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All lectures are at 7:45pm, with wine served from 7:15pm.  Please see this page for details of the location.  Images are reproduced with permission from the lecturer.

PLEASE NOTE: This lecture will take place in the Howe Theatre, Queen Anne Court.  If you are not a member and are would like to a guest ticket, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hadrian is the Roman emperor we all think we know. He built Hadrian’s Wall and we imagine him as a man of peace, either travelling continuously through his empire or living a life of luxury in his villa at Tivoli outside Rome.  But in reality he was a person of huge contrasts – a shrewd politician and ruthless general, as capable of massacre as mercy, an obsessive in everything he did, from amateur architecture to love. Though married to his wife Sabina for nearly 40 years, Hadrian’s greatest love was a young man Antinous, whom Hadrian turned into a god after his suspicious death.  In this lecture we try to find out more about Hadrian, this incredible, mysterious man.

Dr Paul Roberts is the Sackler Keeper of Antiquities at the  Ashmolean Museum, and was previously Senior Roman Curator in the Department of Greece and Rome at the British Museum. He studied at the Universities of Cambridge, Sheffield and Oxford and lived in Italy for several years. He has excavated in Britain, Greece, Libya Turkey and in particular Italy, where in September 2018 he'll be excavating a Roman Villa.  He was the  curator of the major exhibition "Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum", at the British Museum.  He is currently working on a major exhibition for 2019 "Roman Feasts - from the Table to the Grave”.




In 1515 King Henry VIII founded a new armourer's workshop. Kings of England had never had personal court armourers before, and in bringing Flemish and German craftsmen into his service Henry was following the most current courtly fashion.  High-quality armour had been made in England for at least 200 years previously, but Henry consciously rejected their work, as part of a new continentalism which defined his style of kingship.  For thirty years the master armourers at Greenwich made armour for the King's personal use, playing an essential role in casting him as a dominant player on the international stage of war and diplomacy.  The workshop continued to flourish after his death, enduring into the seventeenth century.

Tobias Capwell is Curator of Arms and Armour at the Wallace Collection and an internationally-acknowledged authority on Medieval and Renaissance weapons.  He is the author of numerous books on the subject of arms and armour and appears regularly on television, most recently on A Stitch in Time (BBC4).  In 2015 he had the unusual honour of serving as one of the two fully armoured horsemen escorting the remains of King Richard III, from the battlefield at Bosworth to their resting place in Leicester Cathedral.


The Nutcracker has delighted audiences at Christmas for many decades yet it was deemed a failure at its first performances and was very nearly lost to history.  We take a close look at how this much-loved ballet now takes its rightful place on stage and how the music of Tchaikovsky along with story-telling, dance, design, technology and more than a little onstage magic all come together to make a wonderful escape for young and old alike.  Fully illustrated with audio and performance video clips.

Nigel Bates has worked as a performer for nearly forty years in and out of London’s Royal Opera House, including seventeen years as Principal Percussion with the Orchestra.  In the course of over 6,000 performances, broadcasts and recordings he has worked with many of the leading figures in the classical music industry.  He was a producer for both the BBC's Maestro at the Opera and Pappano's Classical Voices television documentary series and in 2012 was appointed to the position of Music Administrator for The Royal Ballet. 


In this lecture, we look at Constable’s Great Landscapes, also known fondly as the ‘six-footers’, which include some of his most famous and iconic paintings: The White Horse, The Haywain and Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows. The compositions derived from small pencil drawings and oil sketches made outdoors and for each Constable painted a full-size oil study. These ‘six-foot sketches’ were unique creations for the early 19th century and were unseen by all but his family and closest friends during his lifetime. Constable’s dynamic late works and artistic temperament are brought to life for us in a new and exciting manner, revealing a ‘Jackson Pollock of the 1830s’. You will never look at these ‘chocolate box’ pictures the same way again!

Sarah Cove has worked as a paintings conservator, technical art historian and lecturer since the mid-1980s. She founded the Constable Research Project in 1986 and is now the recognised authority on Constable’s painting materials and techniques. In 1988, she was a Visiting Fellow at the Yale Center for British Art in the USA. She has published widely, including essays and exhibition catalogues. She has lectured in the UK, USA and Europe and will tour New Zealand in 2018. She has appeared in a number of TV programmes including ‘Constable in Love’ with Andrew Graham-Dixon. On ’Fake or Fortune?’ Constable is the only painter to be featured twice and Sarah has been instrumental in the discovery of three new Constables!



The work of women photographers has often been unfairly neglected.  This lecture seeks to correct that by examining the contribution of three outstanding British practitioners:

Julia Margaret Cameron, a Victorian pioneer; Jane Bown, a brilliant portraitist; and Fay Godwin, who excelled in landscape photography.  We also explore the works of two highly influential Americans: Dorothea Lange, who produced brilliant documentary images, and Annie Leibovitz, who continues to both surprise and delight her audience.

Brian Stater has taught at University College London since 1997.  He is a member of the Association for Historical and Fine Art Photography and an exhibition of his own photographs has been staged at UCL. In an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of the skills of some great photographers of the past, he works with a pre-War Leica camera.


Houses made from wool that warm in the depths of winter, carpets that tell stories, woven bands that appease ancestors, embroideries that ward off evil, and kilims that store kitchenware, with everything ready to be packed and carried on yak, or camel at a moment’s notice; the little-known nomadic textile cultures of the Kyrgyz, Turkoman and Karakalpak are explored in this lecture.

Chris Alexander was born in Turkey and spent his childhood there and in war-torn Beirut. After studying Media and journalism at Leicester University, he moved to Khiva, a desert oasis in Uzbekistan, establishing a UNESCO workshop reviving fifteenth century carpet designs and embroideries, creating income for women. After a year in the UK writing A Carpet Ride to Khiva, he moved to the Pamirs in Tajikistan, training yak herders to comb their yaks for their cashmere-like down, spending three years there. Next came two years in Kyrgyzstan living in the world’s largest natural walnut forest and establishing a wood-carving workshop. Chris has recently finished rowing and studying at Oxford and is now a curate at St. Barnabas, North FinchleyHe returns to Central Asia whenever he can and conducts tours there.

Trained in decorative as well as fine arts, Klimt sought to break free from the traditional distinctions between the two. His fascination with Egyptian and Byzantine art enabled him to produce sumptuous art incorporating gold leaf and mosaics in works which were frequently highly erotic and beautiful, and occasionally disturbing. He was particularly interested in the female form, showing women as alluring, but often dangerous, as the femme fatale. He was a founder member and first President of the Vienna Secession, a progressive exhibiting organisation set up to challenge the more conservative academic practice towards the end of the 19th century.

Frank Woodgate has been lecturer and Guide in Tate Britain and Tate Modern since 2000, and from 2008-2010 on P&O cruises on behalf of the Tate.  He has lectured to Arts Society audiences in the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Gibraltar, Australia and New Zealand.  He lectures and runs courses for Dulwich Picture Gallery, Pallant House (Chichester) and the Art Fund (UK and Guernsey).  





The Bloomsbury Group were a set who Dorothy Parker once described as “living in squares and loving in triangles”. Perhaps the longest lasting of these unconventional relationships was that of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Painter and designer Vanessa Bell was the sister of the writer Virginia Woolf and wife of the critic Clive Bell. Vanessa was the warm heart of Bloomsbury whose love affair with bisexual Duncan Grant began with an affair and blossomed into a lifelong friendship and creative partnership. From the Omega workshops to the walls of Kings College this lecture looks at how art and friendship becomes art and design and asks – should we really draw such a line between the fine and decorative arts?




Calcutta was second city of the British Empire and a hub of cultural and artistic production throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This lecture looks at the arts and architecture of this extraordinary city, which was India’s capital until 1911. Calcutta played a central role in shaping the culture of modern India, as its artists sought to interpret India’s classical heritage in new ways, and to combine this heritage with Western cultural forms. We will examine how Calcutta became the epicentre of the ‘Bengal renaissance’ and how the city’s artists viewed (and were affected by) British rule.


Dr John Stevens is a Research Associate at SOAS, University of London, and a member of academic staff at the SOAS South Asia Institute.  His PhD in History is from University College London. He teaches British Imperial history, Indian history and Bengali language, and is a regular visitor to India and Bangladesh. His biography of the Indian guru Keshab Chandra Sen was published in 2018. He appears regularly in the Indian media and was recently a guest on BBC Radio Four’s In Our Time.