A New Look

One hour lectures fully supported by Powerpoint slideshows and video. Fact filled and superbly illustrated these lectures are designed to be both informative and entertaining.
Titles below LINK to lecture details - - which will appear immediately below this type block.

- Man's Best Friends in Art & History: Cats & Dogs - 2 lectures
- Man's Strength for 35,000 years: The Horse in Art & History - 1 lecture
- Art between the Covers: Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts - 2 lectures
- Flower Power in Life, Art and History - 1 lecture
- Poetry & Readings, or Made to Order

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Man's Strength for 35,000 years: The Horse in Art & History

Caves at Lascaux

1 lecture

Man's shared existence with the horse extends over 35,000 years and one cannot help but wonder what we would have achieved without them. 

From the Ice Age to the present the horse has captivated man by his physical presence, beauty, speed and strength...and he has been present at almost every significant event of the past. 

Perhaps most significant is that horse figured so largely in the cave paintings and in carvings of exquisite beauty:  from our very beginnings, horse was an object of such admiration and awe he made of us an artist.

Our shared existence is told through events shared by humans and horses, both in fact and fiction, from the times of prehistory.   The beginning of the end came in the mid 1800s during the industrial revolution - and it was that other new invention, photography, that finally in the late 1800 settled a bet about a horse's trotting action and in 1878 the same photographer captured the real action of a gallop...finally racehorses in paintings looked like racehorses, and no longer like greyhounds.   By the end of this lecture we hope the audience will have gained a new appreciation for this extraordinary creature who served man so well for so long.

A last word:  the word "horsepower":  it was coined when machines began to replace their power and it is a word we still use today - but without a moment's thought as to its significance.   It would do us well to remember each time we say or read the word that it honours the horse's extraordinary power and contribution to man's history.

The Jockey ca 150 BC

"Skittles" a woman famous for her style on a horse...and elsewhere!

Art between the Covers: Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts

2 Lectures

How to contain a thousand years of work into one hour?   Impossible!   Hopefully the introductory video presentation (ca 18 mins with voice over) will ease the audience into an appreciation of the subject through a selection of manuscripts, their illuminations and their possible symbolism.  Sadly what no camera or film can show is the brilliant gleam and lustre of the gilding - what seems yellow or burned gold on the screen in real life glows voluptuously, and as the page tunrs flashes and shimmers in the light!  It is so glorious it is almost unseemly!

The Medieval Manuscript is assembled in a format called a codex, with a cover and pages just like the books we know now.   Gathered between these covers from around 4-500 BC was the knowledge of the world - not just religious texts - and it was manuscripts that carried this knowledge to the four corners of the world, introducing literacy into places where no lettered page had ever been seen before.  If the supremely portable codex format had not been invented one so wonders how much time it would taken for the world to become literate.

Whether religious in content or not, the illuminations range from beautiful (as in the image at the top of this post) to extraordinary rampant displays of dragons, people, animals and strange beings in a topsy-turvy world that threatens man with the devil, apocalypse and disorder.   It was a very upsetting world!

These manuscripts have only recently become accessible through digitisation.  The illuminations are difficult to comprehend, so rude and bumptious they seem to contradict the religious text usually on page, so its somewhat of a relief to know scholars too say how difficult it is to comprehend how the medieval mind perceived them.   A little conjecture is acceptable, they say, but with a reminder that often the incomprehensible was MEANT to be so, reflecting as it did the mystery of God.

Despite that much of the art is wonderfully accessible, images of the routines of life and work;  a reminder that people lived, loved, played music, danced and enjoyed a good joke - just like us.


Flower Power in Life, Art and History

From the Huth Hours Manuscript

1 Lecture

The power of flowers in botanical fact is awesome:  think of how their power to 'be' and 'recreate' can push sidewalks apart!  And yet at the same time the beauty of their flowers can mesmerise man.   It does you well to have respect for flowers!

Their origins lie in a time when the world's continents were one - that's fact!  However the convoluted fictional Greek origin myths deserve a look, as does the power they achieved as symbols for monarchy and royalty.   In Medieval times a language of flowers existed that was mostly associated with religious references or courtly values...and in Victorian times the language adapted, changed and grew ever more complex.  Again on a factual botanical basis the story of Linnaeus and his "sexual ordering" of plants deserves attention, most especially the delighted response with which it met!  Only the British Encyclopedia got huffy and offended.  Tsk tsk,"No sex please, we're British!"

In the final segment an in depth look at "The Tulip, a Story of Conquest":  how tulips were revered by the Ottomans, how they ravished Europe during the Age of Discovery, how a freak virus created the blooms that resulted in an economic debacle in Holland...and how tulips are perceived today.

Jacob Marrell

Man's Best Friends in Art & History: Cats & Dogs

Assyrian - a dog is featured on the handle

 Van Dyck

2 lectures cover the same topic with different material.

For thousands of years cats and dogs have been at our side...or lying on the bed...or in front of the fire so here is an opportunity to appreciate them better!  

These lectures delve into our fondness for cats and dogs over the centuries;  the how and why of their appearance in artwork, or with certain humans; and the sentiment or symbolism that they portray - which is sometimes obvious, sometimes mysterious and sometimes it's as if the artist is painting a private joke - hmm.  

You'll meet critters whose fame is their master or mistress and those who have aided man in times of great danger, showing extraordinary loyalty and bravery - cats too are amongst those heroes.  

The stories are multiple, the images come from artists across the ages. They will give you a new appreciation of our best friends who have so faithfully been at our side for such a very time...


Poetry & Readings, Made to Order


Poetry and readings designed to entertain!   

Presentations are lively, the poems ranging from wildly humorous to the softly serious.   Most from well known poets or authors...and some my own.   

I like to put together a selection that would seem appropriate for your audience and/or an upcoming special day or event - such as Christmas, New Year, Valentine's or Mother or Fathers' Day.  

Made to Order events are uniquely created for a special occasion, containing a variety of music and video clips, selected and edited to amuse and entertain.   

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nov 12th At West One

Fabulous showing, great audience - thank you everyone!

The program included

*  Video introducing illumination styles

*  an in depth look at Les Tres Riche Heures de Jean, Duc de Berri - one of the most extraordinary manuscripts of the high Middle Ages created between 1410 and 1415.   

The manuscript is first introduced in the video showing the illumination below which is for the month of April.   As was one of the traditional April scenes, it shows young lovers and references the betrothal of Charles, Duc d'Orleans. and Bonne, grand-daughter of the Duc de Berri.

As told in the video, they were betrothed in 1410 when Bonne was but 11*, and married a few years later - shortly before the catastrophe of Agincourt on 25th October 1415 when Charles was captured and then held prisoner (for ransom) by the English for 24 years.   A poet, he is said to have written the first known Valentine poem** for his wife Bonne, who died before his return.   A copy of the poem is below.

*The illumination is a stylised 'memory' or 'reference' to the event, thus both Charles and Bonne appear older.  Betrothal at a young age was the norm, especially for those of noble blood.   Charles was only 16 at the time and yet this was already his second betrothal/marriage.   They would not have married until Bonne was 14. 

**Valentine poem to Bonne
written whilst he was a captive of the English
                         with apologies, adapted from the French so as to encompass his intent.
                                       The English version in Google is a very literate translation.

                                               I am worn and ache with love,
                                               My very gentle Valentine,
                                               Since for me you were born too soon,
                                               And I for you was born too late.
                                               God forgive he who has parted
                                               Me from you for this whole year.

                                               I am worn and ache with love,
                                               My very gentle Valentine,
                                               For if then I had foreseen,
                                               Having this my destiny, my sweet,
                                               O, then how much greater love

                                               Wouldst thou have drawn from me.

Elsewhere he wrote of her "Ah! qu'il fait bon regarder, la gracieuse, bonne et belle!" - - "Ah! how good it is to watch her, graceful, kind, and beautiful!"

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Oct 23rd at Kensington Place

The Mad & Marvellous World of Medieval Manuscripts

Thank you to Kensington Place for such a fantastic and welcoming audience whose enthusiasm and interest was both inspiring and heartwarming.

The Program included

* a video on Medieval Manuscripts (see Video Links in PAGES segment, upper right)

* slide show presentation

      * a detailed look at both large and very, very small illuminations plus a variety 
        of the outrageous, the fascinating and the exotic.

      * in depth review of one of the earliest European Manuscripts, The Lindisfarne
        Gospels, an extraordinary example of Celtic insular art in a document 
        created ca 700.

Below the Lindisfarne Gospels, and the carpet page from St John's gospel, a superb example of the complex, intertwining designs typical of insular art - a spectacular, swirling mass of 87 birds.  Note one small segment highlighted - and enlarged in the 2nd image;  in the 3rd two birds have been 'extracted' from the mesh of design...and their size compared to...what else?!...a loony.   Note how delicately the fine details of their feet and claws are shown.