All lectures come in 60, 90 or 120 minute versions, and are profusely illustrated with colour slides.
For more extensive descriptions of individual lectures please request information sheet, or call Adrian Sumner on 01606 782516 (day) or 07909 537275 (evenings).
- Prometheus Unbound – Details
- Shark-infested Waters – Details
- Pre-Raphaelite Study Day – Details
- Northern Lights -Edvard Munch and Scandinavian Art – Details
- The Cat’s Pyjamas: A History of Cats in Art – Details
- The Reins of Power: A History of the Horse in Art – Details
- St Petersburg Study Day – Details
- Swinging London: a Trip through the Kaleidoscopic art of the 1960s – Details
- Building Babylon in Eden: Art Treasures of New York – Details
- Art of the Jazz Age – Details
- Art treasures of Florence, Venice, Rome, Italy, Berlin, Vienna, New York: Looking at
painting, sculpture and some architecture – Details
- Manet and the Impressionists: a trip through this sun-dappled world.
- Monet: a closer look at cathedrals, haystacks, water lilies and the real importance of Claude Monet.
- The Post Impressionists: Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Seurat, Degas, Tolouse Lautrec and how they invented Modernism.
- William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement: examines Morris’ heroic championing of the hand-made, and how he revolutionised decorative arts.
- The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood & The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy
(available as one, or two linked lectures. 5 years that changed the world.) – Details
- Art Nouveau: a New Look at the ‘New Art’, and Fin-de-Siecle Decadence – Details
- Van Gogh: in depth study of this most poetic and tragic of artists.
- The Crystal World: Flemish Painting and the Northern Renaissance; a look at the gem-like art of
Van Eyck, Hans Memlinc and their contemporaries – Details
- The Absolute Beginners Guide to Art: (in four easy stages). Opens every door for the beginner, and refreshes the more experienced – Details
- Decoding Famous Paintings: ……. How to read the signs and symbols, and unlock the secrets of the Great Artists – Details
- The Italian Renaissance: a broad study of the ideas, personalities and artworks created by this most wonderful century.
- Elizabethan and Tudor Art: a look at the limner’s art of miniature painting, and the creation of a dynamic, highly chivalrous, myth
- The Human Face: how artists have rendered us down the ages.
- The Garden of Earthly Delights – unravelling the many meanings and mysteries of the Masterpiece of Hieronymous Bosch.
- Swimming with Venus: a picture history of the Nude in Art; all in the best possible taste of course.
- The Swinging Sixties: a look at Pop Art, Op Art, Psychedelic Art and the new freedom which defined the 1960s.
- Leger and the School of Paris: touring the Paris of Monmartre and Montparnasse, and the artists who made this City the Centre of the artworld for almost a Century.
- The Sleep of Reason: Romantic versus Classic Art. (Blake, Constable, Turner, Ingres, David, Delacroix).
- The Romantic Landscape: an in-depth look at Constable and Turner, arguably the most influential of British artists.
- Every picture tells a story: looking at the history of Book Illustration and the Graphic Arts – Details
- Heaven and Hell: Surrealist art, and how dream and the irrational became the norm.
- Spanish Painting: a scenic tour of autos-da-fe, martyred saints, bullfights, torture, death and destruction.
- Women Artists: a look at the none-too-savoury way in which Women artists have been written out of art history, and their big come back in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
- Woodblock Prints: their history, art and technique in a nutshell.
- Photography the Democratic Art: a history of photography.
- Everything you ever wanted to know about Modern Art: but hardly dared ask – Details
- Salvador Dali: how a Spanish eccentric became one of the richest and most celebrated artists in the world.
- David Hockney: a boy and his blue guitar – Hockney and Pop art
- Everyday Miracles, Painting of the Dutch Golden Age: a look at genre painting, and the extraordinary richness of artistic life in the Dutch Republic – Details
- Fantasy and Fairey: the art of the imagination.
- Victorian Fairy Painting: how the Dark Satanic Mills gave birth to creatures of air.
- Picasso, fiend or angel: greatest artist of the 20th Century?
- Seurat: looking at ‘The Bathers’, ‘ Sunday Afternoon on the Grande Jatte’, and what made George Seurat such a key figure in both 19th and 20th Century art.
- Gustav Klimt: looking at Klimt’s role as leader of the Vienna Sezession group, and his influence on Art Nouveau and European decorative arts.
- American Art: how American artists went from imitators to innovators in two short centuries.
- All Human Life: a survey of the extraordinary breadth and diversity of Victorian Art. Includes Pre-Raphaelitism – Details
- Burne Jones and the Aesthetic Movement: showing how the greatest exponent of late Pre-Raphaelitism exerted major influence on Symbolism, Decadence, Art Nouveau and the Aesthetic Movement of Wilde, Beardsley, Whistler and the rest.
- Art of the Jazz Age: a panoramic view of the fine art, architecture, jewellery, fashion, industrial design and architecture of the Art Deco period.
- A beginners guide to sculpture: from prehistoric times to now.
- Drawing the line: a humorous look at the scandalous and scurrulous world of the political print.
- In Praise of Folly: looks at the art of human frailty to be found in the work of Pieter Breugel.
- History of English Art – searching for what is unique to English art and artists, particularly when so many of the most influential ones have been foreign.
The Art of Industry
A wildly-illustrated lecture by Adrian Sumner exploring how Art was transformed by the Industrial Revolution.
Images of Industry, good and bad, selected from 2000 years of history, but looking closely at the new forms generated by the Industrial Revolution, and the wealth of poetry and symbolism it unleashed. Features William Blake and John Martin, Wright of Derby and JMW Turner, Romantics, Pre Raphaelites, Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, Vorticists and Futurists, Dadas, Surrealists, Precisionists and YBAs(not forgetting Arts and Crafts, Bauhaus, Ruralists etc..).
Study day leaflet (pdf)
A study day exploring the giddy world of Modern Art.
Have you ever wondered how we got into this sorry state – a state where the Marketing seems to be more important than the Product, the Hype more important than the Art? This study-day sets out to explore the idea of Modern Art throughout history – what the critic Robert Hughes has called ‘The Shock of the New’, wherever and whenever it has occurred.
Naturally we will look at some of the most contentious of today’s artworks, but placed in the context of a long tradition of experiment and public outrage. From Caravaggio to Carl Andre(the bricks), from Monet to Gormley, from Turner to Turner Prize, we will fearlessly dissect the arguments and tease out the issues.
The day will include;
- a lavishly-illustrated slide lecture (Everything you always wanted to know about Modern Art, but might have been afraid to ask)
- case studies of selected – once Demonic, now Iconic- masterpieces
- a chance to examine some actual Modern Art by Northwest artists, before its had the chance to cool down
- an in-depth exploration of some key examples of 19th , 20th and 21st Century Modernism
- discussion and debate around these artworks
- a look at the role of Marketing and the Media (from Dickens to Saatchi and back)
- your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to market the indefensible
The day aims to;
- take a panoramic view of Modern Art within Art History
- identify some of the traps and pitfalls you might encounter in this field
- develop the critical faculties of participants
- shed a little light
- let us all share our collective wisdom and experience
- enable us all to have a jolly good time in the process.
The day is led by Adrian Sumner, Arts Officer for the City of Chester, Lecturer in Art and Art History, a practising Painter and Member of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts.
Looking at the groundbreaking and gorgeous paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood , their contemporary followers and legacy, and their formative influence on the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau, Decadence, International Symbolism and the Aesthetic Movement.
Surveying the lives and works of John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, as well as the 4 forgotten members and Ford Madox Brown. How the Young Turks changed Victorian painting forever in five short years.
‘Truth to Nature’ to ‘Golden Dim Dreams’.
Tracing the influence of the PRB on a generation of impressionable youngsters ; William Morris, Edward Burne Jones, John William Waterhouse, and a hundred Victorian Narrative, Social Realist, Olympian and Fairy painters. How Ruskin’s Natural Philosophy and the honest piety of the Early Italian Painters were transformed magically into ‘Something Rich and Strange’.
Dreamers of Decadence.
How the dreams of ‘three visionary boys’ inspired the colours , shapes and ideas of International Art Nouveau, and its Fine Art wing—Symbolism and Decadence. Examining the work of Beardsley, Mackintosh, Moreau, Khnopff, Klimt, the Vienna Secession, Lalique, Tiffany, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, finding echoes in Flower-power, Biba, and the Psychedelia of the Swinging Sixties.
Available in Powerpoint or slide format. Illustrated with seriously gorgeous images.
Isn’t it interesting how the one Scandinavian artist who could claim to be a household name is Edvard Munch, the poster-boy of 20th Century neurosis, who seems to personify the Universal Angst of Modern Man in his painting ‘The Scream’. So poignant is this image that it is plagiarised, satirised, marketed and merchandised relentlessly, mercilessly, and still is able to retain its power to shock; no mean feat in the age of the World Wide Web, and the tide of ever-deepening horror it and all media seem to carry to us on a daily basis.
While examining in depth the art of Munch, and the debt owed to him by Modernism, this lecture also tours the remarkable, inspirational diversity of Scandinavian Art, especially at the turn of the 19th Century, looking at the mythologies and folk tales revitalised by Axel Gallen Kallela, the spiritual landscapes of Harald Sohlberg and seascapes of Peter Kroyer, the Symbolism of Hugo Simberg and Magnus Enckel, the light-suffused interiors of Wilhelm Hammershoi (‘the Danish Vermeer’), and the poetic realism of Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn.
Now they really should be household names.
We also look at the brilliant architecture and design of Alvar Aalto and Eliel Saarinen, the sculpture of Gustav Vigeland, and where the artistic riches of Nordic art may be sought and found.
Since the earliest times, cats have figured very large in Human Life and, therefore, Art. They seem to prowl the dark places, to peep out of unexpected corners, and generally to insinuate themselves into the best spots (just like the real thing, then).
From Ancient Egypt to 21st century Japan, from Medieval manuscript to Romantic ‘familiar’, from Blake’s Tyger (and Rousseau’s Tigers ) to Martin Leman’s Curious Cats, from Felix via Krazy Kat to Fritz, this lecture illustrates the startling diversity , and the remarkable ubiquity , of the Domestic Feline and its Feral cousins, in World Art. I suspect a conspiracy…..
Exploring equine imagery throughout the history of the visual arts. Whether symbolising strength, nobility, beauty, freedom or dynastic power, the horse has carried men and women, gods and goddesses, elves and fairies, not to mention our hopes and dreams, since the earliest pictures were recorded in the flickering lamplight of the Stone Age. Highlights include Lascaux and Altamira, equestrian portrait sculptures since Marcus Aurelius, Delacroix and Gericault, Franz Marc and Alfred Munnings, and, of course, the work of George Stubbs.
Available in slide or Powerpoint format
If Russia is ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’, then St Petersburg surely is the mask she wears to greet the West.
This study day looks at the enduring fascination of this most beautiful of Northern Cities, the Architecture which defines and distinguishes it, the Palaces which encircle the city and act as treasure-houses for centuries of glittering Tsarist rule, and the artistic riches to be found in the Hermitage, arguably the Greatest Museum in the World.
To link it all together, we tour 11 centuries of Russian Art, from Icon to Avante-Garde.
Available in slide or Powerpoint format
Everyone seems to have a different memory of the ‘Swinging Sixties’. There seems to be a cloud of mist (or is it smoke) shrouding the view.
This illustrated lecture will attempt to bring the scene into sharp focus, looking at the incredible, often thrilling, variety of visual arts experiences on offer to a rapidly-expanding market, as the Age of Aquarius kicked in.
We will explore Op Art, Pop Art, Kinetic Art, Happenings, Assemblage, Abstraction, Colour-Field Painting, Nouveau Realisme, Psychedelia, Political Art, Underground Art, Posters, Magazines and Album Cover Art, Fashion, Childrens Book Illustration, and the beginnings of Minimalism and Environmental Art.
From Apple to (Frank) Zappa, via Bridget Riley, Andy Warhol, Robert Crumb, and dear old David Hockney, we will leave no stoned Stone unturned, and no Head unfed.
Join me on this trip down Penny Lane, to Strawberry Fields. Lets meet at the Crossroads. Just off Highway 61. Outside the Gates of Eden. You get the idea
New York is so crammed full of Old Masters, its surprising there are any left in Europe. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (bewildering in scale and truly a treasure house) and the Frick Collection (like visiting a very, very wealthy relative) are wonders of this New World, the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art unrivalled anywhere in their 20th Century collections. Plus, of course, New York is unquestionably the centre of the International Art Market and a hotbed of Contemporary Art and Artists.
And then there’s the theory that it has the greatest works of art of the 20th Century in its Skyscrapers, and of the 19th in the Brooklyn Bridge. And don’t even get me started on the Whitney, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Radio City Music Hall, the Rockefeller Plaza or the staggering range of Public Art boasted by the ‘city that never sleeps’
And that’s only the Visual Arts.
This lecture, illustrated, as you might expect, with all kinds of eyewitness slides, takes us to the Four Corners of Manhattan Island, to see just what an unlimited supply of dollars can buy if your taste runs to the finest of fine Arts and Architecture.
Art Deco, the Period Style of the 1920s and 30s, is ravishing, amazingly various, and endlessly fascinating.
Evolving from Art Nouveau, it embraced the Machine Aesthetic of the Great War, Parisienne Modernism, Egyptian African and Oceanic decorative arts, and the emerging Jazz Culture of the New World. From these, laced with Cubist Geometry and Futurist Dynamism, a new International style was born; one which could be applied to cinemas and skyscrapers, fashion plates and sofas..
This lecture, illustrated with fabulous colour slides, looks at the planes and liners, the jewellery, textiles and frocks, the paintings, posters, pottery , bakelite and iceglass, as well as the remarkable personalities (from Clarice Cliff to Josephine Baker by way of Le Corbusier) that made the Twenties Roar and the Thirties a headlong dash into World War Two.
It is sometimes very difficult to get an overview of the arts of the worlds great artistic treasure houses – there seems to be so much to take in, and few of the guides and other publications make it easier to find ‘a way in’.
These lectures seek to clarify – to present a rational view of each of the listed centres, looking at painting, sculpture and architecture, placed in their social and historical context, and drawing on the personal experience of the lecturer.
For example, ‘Art Treasures of Florence’ starts with a walking tour of the City, stopping at significant buildings along the way, to reveal their architectural and historical significance in the continuing power struggle of the Medici against rival Florentine families – the Strozzi, the Rucellai etc. It then moves on to the city’s major public spaces and sculptures as expressions of political power, visits Cathedral, churches and monasteries to examine the role of Church as patron of the arts, and finishes in the Uffizzi and Pitti Palace, to wallow in the great collections of paintings assembled by Dukes and Princes to demonstrate their learning and connoirseurship.
Not quite the same as being there, but close.
Art Treasures of Tuscany
Visiting Florence, Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano, this trip will fill your heart with joy. (‘My Art Treasures of Tuscany experience was quite the best thing I’ve ever done’ B. Fulford, Cambs.)
Art Treasures of new York
The New World is full of Old Masters—key artworks from a hundred civilisations—this tour unlocks the treasure houses of the New Babylon. We also visit Art Deco palaces, epic art in public places, skyscrapers, stations, and bridges.
Art treasures of Madrid
From the cave paintings of Altamira to the Garden of earthly Delights, Madrid offers heart-stopping art from every period in some of the greatest museums in the world. We also visit Toledo, El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen.
Art Treasures of Prague
The ‘Magic capital of Old Europe’, Prague retains all of its power and mystique to this day. Our tour includes the labyrinthine (Kafka-esque, you might say) Castle complex, Barogue Architectural masterpieces, sinuous Art Nouveau, unique Cubist Buildings, and a great deal which defies classification. If you love this city, it will love you back.
Art Treasures of Sicily
Greek temples, Roman theatres, Byzantine mosaics, Norman cathedrals, Moorish palaces, Renaissance painting and late works by caravaggio—blended together over 2500 years—give Sicily an allure unrivalled anywhere in the Mediterranean.
Art Treasures of Berlin
Wilcommen, Bienvenue, Welcome—Berlin has a profusion ofg Galleries and museums to rival even Paris or the Big Apple, and it has a legacy of Decadence from the 30s to put you in just the mood to enjoy it to the full. ‘Moneymoneymoney, moneymoneymoney….’
Odd to think how that most ravishing and comforting of British movements, Pre-Raphaelitism, was first conceived as a secret society dead set on overthrowing the art establishment and all it stood for. Strange also that ‘the visionary vanities of half a dozen boys’ took such a hold on British art in as many years, and in ten years had indeed challenged the Royal Academy and won.
This lecture looks closely at the original Brotherhood, concentrating on the beautiful, jewel-like early works of John Millais and William HolmanHunt, with their ‘truth to nature’ and their extraordinary, vivid realism. It traces how this influence spread to affect the work of dozens of contemporary artists of all kinds, and how the third original ‘Brother’, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was able to evolve the next, visionary, steps-evoking an Arthurian world which inspired the next generation; William Morris, Edward Burne Jones, Frederick Sandys, and the artists of the Aesthetic Movement.
It is ironic that an age notorious for its conservatism and prudery produced such a huge range of (often radical) art.
All branches of painting seem to have taken huge leaps forward, with the invention of new ways of seeing the world, and owning it, driven by the overwhelming confidence of Britain at the centre of an Empire of Wealth, and of ideas.
From the new respect for nature seen in Constable and Turner to the rudimentary Impressionism of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, from the visions of Heaven and Hell seen in William Blake and John Martin to the Golden Dreams of Burne Jones, from the animal magic of Landseer to the Social Realism of Luke Fildes, the 64 years of Victoria’s reign redefine British Art and establish it as an undeniable International force.
And of course ‘Victorian’ must now also mean the decadence of Whistler, Wilde and Beardsley – shadow to the sun (which never sets). Truly, ‘all human life is there’, to quote the News of the World.
Contained in every work of art is a world of secrets – a coded language which locks the artwork into its own time and place in history. Added to this, artists have often deliberately obscured the true meanings of their work in symbols and iconography – complete worldviews and philosophies denied to the casual observer, often used at times when telling the real meaning might have resulted in disaster or even death.
This lecture looks for the clues which reveal the truth – the keys which unlock the secrets of the Great Artists and their Greatest Works, as well as the personal secrets which humanise the myths. It examines, in depth; Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’, Van Eyck’s ‘Ghent Altarpiece’, Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, Botticelli’s ‘Primavaera’ and a small group of other world-changing pictures.
In the ‘Belle Epoque’, an elegant and sinuous period style flourished. Deriving from Pre-Raphaelitism, and the Arts and Crafts Movement, and inspired by the organic growth of such natural forms as poppies, convolvulus, hair or water; Art Nouveau soon became the dominant style of Europe and America, spreading like wildlife among new and radical Designers and Fine Artists.
Called ‘Art Nouveau’ in England, ironically it was known as ‘Style Anglais’ in France, and by a dozen other names, including ‘Jugendstil’ in Germany, and ‘Secessionistil’ in Austria. It encompassed a vast array of talents, including the Aestheticism of Beardsley and Whistler, the Symbolism of Moreau and Khnopff, the Modernism of Klimt and Expressionism of Schiele, and the individual genius of such artists as Alfons Mucha and Antoni Gaudi.
This lecture looks at the richness of Art Nouveau, in the Fine and Decorative Arts – including Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Textiles, Metalwork, Glass, Furniture, Ceramics and much more.
From Prehistoric times it is possible to trace a continuous evolution in the History of Western Art. This informal classification is remarkably helpful in enabling us to understand Art in its context – both social, historic and artistic.
As era give way to era, period style to period style, it gradually becomes apparent that art grows and changes in the same way that people do – art, in fact, is the barometer of mankind’s desires and aspirations, as well as the embodiment of many of these aspirations.
This lecture starts in Prehistory and takes us through successive periods, cultures and artistic styles, showing how one style or movement inevitably evolves from the previous one, and contains the seeds, or blueprint for the next.
In this way, a clear view of the of the continuum of Art History will make it easier to identify Art Objects, place them in their appropriate periods, identify their parents and their children, and make the whole business less mystifying and much, much more enjoyable.
While Masaccio, Donatello and Brunelleschi invented the Renaissance in Florence, a subtler revolution was taking place in the North. In the Flemish towns of Bruges, Brussels, Ghent and Tournai, under the patronage of the Burgundian Dukes, a new kind of painting emerged, based on the use of pure colours (possible through the new, refined oils) and closely observed natural detail, unified through the fall of light.
With these innovations, an extraordinary vividness and realism, were possible, in painted panels commissioned by churchmen and princes throughout Europe.
This lecture looks at the miraculous painting of Jan Van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memlinc and the ‘Flemish Primitives’, and how this inspired successive generations of Northern artists (Durer, Holbein, Cranach, Bosch, Breugel et. al.) to a Renaissance of their own.
It is a generally –acknowledged truth that Modern Art is more about Questions than Answers; but knowing that doesn’t really help. This lecture sets out to answer some of the most frequently-asked questions (by the viewer, that is), to debunk the Myths, and generally to shed light on a subject which, despite seldom being out of the glare of publicity and the Media, still manages to be confusing, perplexing, and jolly annoying.
Drawing on his current practise as a painter, and a familiarity with the Contemporary Arts Scene, as well as an Art Historians desire to put the Modern into Context, your lecturer looks at ‘the Shock of the New’ from Michelangelo to Picasso, from Caravaggio to Damien Hirst, and from the Impressionists to the Situationists.
And, of course, you can ask all those awkward questions.
With Gutenberg’s printing press, the world of painting changed overnight. The single, precious, image rapidly gave way to the multiple image, the edition, the illustration, seen by an ever widening audience. The artist, though still required to produce one-off, iconic, images – specifically for religious purposes, – also turned his pen to ‘print’.
Specialist ‘illustrators’ soon developed, but fine-artists down the ages have enriched the discipline with vivid and memorable works, either bringing texts to life, or as original multiple ‘prints’, circulated individually or in folios, and eagerly collected by ‘cognoscenti’.
From the early political prints of Albrecht Durer, and the ground breaking innovations of Rembrandt’s etchings, through such radical Victorian illustrators as Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott, and the Golden Age of Heath Robinson, Edmund Dulac and Kay Nielsen, to the Modernism of Picasso and Matisse, this lecture draws the line.
Following the establishment of the United Provinces independence from the rule of the Spanish throne, in 1638, the Dutch Republic rapidly flourished and an extraordinary phenomenon occurred. A huge new market for paintings developed, encouraging artists, for the first time in history, to paint speculatively – uncommissioned, and resulting in a vigorous trade in pictures, both at home and abroad. The household names of this period, Rembrandt van Rijn, Gerrit Dou, Jan Steen, Gerard Terborch, Jan Vermeer – the original ‘fijn schilder’ (fine artists) – produced a range of non-religious (Protestant) subjects which made them stars in their own time, and superstars in ours.
This lecture looks at ‘Genre’ painting, landscapes and marine art, still lives and flower pieces, and examines the conditions which allowed the genius of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Steen to evolve the rich and fascinating imagery of that very special age.