GAFAS Programme


Talks for the remainder of 2020 will be delivered online using Zoom.

If you would like a quick guide to using Zoom, take a look at our guide here. If you haven’t used Zoom before, we are providing an earlier meeting for you to get used to using the system – get in touch for details.

Members can connect to the Zoom meeting between 10:00am and 10:30am, on  the day of the talk. No connections will be allowed after 10:30am.

We have contacted all members for whom we have an email address. If you have not received an  email and would like to hear any of these talks, please contact us via the membership enquiry page. (Just name and email required)


September 23

Professor Lesley Miller is unable to give her talk at this time, but we look forward to welcoming her in a future programme.

To get us started with Zoom talks, one of our committee, John Rattenbury, will be giving an illustrated talk:

The Egyptian Sarcophagus of Pabasa in Kelvingrove Museum

One of the key highlights in Kelvingrove Museum. we will be taking a detailed look at the sarcophagus; the history of ancient Egypt at the time, the gods, the afterlife, who was Pabasa, and how it ended up in Glasgow.

October 14

A Hungarian Metropolis: Art and Culture in Budapest

Oct '20 Budapest

by Gavin Plumley

Writer, broadcaster, and historian of Central European culture

Budapest was formed in 1873 by the unification of Buda and Pest, situated on either side of the River Danube. The new capital was the focus of resurgent Hungarian nationalism, which found expression through lavish new buildings, the continent’s first underground railway and myriad paintings featuring specifically Hungarian subjects and locales. Meanwhile, in the countryside, composers Bartók and Kodály began to collect the music of their compatriots. Placing these endeavours in a historical context, this talk explores how the Hungarians came to understand national identity through cultural means.

Gavin Plumley is an acclaimed cultural historian, well known for his work on Central European music and culture during the 19th and 20th centuries. His writing can be found in in newspapers, magazines, and opera and concert programmes around the world. He has broadcast frequently on BBC radio, and has been the English-language commissioning editor for the Salzburg Festival since 2013. Gavin also lectures widely, and we are delighted to welcome him back to GAFAS.

November 18

Les Parisiennes


by Anne Sebba

Award-winning British biographer, writer, lecturer and journalist.

To whet your appetite for Anne’s talk, click on this link:

This lecture is about women in wartime Paris, how they lived, loved and died under Nazi occupation. It is a story of resisters, collaborators, spies and couturiers: women who bought designer clothes and jewellery, while others starved or were tortured, many destined for the concentration camp of Ravensbruck – including the sister of Christian Dior, creator of the 1947 New Look. Their lives can now be revealed, along with some of the reasons for long silence, only now being broken.

Anne Sebba is a writer, lecturer, journalist and former Reuters foreign correspondent. In addition to Les Parisiennes, she has written nine other critically acclaimed books of non-fiction, mostly about iconic women such as Enid Bagnold, Mother Teresa, Wallis Simpson, and Jennie Churchill; her biography of Ethel Rosenberg will be published in 2021. Anne makes regular radio and television appearances, as well as lecturing to a broad spectrum of audiences.

[ The Bayeux Tapestry: the World’s Oldest Comic Strip, by Eveline Eaton, will be postponed to a later date ]

December 16

The Art of the Japanese Garden

Dec '20 Japanese Garden

by Professor Marie Conte-Helm OBE

Historian and lecturer on the arts and culture of Asia

The Japanese love of nature and the changing seasons has manifested itself in paintings, and in intimate and grand-scale gardens surrounding aristocratic palaces and Buddhist temples, as well as Zen-inspired dry landscape gardens with their striking symbolism. By looking at some of Japan’s most famous gardens, this lecture will illustrate the distinctive qualities that the Japanese have brought to garden design, an approach that has been successfully adapted to modern domestic settings and to Japanese gardens abroad.

Professor Marie Conte-Helm is a historian, author and lecturer specialising in the arts and culture of Asia. She has held senior academic positions at UK universities; most recently, she has served as Executive Director of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group, and Director General of the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation. Marie was awarded an OBE in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to UK-Japan educational and cultural relations. In 2019 she was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Government of Japan.


January 20

Aubrey Beardsley

Aubrey Beardsley self portrait (BM)

by Susan Owens


Aubrey Beardsley shot to fame with his daring illustrations to Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé. His supremely assured drawings, inspired by sources as diverse as Japanese prints, ancient Greek vase paintings and French Rococo art, subsequently came to define the 1890s. He lived life in a hurry, aware that he did not have long: he died of tuberculosis at just twenty-five. This lecture tells the story of Beardsley’s short life and brilliant work.

Dr Susan Owens is a historian and writer. Formerly Curator of Paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum, she has written or co-authored works on decadent interiors, natural history illustration, watercolours, drawings and self-portraits. Now freelance, Susan lives in Suffolk. Her most recent books include Spirit of Place: Artists, Writers and the British Landscape (2020), Christina Rossetti: Poetry in Art (2018) and The Ghost: A Cultural History (2017). She has also contributed to Aubrey Beardsley (2020), published to accompany the exhibition at Tate Britain.

February 17

The Guggenheims – a Dynasty of Art Collectors

Feb 21 Peggy Guggenheim

by Professor Andrew Hopkins

Historian and lecturer; former Assistant Director of the British School at Rome

The Guggenheim family amassed extraordinary art collections, and designed or acquired astounding buildings in which to display their art – to such an extent that their name even became a brand. This lecture examines the celebrated Guggenheim museums in New York, Venice and Bilbao, as well as the stunning works they display.

Formerly Assistant Director of the British School at Rome, Andrew Hopkins is an internationally recognised authority on cities and architecture. Having worked in cultural institutions such as the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and the Getty in Los Angeles, he has developed a particular interest in museum buildings, their founders, architects and collections.

March 17

Artist against the Establishment: Jacob Epstein ‘taking the brickbats for modern art’
March '21 - Jacob Epstein and Venus
by Evelyn Silber

Lecturer, author, and former Director of the Hunterian Museum

Blasphemous, obscene, barbaric, ugly…these were just a few of the epithets hurled at Jacob Epstein’s work. Yet all the works so vilified now have an honoured place in major public collections and Epstein is revered as a pioneer of modern sculpture in Britain. This talk will focus on some of the most controversial episodes, such as the 1930s carvings relegated to a sideshow in Blackpool before being rescued for Epstein’s Memorial Exhibition, which attracted over 100,000 visitors at the 1961 Edinburgh Festival.

Evelyn Silber is a former director of the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery and past Chair of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society. Now a freelance historian and writer, Evelyn has become an adopted native of Glasgow and lectures widely on the art and culture of the city. She is also the author of standard works on the sculpture of Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.

April 14

Heraldry and Antiquity:  Classical Dimensions in a Medieval Art Form
by Dr Clive Cheesman

Richmond Herald, College of Arms, London


Heraldry is all around us, a decorative vocabulary for art, architecture and literature. Its only real rival as an evergreen source of imagery is classical art. But have heraldry and classicism always been competitors? Between the 16th and 19th centuries, many attempts were made to bring them together – aesthetically, theoretically, or by inventively retelling history. This talk will concentrate on the more striking visual results of this campaign, when many-breasted Diana of the Ephesians could be roped in to support the coat of arms of an institution or a nobleman, while a suburban gentleman might display his family emblems on an antique ‘Thracian’ shield.


Clive Cheesman is Richmond Herald of Arms at H.M. College of Arms in London, the heraldic authority for England, Wales and Northern Ireland; he was previously a curator in the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum. Publications include The Armorial of Haiti (2007) and Rebels, Pretenders and Impostors (2000, with Jonathan Williams). For thirteen years he co-edited The Coat of Arms, the journal of the Heraldry Society. Clive was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 2012.

May 12

Midsummer Magic:  the Golden Age of Nordic Painting

May '21 Midsummer Magic

by Brian Healey

Artist and lecturer

Cloaked for months in snow or mist, it is only in summer that the more benign character of Norway, Denmark and Sweden is revealed, providing the inspiration behind the ravishing works of Nordic artists in the late 19th century. These painters adapted the style of impressionism to the limpid light of the Nordic climate, hauntingly beautiful in the long hours of summer. Midnight bonfires, moonlit walks and the midsummer dance are all favourite subjects for these artists, depicting a world of summer stillness and tradition just as it was about to be shattered by the firestorm of World War I.

Brian Healey has loved art since he was a toddler, when he first picked up the paintbrushes of his late father, himself an artist. Though later working as a teacher of foreign languages, Brian never stopped painting, and he has exhibited widely from Devon to the Lake District, with examples of his work acquired by private collectors all over the world. He also lectures extensively art history and related topics.

June 16

James Duncan of Benmore: a Remarkable Victorian Collector

June '21 James Duncan Benmore

by Andrew Watson

Chair of Art Department, The American School in England

This talk focuses on the Glasgow industrialist James Duncan (1834-1905): how he
emerged as one of the most important art collectors of the 19th century; how he built a magnificent picture gallery for his 300 artworks, including celebrated paintings by Raeburn, Corot, Delacroix and Renoir; and the circumstances surrounding the dispersal of the collection in the late 1880s, revealing why Duncan and his collection have been largely and undeservedly forgotten ever since.

An independent art historian, Dr Andrew Watson has lectured at the Burrell Collection,
National Gallery of Scotland, the Wallace Collection and Brussels National Museum. He has written for the journals of the Louvre and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Burlington Magazine. Andrew’s biography of James Duncan was published in 2010, and he has appeared on the BBC TV programme ‘Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs’ to discuss Duncan’s legacy.