© Lynne Gibson 2015





The Arts Society


Formerly The National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies


Through a vibrant network of local societies, The arts Society opens up the world of arts to everyone. With monthly lectures on a broad range of topics as well as study days, educational visits and holidays at home and abroad, a NADFAS society is not just a great way to learn - it's a fun way of making new and lasting friendships. For more information call 020 7430 0730 or e-mail enquiries@nadfas.org.uk

Below are synopses of the NADFAS lectures offered.  Please refer to the Diary page for dates of bookings.


How to Look at Art


Would you like to develop your confidence in looking at Art? Do you want to discuss your opinions with insight? Put away the head-phones, take your nose out of the catalogue and discover a strategy for looking at Art.
The strategy is a flexible approach to interpreting any piece of art work, giving you the confidence to become an active, rather than a passive, viewer. It is a tool for life: simple and effective.
We will put it into practice by looking at a range of works from across the history of Western Art. Your questions and observations will be welcomed and encouraged.
This lecture is a must for anyone interested in visiting galleries, exhibitions and art museums. It will, quite simply, help you to ‘see’ more! Learn to trust your own eyes, and enjoy Art to the full.







Understanding Abstract Art

Do you ask yourself any of these questions: What is Abstract Art? Why does it look so different from conventional Art? How can I interpret it? Can anyone – even a chimpanzee - do it?
Why are there so many all-white and all-black paintings in 20th Century art? Why did Mondrian adore masking tape and Jackson Pollock ‘splash and drip’? Why was Rothko so full of “tragedy, ecstasy and doom”?
We will ask: what is meant by Organic and Geometric Abstraction, Gestural and Colour-field Painting, Op Art and Minimalism, but discover that many of these terms were dreamt up by critics and baffled even the artists!
It is often said that Abstract Art is not a style but a state of mind. Come and explore some of the ideas and emotions in key works from Kasemir Malevich to Bridget Riley.





From Encaustic to Acrylic: How Paint Made Art

When you look at a painting, what do you see? A view, a portrait, something abstract maybe? It is, of course, nothing of the sort: just an illusion made from a skin of paint!
Buon fresco allowed artists to decorate the vast new Christian basilicas, Renaissance palaces and civic halls. Tough egg tempera was ideal for altar panels. Rich gouache was the perfect paint for illuminations on vellum and paper.
Without oils the Mona Lisa would not be mysterious, without modern manufacturing processes Impressionism would never have existed, and Jackson Pollock could not have ‘splashed and dripped’ without industrial car paints.
By examining some key works from Western Art history we will discover the important role materials and their techniques play in our understanding and enjoyment of Art.

Tricks of the Light: The Illusion of Light and Shadow in Western Art

The modern fashion for colour has left us all rather ‘tone blind’. But from antiquity through to the nineteenth century tone was often the most important property of a painting.
Leonardo invented Sfumato. Caravaggio embraced Chiaroscuro. The Tenebrists depicted a world of shadows. A favourite device used by Constable and Corot was a small black convex mirror! Twilight often was referred to as ‘the painter’s hour’.
Shading, together with perspective, can offer a convincing illusion of solidity and space. But how can the artist create this illusion? And why was the invention of oil paint so vital for the creation of realistic light effects?
We explore a wide range of paintings from across the history of Art to discover some tricks of the light.

But … is it Art?

If this question gives you food for thought you have plenty in common with artists, thinkers and educators, not just in our present time but throughout Western Art History.
Plato was one of the first to agonise over the question!
The question can seem particularly pressing now that anything, and everything, seems to go! We agree that a Raphael Madonna is Art, but argue about Tracey Emin’s My Bed. Can they both be Art, and, if so, what do they have in common? Is My Bed Conceptual Art or just a ‘con’?
Can we agree on a definition of Art, or are we at the mercy of Nicholas Penny, Nick Serota and Charles Saatchi? Join me to shake up some preconceptions and face up to some prejudices; to ask: But…is it Art?

What is Modern Art?

Why is Modern Art so different from anything since the Renaissance? Why did Modern Art happen? What are the artists trying to say? How do I know if the art works are good, or if the artist can even draw? Why are there so many different styles, so many ‘isms?
Does a visit to the Tate Modern leave you asking yourself these questions?
Whilst we can blame some of the confusion on Marcel Duchamp and Picasso, artists are only part of the picture. We shall look at the developments in Modern Art within the context of unprecedented change in Europe: political, social, industrial and technological.
Join me to discover why challenging times have given us exciting, perplexing and challenging Art!

Culture and Kitsch: Art and Taste

Tracey Emin reveals her dirty knickers and crumpled sheets, Damien Hirst pickles fish and directs pop videos, Jeff Koons stars in naughty photographs and designs giant floral puppies. What has happened to Art? Surely Raphael, Rembrandt and Reynolds would be turning in their graves!
Is high-brow culture ‘dumbing down’ or is art becoming gloriously democratic; embracing consumerism, the mass media and kitsch?
Perhaps, it is all just a game of self-consciously sophisticated irony!
If you are worried that your visits to the latest Courtauld exhibition brand you ‘elitist’, or, conversely, if you are secret hoarder of garden gnomes, this lecture will offer some insights into the politically in-correct world of Culture, Fine Art and Taste.

Artists and the Landscape: The Development of Landscape Painting in the West

Landscape is such a popular theme that it is hard to imagine a time it did not exist. Yet Western artists have struggled to make it an acceptable subject. Henry Fuseli just grumbled that all he thought about in front of one of Constable’s paintings was running for his great coat and umbrella!
In the Middle Ages it barely featured in European art. During the Renaissance it was just a backdrop. But Dutch, British, then French, artists brought landscape into its own: idealised, pastoral, romantic, rural, impressionistic and sublime!
It is still as popular as ever, but hardly wins the Turner Prize. What has happened to Landscape Art in our age of urban living and environmental anxiety?
This lecture will trace the relationship between artists and the landscape through Western Art.

Women in Art: Virgin, Venus or 'Vamp'?

Traditional Art History has regarded the painted female as an ‘object’. She is to be gazed at, admired and owned.
This easily can be explained: most artists have been men, most collectors of Art have been men, and the academic subject of Art History has been dominated by men. An unbalanced view is hardly surprising!
In the early 1970’s feminist historians began to explore how Fine Art has reflected, and even contributed to, a patriarchal ideology. Art and Art History have undergone massive changes.
We will explore some ideals of womanhood: the Virgin, the pure wife and loving mother. Also some warnings: Venus, Eve and the ‘fallen’ woman!
This lecture will explore how we can re-interpret a wide range of images of women from the Renaissance through to the present century.

Women in Art: Artists, Gentileschi to Emin

Until the 1970’s an Art History student could well believe there were no women artists in the entire history of Western Art. None appeared in key texts H.W. Janson’s The History of Art (1963) nor Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art (original ed. 1950).
Is this because there were none?
Some brave Feminist Art Historians attempted to rewrite the ‘canon’. It was not an easy task! Were there any great women artists? If so, where was the evidence? Where were the art works? Were they correctly attributed? Did they even utilize techniques, or depict subjects, acceptable as Fine Art?
Research over the past few decades has changed the subject of Art History and the Art we see in galleries and museums.
This lecture will discover Old Mistresses and look at contemporary women artists: from Gentileschi to Emin.

Colour and the Artist's Palette: Seeing Red

Red is the colour of love and lust, royalty and ceremony, anger and danger, worn by scarlet women and the Madonna.
The brightest crimson dye came from the blood of an exotic insect. According to Pliny the fieriest red pigment was created by the combined blood of a feuding elephant and dragon!
Turner chose Iodine Scarlet for the setting sun in his Fighting Temeraire. But the most vivid reds were often frustratingly fugitive. It had faded before reaching the wall of the Royal Academy.
Where does the saying ‘Caught red handed’ come from? Why is scarlet not always red? Why did alizarin crimson become a political hot potato? And why is red a favourite of fast-food outlets?
Join me in this lecture to ‘See Red’!

Colour and the Artist's Palette: Feeling Blue

Blue is the colour of heavenly skies and the Virgin’s gown. It is the haze of distant mountains. It is spiritual and moody.
Bright royal purple was the dye reserved for the Roman Senate. Woad was the people’s dye: cheap and not particularly cheerful. Ultramarine was the most prized pigment on the artist’s palette, imported from the Himalayas, costlier than gold.
Modern chemistry brought inexpensive strong blues to all palettes, and Queen Victoria popularized mauve dye for fashionable dresses. The French artist Yves Klein patented his own ‘Spiritual Absolute’ in 1960!
From mysterious Tyrian purple, to luscious lapis-lazuli, cost-cutting azurite, to synthetic Prussian and cobalt we will discover the symbolism, science and psychology of ‘Feeling Blue’.

Colour and the Artist's Palette: The Peril of Yellow

Sunny yellow has, paradoxically, been the most poisonous colour on the artist’s palette. It’s happy, golden appearance belies the perils of using, and making, it. At worst, it has driven artists mad and cows to a painful death.
But yellow is not always golden sunlight and sunflowers. It is also the colour of treachery and cowardice. To Mondrian it symbolised the intellect, to Franz Marc femininity; to Kandinsky it just had to be a triangle!
Yellow has come into its own now as a ‘primary colour’, but modern aniline yellows left many Post Impressionist paintings a drab brown version of their original vibrant selves.
From costly gold to deathly orpiment, fetid Indian yellow to heavy metals, we will discover ‘The Peril of Yellow’.

The Art of Seduction


This lecture was originally written as a special request for Valentine's day, but will add some romance to your lecture programme on any day of the year.

Seduction has been one of the enduring themes of art since Eve seduced Adam.
Courtly love blossomed in manuscripts and miniatures of the Middle Ages and the Italian Renaissance offered painters an Olympian cast of amorous gods and goddesses. Puritanical Dutch and prudish Victorians tutted over the loose morals of fallen women. Rococo artists revelled in the flirtatious fun of Fêtes
Galantes and Belle Époque 'Gay Paree' flaunted the Femme Fatale.
But in our permissive society has the 'Battle of the Sexes' killed the spirit of romance? I do hope not! Join me to celebrate the theme of love and courtship, through paintings from the Age of Chivalry to the Modern Age, in The Art of Seduction.

Double Dutch: Symbols, Emblems and 'Double-entendre' in Dutch Genre Painting

The merchants of seventeenth century Holland filled their town houses with paintings. A favourite subject was scenes of everyday life: depicting behaviour both good .... and bad.

But these upright Calvinist citizens rejected Catholic Baroque melodrama. They wanted nothing to alarm the in-laws, offend the guests or corrupt the children. Instead, innocent objects hint at adult themes: lap dogs and plucked chickens, lutes and virginals, oysters and artichokes, foot warmers and bed warmers.

This is a world of subtle hints and double-entendre, spoken through a language of symbols, emblems and motifs.

Join me to explore the hidden meanings in everyday scenes - and become a fluent reader of 'Double Dutch'!