Theme: The Human Form
Illustrated Seminars and Group Visits
Wednesday 13 September 2017, 10.30 – 12.30, Winchester Discovery Centre
The Human Figure in Ancient Egyptian Art
Illustrated seminar by Delia Pemberton
Throughout Egyptian history, representations of humans (and deities with human attributes) were created for religious, magical and decorative purposes. In the first session, we will look at the origins of art in Egypt, and explore how the first human images may have been linked to developing beliefs surrounding the invisible world and the afterlife. We will examine how these beliefs shaped the conventions of human representation in terms of angle, proportions, colour, etc., and the way in which the canon of proportion employed by artists changed over time. We will then look at the techniques used in the production of reliefs, sculptures and wall paintings.
In the second session, we will see how public art was used as propaganda by Egypt’s rulers, using examples of statues and temple reliefs to see how scenes representing kings, officials, priests and deities could be used to subdue and manipulate the population, rewrite history and make or break careers. We will also look at the insights to be gained from the paintings and artefacts found in private tombs, which seem to offer a more honest view of Egyptian life – or do they? Finally, we will take a look at the influence of the Egyptian-style figure on the art of other cultures from antiquity to modern times.
Wednesday 20 September 2017, Visit to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Travelling by coach, we will be given a specialist tour of the museum’s Egyptian Galleries, second only to the British Museum in their importance. This will be followed by a session in the Print Room to look at some of the important drawings in their collections. Both tour and handling session will focus on the treatment of the human form in art. Refreshments, including a light lunch, will be provided.
Maximum numbers: 20. Cost £50pp to include specialist guides, refreshments on arrival, lunch and return coach travel.
Wednesday 11 October 2017, 10.30 – 12.30, Winchester Discovery Centre
The Slade and the Body
Illustrated seminar by Dr Jan Cox
From 1907 to 1914, the Slade School of Art was home to a ‘brilliant’ generation of young students, many of whom made a substantial impact on twentieth-century British art. Artists included such well-known names as Stanley Spencer, Mark Gertler, Richard Nevinson, Dora Carrington, David Bomberg and Edward Wadsworth. Others attended for a term – Paul Nash, Ben Nicholson, John Currie – but found that the school was not the place for them. Finally, there were other students who were in the front rank at that time, most notably Maxwell Gordon Lightfoot and Adrian Allinson, but are little-known to the public today.
The key figure at the Slade was the tutor Henry Tonks, a former surgeon and anatomist, whose overwhelming emphasis was on the mastery of drawing, first from the plaster cast and then from the live model. Tonks was an abrasive and uncompromising tutor who was never backward in stating his views on students’ work. Despite being considered ‘modern’ in the late Victorian era, by 1910 he was firmly against the impact of both Post-Impressionism and Cubism.
As a relief from the continuous practice of drawing, there were regular painting prizes at the Slade; for figure painting, head painting, painting from the cast, and the Summer Composition Competition. Perhaps the most successful of all in this competitive era was Maxwell Gordon Lightfoot, but his life was to be tragically cut short. Stanley Spencer was initially unsuccessful despite his aptitude, due to his inability to stick to the subject that had been set. This led to Adrian Allinson entering a ‘Spencer-esque’ work on his behalf, but Spencer failed to see the joke and the ploy failed! Many of these prize-winning depictions of the figure are now held in the UCL Art Museum in Central London.
Wednesday 1 November 2017, 10.30 – 12.30, Winchester Discovery Centre
Medieval Art and the Human Form
Illustrated seminar by Dr Sally Dormer
Early Medieval patrons and craftsmen felt unease when they thought about the human body. In an age dominated by Christian belief, they believed that man had been originally created in God’s image, but the Church taught that after the Fall, as described in Genesis, men and women were marred by the stain of Original Sin and prone, amongst other sins, to idolatry and lust. To guard against such temptations, the human body was rarely depicted with any degree of naturalism and scarcely ever shown unclothed; Adam, Eve and Bathsheba being notable exceptions to this rule. From the 13th century onwards attitudes changed, thanks to a revolution in ecclesiastical philosophy. It became acceptable to replicate the human body in a more natural way, and to infuse depictions of humans with feeling and emotion. This seminar will explore the evolution of the human body in the arts of the Middle Ages, from the abstract forms of the Master of the Leaping Figures, a mid 12th century manuscript painter who worked in Winchester, via the emotionally charged marble figures carved by Giovanni Pisano in early 14th century Tuscany, to the seductive nudes painted by Jean Fouquet in late 15th century Books of Hoursmade for royal French patrons.
Wednesday 8 November 2017, 10.30 – 12.30, Winchester Discovery Centre
Representing the Body in Wartime
Illustrated seminar by Monica Bohm-Duchen
This seminar will examine the ways in which the image of the soldier as heroic alpha-male, hitherto dominant in western art, was radically subverted by the brutal realities of 20th century warfare, in which, tragically, civilians of both sexes – including children – were implicated as much as professional fighting men. Only in the Dictatorships of Germany and Russia (and to a lesser extent, Italy and Japan) did this now obsolete trope persist. It will also look at the representation of women in wartime – where they tend to feature primarily either as idealized embodiments of abstract concepts – Victory, Patriotism, Sacrifice etc. – or as (often dubiously eroticized) emblems of suffering.
Wednesday 22 November 2017, 10.30 – 12.30, Winchester Discovery Centre
The Art of the Nude
Illustrated seminar and discussion led by Dr Emma Bulley
Why did the female nude become linked to ideals of beauty and the male nude to qualities such as strength? How do we judge if a nude is erotic, pornographic, or aesthetic? What sort of status has the model had in art history and whose bodies are missing from art history?
From the Venus figurines of the Upper Palaeolithic era to the kourus, naked youths of ancient Greece, the hideous “sheela na gig” to contemporary performance art, this seminar will examine the degree and manner in which the use of the body and the nude in art has changed.
If we attend a figure drawing class, we are participating in a tradition that is hundreds, possibly thousands of years old. The body in art has been shunned, desexualised at points in history and admired, even glorified, at others. I will examine the reasons for this, investigating the prevalent belief systems of the specific time and place.
Taking a historical overview we can consider the different ways in which the depiction of the nude model was related to both social context, as well as personal ideals. From nude to naked, from confrontational to vulnerable, the artist’s engagement with the model continues to evolve and to shape our understanding of what it means to be a human being.
Friday 1 December 2017, Visit to Swindon Art Gallery and Heelis House, National Trust HQ at Swindon
Travelling by coach, we will have a guided tour of the Swindon Art Gallery’s collection of 20th century British art, before moving on to the award-winning Heelis House, Headquarters of the National Trust and noted for its design and use of the latest environmental technology. Here we will have a coffee break before taking a guided tour of the building. The tour will be followed by a talk on the fine and decorative arts collections held by the Trust. Lunch is available in the National Trust restaurant at Heelis House. Our visit will also give members the opportunity to visit Swindon’s nearby Steam Museum, if they wish, before returning to our coach.
Maximum numbers: 25. Cost £25pp to include travel, tour of Heelis House and the Art Gallery and National Trust talks. Refreshments and lunch payable on the day of the visit.
Wednesday 13 December 2017, 10.30 – 12.30, Winchester Discovery Centre
Collecting and Curating
Illustrated seminar by Dr Victoria Preston
The author Rupert Christiansen described opera as “the grand obsession”, but I think that this could equally apply to art. Collecting has a long history. Early travellers put together their Cabinet of Curiosities – a mixture of art, nature and artefacts – an approach which became the precursor of the modern museum. We are all natural curators in the way in which we arrange objects in our homes. What happens when we bring the aspirations of private collectors together with museum quality artworks? My talk looks at how great art collections are built: how individuals’ tastes may be shaped to acquire works that reflect their desires, are correctly priced and historically significant. I will examine the pitfalls of buying art and how best to ensure authenticity and impeccable provenance. I will explore issues of condition and conservation, and how scientific analysis can be used to create a unique “passport for art”, making it almost impossible for the work to be replicated.
I will reveal how to curate a group of objects into a homogeneous collection, creating a context and a storyline in the process, and finally how to enhance the collection’s value through art historical research and lending to museums.
This seminar will be followed by the WAHG Christmas Party.