The Gothic spirit of Vienna is symbolized by the cathedral of Stephensdom, which stands out in a city that is overwhelmingly Baroque. Vienna’s love of the arts is illustrated by the opera houses, theatres and museums that are found throughout the city. There are flashes of brilliance of Jugendstil, Vienna’s own version of Art Nouveau.
The Golden Age of British Watercolour Watercolour is an extraordinarily versatile art form and is almost uniquely a British phenomenon. It embodies uncertainty, fluidity, luminosity and transparency, making it the most challenging of all the media. The artists of the day, such as Cotman, Cox, Girtin and Turner, embraced the medium and took it to standards worthy of exhibition at the Royal Academy.
Birth of the Celtic Tiger The Celtic peoples of Ireland were never part of the Roman Empire and maintained their own traditions, which were adapted and reformed with the arrival of Christianity. The ancient art of the Celtic world became inseparable from Christian belief and the Irish monastic system was the basis of economic, cultural and artistic development.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh – A Scottish Icon Mackintosh is recognized internationally as one of the great figures of early 20th century art and architecture. He possessed a wide ranging talent as an architect, painter, furniture designer and graphic artist. He is most famously known for the Glasgow School of Art and the Tea Rooms, often working in close collaboration with his wife, Margaret Macdonald.
Romance of the Rhine The romantic river Rhine is one of Europe’s great rivers, beginning as a stream in Switzerland and flowing largely through Germany until it enters the North Sea through Holland. All along the Rhine, one can trace the development of European art and architecture, unfolding as a beguiling story, with examples from every period in history.
Lisbon – Europe’s oldest city In the Golden Age of the 16th century, Lisbon was the head of a world empire but those days are now long gone. It’s history, since the time of the Canaanites, has been troubled by invasions, wars, pestilence and natural disasters. However Lisbon has preserved a legacy of history, of art and of architecture of all styles for us all to marvel at.
The Age of Discovery With the unification of Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella and the discoveries of Columbus and of Vasca da Gama, the riches of the New World gradually enabled the developments of art and architecture in the Iberian Peninsula to reach new heights of fantasy and exuberance. This new style was also exported back to the New World.