2016-17 Lecture programme

7th February, 2017. Prof Colin Davies on ‘Architecture, Music and the Invention of Linear Perspective’.

In his dissertation on architecture, Leon Battista Alberti – the original ‘Renaissance man’ – wrote: ‘We shall therefore borrow all our rules for the fixing of proportions from the musicians’. It is not surprising that the question of proportion should be an important theme in Alberti’s book, but how did the musicians get involved? It turns out that there is a mathematical link between visible proportions and audible proportions, or harmony, and that Renaissance architects were well aware of this link. They saw it as proof that their architecture could participate in the harmony of the whole cosmos. One of them, Filippo Brunelleschi, took the idea further in his invention of ‘linear perspective’ and thereby, incidentally, revolutionised western painting.

7th March, 2017. Alexandra Epps on ‘Inspiration – Artists and their Muses’.

Tete de Femme – Marie-Thérèse Walter – detail

The lecture discusses the complex relationship between artist and muse and the inspiration for some of the most significant works of art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the ‘stunners’ of the Pre Raphaelites; Picasso’s various wives and companions; the Dali’s – muses as different as the artists themselves.

4th April, 2017. Libby Horner on ‘The Mille Miglia – Cars and Culture’.

In 1955 Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson won the 1000 mile open-road endurance race round Italy with a staggering average speed of 98.53 mph which didn’t allow them any time for pit stops or culture. In 2014 Libby, driving an iconic red Alfa Romeo, followed the route in more leisurely fashion. In a multi-media lecture combining photographs, film, songs, and quotations from writers and poets she offers a kaleidoscopic view of the cars and characters involved in the race from its inception in 1927 together with numerous detours to sample local food, wine, music, architecture and art.

2nd May 2017. Chloe Sayer on ‘Peru: the Incas and their Predecessors Seen through their Art and Textiles’.

Ancient Peruvian burial grounds have yielded up dazzling goldwork, fine ceramic vessels, and some of the richest textiles in the world. Sumptuously woven garments, preserved for 2,000 years by the Paracas desert, display a profusion of embroidered designs. For the Incas, who ruled the Andes of South America after AD 1200, the textile arts took precedence over other media. Chosen women devoted their lives to weaving for the Sun and the Inca State. Today, nearly 500 years after the Spanish conquest, textiles remain central to Andean life. Contemporary Peruvian textiles will be displayed during this lecture, if travel arrangements allow.

6th June, 2017. Lizzie Darbyshire on ‘Edouard Manet: a Bar at the Folies-Bergere’

Bar at the Folies-Bergere – detail

Edouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère of 1882 is one of the most treasured possessions of the Courtauld Collection. Here we are invited to engage with a young barmaid at work in a fashionable Parisian establishment. A gentleman waits to be served whilst in the background spectators watch the night’s entertainments. All seems to be well – but is it? What sort of establishment was this? Who frequented it? What ‘entertainment’ was provided here? Who was the barmaid – and the gentleman? Is this a straightforward representation of a contemporary scene or is Manet, often called the godfather of Modern art, playing with accepted conventions to undermine the coherence of the image and its content? This lecture explores the many different facets of this iconic painting and guarantees you will never look at it in the same way again.

4th July, 2017. Antony Penrose on ‘Man Ray the Magic Man.’

© Lee Miller Archives, England 2017. All rights reserved

When my father, the British Surrealist artist Roland Penrose and biographer of Man Ray, made his collage titled Homage to Man Ray (1976), he included the pencilled wording HOM MAGE, a pun in French which can be translated as Magic Man. Roland knew that in his photography Man Ray magically transformed light into wonderful Surrealist images, and in his objects everyday things became visual puns, sometimes sinister, sometimes funny, but always provocative. Man Ray was much adored by both my parents and from an early age by me too. He encouraged me to make my own objects and my own puns. I knew he and my mother Lee Miller had been lovers in their youth and their love endured as a deep friendship. Together in Paris in the heyday of Surrealism they discovered the technique of solarisation which became the hallmark of their artistic association. Their collaboration produced some of the most striking images in Man Ray’s whole oeuvre and it was Man Ray who in turn helped Lee Miller to become a Surrealist photographer in her own right. Years later when I saw them together, I noticed there was always a special smile on my mother’s face when Man Ray was around, but it took me much of my life to discover the history that lay between her, Man Ray and my father. This is the story behind Lee Miller’s special smile.