LECTURES 2019-20


The Arts Society, Leeds, hosts a programme of lectures given by some of the country’s top experts on a wide range of subjects including architecture, social history, and the work of artists and designers. Find out more about upcoming lectures.

All our lectures take place in Castle Grove Hall, Castle Grove Drive, Headingley, Leeds LS6 4BP. They begin at 2 p.m. and finish at or just after 3 p.m. The hall is equipped with an audio loop for the hard-of-hearing. There is ample parking and a ramp for wheelchair access at the hall. There is a comfortable bar, and sandwiches are available before the lecture.

Membership costs £50 per annum. All lectures are free to members. To join, please complete and return a membership enrolment form (available at the membership desk before each meeting). Alternatively, you can download and complete an online enrolment form and return it to the Membership Secretary at the desk, or follow the email instructions on the form. If you have any queries, please email membership@theartssocietyleeds.org .

Non-members are welcome to attend for a fee of £7 per lecture.


18 September 2019
Dr John Stevens: Portraits of the Maharanis

16 October 2019
Ross King: Wild men of the North: Tom Thompson and the Group of Seven

 20 November 2019
David Bostwick: Deck the Hall – Yuletide Customs and Traditions

20 January 2020
Nicholas Merchant: Private Palaces of the Côte d’Azur

19 February 2020:
Jacqueline Cockburn: Picasso and his Muses

18 March 2020
Lydia Bauman:Painting the modern garden: Monet to Matisse

15 April 2020
Julia Musgrave: Cezanne and Van Gogh: death as a career move

20 May 2020
Chris Alexander: A Carpet Ride to Khiva: revival of 15th century carpet designs

17 June 2020
Simon Seligman: Debo Mitford , Duchess of Devonshire




The Maharajahs and Maharanis of India were semi-independent rulers, responsible for governing territories that were outside the direct control of the British Empire. They fascinated the British public, and functioned as powerful symbols of ‘exotic India’.This lecture draws on an extensive collection of portraits and photographs of Indian Maharanis. These images, and the costumes worn by the women they depict, are stunning works of art in their own right. They are also some of the earliest images of Indian women that portray them as powerful, dignified and educated figures. This lecture brings these beautiful portraits to life with insights into the lives and memoirs of the Maharanis themselves, along with a broader view of the role they played in the British Empire.

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. He publishes widely in the fields of British and Indian history. His biography of the Indian guru Keshab Chandra Sen was due to be published by Hurst in 2018. He appears regularly in the Indian media, and was recently a guest on BBC Radio Four’s In Our Time, discussing the poet and artist Rabindranath Tagore.

16 OCTOBER 2019



In 1924 an exhibition in London of Canadian landscapes moved the critic C. Lewis Hind to celebrate them as ‘the most vital group of paintings produced since the war—indeed, this century’. These landscapes of Canada’s northern lakes and rugged backwoods, painted in a boldly Post-Impressionist style, had been produced over the previous decade by a collective of Toronto-based painters known as the ‘Group of Seven’, whose aim was to forge a national school of landscape painting. This illustrated lecture introduces the painters—including their talismanic colleague Tom Thomson, who died in 1917—and examines how they stormed the conservative bastions of Canadian art to establish themselves on the international stage as practitioners of a distinctive avant-garde.

Ross King is the author of eight books on Italian, French and Canadian art and history. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he has won both the Governor General’s Award in Canada and the BookSense Non-Fiction Book of the Year in the United States. Born and raised in Canada, he has lived in England since 1992. He has lectured widely in both North America and Europe, and given lectures and guided tours in Florence, Rome, Milan, Paris and Giverny.

20 NOVEMBER 2019



Christmas, as a time of celebrations, has a very long pedigree. The great midwinter festival, known to the Romans as Saturnalia, is still greeted with feasting and drinking throughout the 12 days of Christmas. Wassail bowls and bobs, boars’ heads stuck with apples, carolling, mumming, riotous games in hall – all presided over by the Lord of Misrule. Twelfth Night signalled an end to the merry anarchy with great pies and rich fruit cakes concealing a bean and a pea. Using contemporary illustrations, this lecture explores the sources and significance of these ancient customs and traditions.

Lecturer and consultant in the Cultural History of the Medieval, Tudor and Stuart periods. Specialist in medieval imagery and interior furnishings and decoration 1400-1700. Tour leader. Former Keeper of the Social History
Collections, Sheffield City Museums. Lecture tours to USA and Australia. Consultant on historic buildings and their interpretation to the National Trust, English Heritage and Historic Scotland.

20 JANUARY 2020



Until promoted in the 19th century by a go-ahead Lord Chancellor of England, the South of France (it did not acquire the title Côte d’Azur util the 1920s) was something of a no-go area with little to offer the tourist except banditry, hovels and appalling roads. Lord Brougham saw a different side to it, notably its delicious winter climate, and soon the coast saw an influx of the fashionable, aristocratic and wealthy from all over Europe, Russia and America. Many built villas of amazing magnificence, originality and indulgence and gave the coast a reputation for luxury, sensuality and a douceur de vie which was the antithesis of the snow-laden, smog-ridden winters of Northern Europe. Perhaps the first tourist resort.

Nicholas Merchant’s career has mirrored his abiding interest in antiques. He has worked for some of the major auction houses in London as well as running his own book business devoted to the decorative and fine arts. His particular interest is English 18th century furniture and country houses; he enjoys discussing objects, particularly in their historical context. He lectures extensively in the USA, South Africa, Europe and UK, including the V&A, as well as for the principal cruise lines. He is the Art Fund’s West Yorkshire Representative. He arranges specialist short breaks for collectors and a range of prestigious clients including groups of The Arts Society who enjoy visiting the treasures of the UK.

19 FEBRUARY 2020



When Picasso met the seventeen-year-old Marie Therese Walter outside a department store in Paris in 1927 it was L’Amour Fou. Together over a decade and far longer in his thoughts she was one of his greatest muses in many ways. This lecture considers her roles as clandestine muse, phallic muse, trapped muse, sleeping muse and charts his inspired work leading up to the Spanish Civil war.

Jacqueline Cockburn is a linguist and art historian, with first degrees in French and Spanish and Art History, an MA in Applied Linguistics and a PhD in Art History and Spanish. She is now Managing Director of an art tour company. She is currently publishing a book called A Taste of Art.

18 MARCH 2020



The magnificent Royal Academy exhibition of 2016 opened the public’s eyes to the extent to which artists loved to cultivate their own gardens and how they were in turn inspired by them to create experimental work. We will trace the parallel developments in the history of gardening and the history of modern art from the Impressionism of Monet, Renoir, Pissaro and Morissot in the late 19th century, to the near abstractions of Matisse and Kandinsky in the 20th.

Lydia Bauman was born in Poland and studied for her BA in Fine Art at University of Newcastle- upon-Tyne (John Christie Scholarship and the Hatton Award), and an MA in History of Art from Courtauld Institute, London, (19th-20th century art – Distinction for thesis on Matisse’s Illustrations to Poetry). She lectured to diverse adult audiences, notably in London’s National Gallery and MFA Boston USA. Her book on Great Themes in Art is being considered for publication by Merrell Books for worldwide distribution.

15 APRIL 2020



Van Gogh and Cézanne made little impact on the public mind during their lifetimes – the British art world remained in thrall to the academic art of the nineteenth century and the French and British Impressionists. Both were rebels with art as their cause – Van Gogh painted quickly, exploiting the power of vibrant colour to express his emotions. Cézanne’s analytical approach led him to ponder each and every brush-stroke. Neither sold much in their lifetime – only their artist friends appreciated the changes they brought into being. This lecture looks at how the work of Van Gogh and Cézanne went from unsold to blockbuster in the early years of the 20th century because a few brave, but important art dealers and critics decided to sponsor them posthumously.

Julia Musgrave’s first degree was in Chemical Engineering and she went on to become a Chartered Information Systems Engineer and IT project manager. In 2008 she decided that life was too short for just one career and decided to become an art historian.
She now has a Graduate Diploma in the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art and an MLitt in ‘Art, Style and Design: Renaissance to Modernism, c.1450 – c.1930’ from the University of Glasgow. She is currently working towards her Ph.D. at the University of York on the involvement of Roger Fry and the Bloomsbury Group in the development of the Contemporary Art Society from 1910 to 1937. She is a lecturer in Art History at the City Literary Institute (City Lit).

20 MAY 2020



This is a narrative approach to the revival of 15th century carpet designs from illuminated manuscripts in Khiva, a desert oasis in Uzbekistan. Illuminations on vellum – containing the only surviving representations of textiles from this era – flourished, despite the Islamic prohibition on representative art. The lecture will examine the traditional role of carpet weaving and embroidery in the social lives of Central Asian women and how social and political influences led to the decline of textile production. How do the constraints of gender-inequality, corruption and the sourcing of natural dyes from neighbouring Afghanistan continue to challenge attempts at reviving the rich textile heritage of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand?

Chris Alexander was born in Turkey (hence his middle name: Aslan) and spent his childhood there and in war-torn Beirut. After school, Chris spent two years at sea before studying Media and journalism at Leicester University. He then 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 Finchley, and author of Alabaster and Manacle. He returns to Central Asia whenever he can and conducts tours there.

19 JUNE 2020



Deborah Devonshire, the youngest of the Mitford sisters and wife of the 11th Duke of Devonshire, was hefted by marriage to one of Europe’s greatest treasure houses, Chatsworth. In the second half of the 20th century, in partnership with her husband, she imbued it with a spirit, elegance and sense of welcome that transformed it from being the worn-out survivor of decades of taxation, war and social change into one of the best-loved, most-emulated and popular historic houses, gardens and estates in the country. With responsibility for Lismore Castle and Bolton Abbey as well, no wonder her passport stated her profession as ‘housewife’.
Along the way, she became a best-selling author and sell-out speaker, champion of the countryside, its skills, traditions, livelihoods and food, trustee and patron of numerous charities, businesses and good causes, and the most famous poultry keeper in the country. She met Hitler and Churchill, was a trusted confidante of the Prince of Wales, played her part as the steady heart of the Mitford sisters’ melodrama and was friends with a dazzling array of some of the brightest and most fascinating of her contemporaries, including President Kennedy, Evelyn Waugh, Oscar de la Renta, John Betjeman, Lucian Freud, Tom Stoppard, Neil MacGregor, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Alan Bennett.
She said herself that charm was the hardest quality to describe in another person; hers lived in her unique turn of phrase, her stoic Mitfordian perspective on life’s challenges, her curiosity about everyone she met, her stylish beauty, quick wit and delight in all that life offered her. Debo had a lasting impact not just on Chatsworth but on everything she touched and everyone she met; I was lucky enough to work for and with her over more than 20 years and in this lecture I pay tribute to an astonishing life.

Simon Seligman studied art and architectural history at Warwick University, including a semester in Venice. Also Graduate of the Attingham Summer school. From 1991 until 2010, worked at Chatsworth, in a variety of roles, latterly as Head of Communications. Has lectured about Chatsworth, the Devonshire Collection and associated topics, throughout the UK and on several US tours (including the Metropolitan Museum and the National Gallery of Art). Gave numerous public presentations and interviews with the late Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. Publications include written or edited guidebooks and articles for and about Chatsworth.