Wednesday June 16, 2021

Stephen is an accredited lecturer of The Arts Society (formerly NADFAS), and has given talks to many other organisations including: U3A, Probus, WEA and the National Trust.  He is proud to have undertaken an extensive lecture tour of Australia in 2016 and welcomes enquiries from any organisation concerned with promotion of culture and the arts.
The talks outlined below can be for either 45 minute or 60 minute duration, and can be modified to allow time for questions if desired. These are Powerpoint presentations for which all equipment can be supplied. Click on a title for further information:


A Voluptuary Under the Horrors of Digestion?

Prinny and the Excesses of Regency Period Style


The Regency period is regarded as an era of great contrasts - of wealth and poverty; of radical political developments and extremes of taste, both good and bad. Its eponymous figurehead, the extravagant George Frederick, Prince of Wales, Prince Regent and ultimately King George IV, cut a fashionable dash as a young man and was in the vanguard of new developments in architecture, decorative style and art collecting. Always criticised for his profligacy, the political responsibilities of the throne proved a heavy burden and his popularity declined as his weight and self-indulgence moved in the opposite direction. Known as Prinny to his friends, he was often the target of caricaturists and other political enemies (the title of this talk is drawn from this typically vicious work by Gillray).


Opening with a look at Carlton House, the Prince's palatial residence off Pall Mall, the talk then explores the many facets of Regency architecture, interior decoration and furnishing. Heavily influenced by Romanticism and Exoticism, the sheer variety of styles will be a surprise to many and provide a fascinating insight to the period.

Burlington House and the History of The Royal Academy of Arts

Burlington House in London’s Piccadilly has been the home of The Royal Academy of Arts since 1868.  Although the Academy was already 100 years old when it took up residence, it is not commonly known that the building has a long and fascinating history of its own.

This talk focuses on the origins of Burlington House, from construction in the 1660's for a courtier to King Charles ll; re-fashioning as a Palladian mansion for Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington; its association with architects and artists such as William Kent and Sebastiano Ricci; further re-development by the Cavendish family during the Regency period, and its ultimate role as the home of the United Kingdom's leading 'Society for promoting the Arts of Design'.

The talk also examines the reasons behind the founding of the Royal Academy, it's own early history and its olympian era during the time of eminent Victorian artists such as Leighton, Millais and Frith.  This subject has proved very popular and has a particular resonance as the Academy celebrated its 250th anniversary, and opened its spectacular new extension in 2018.

From Restoration to Regency - English Period Styles in Art: Part I

The Return of the Kings (1660-1760)


This talk considers fashionable living in the time of Charles II, through the Baroque splendour of the later Stuart court to the Palladian grandeur and frivolous Rococo of the early Hanoverian kings. Illustrated with examples of historic buildings and objects from the Victoria & Albert Museum, it sets period style in context, charting the evolution from one style to another and identifying key characteristics, influences and personalities.

From Restoration to Regency - English Period Styles in Art: Part II

A Fascination with the Antique(1760-1840)


Continuing the story from Part I, this talk focuses on the two great movements of the late 18th and early 19th century - Neo Classicism and the Regency. Inspired by the discoveries of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the rebirth of classicism was to replace Rococo as the new fashion, but with an emphasis on taste and academic understanding. This was the dazzling age of innovators such as Robert Adam and Josiah Wedgwood.  


The talk also touches on rival movements such as the Gothic revival of Horace Walpole, before concluding with the Regency, itself informed by classicism, but a period characterised by its excesses, variety and exoticism.  Illustrated with examples of historic buildings and objects from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the talk sets period style in context, charting the evolution from one style to another and identifying key characteristics, influences and personalities.

Andrea Palladio: A Renaissance Architect and the Palladian Legacy

Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) was one of the most celebrated architects of the Renaissance, so important that the term Palladian has been applied to a particular style of architecture which adheres to classical concepts. The widespread Palladian style was partly due to the private and public buildings he constructed in Italy, particularly in Venice and the neighbouring Veneto. These designs were copied throughout  Europe and proved so influential that by the 18th century Palladianism was effectively taken up in Great Britain as a national style, a political device used to drive out the ostentatious Baroque.


This talk examines the origins of Palladio's style, referencing the ancient Rome of Vitruvius and illustrating those public and private buildings that brought Palladio such fame. Attention then turns to his legacy and its impact on the rest of Europe and North America, particularly in the work of other leading designers such as Inigo Jones, Lord Burlington and James Hoban.

Peer, Politician & Plenipotentiary:

Charles Lennox, Third Duke of Richmond, as a Francophile Patron of the Arts

This talk explores the artistic temperament and collection of one of the eighteenth century’s greatest patrons of the arts. Looking at the unique duality of his family background, it examines the impetus behind Richmond’s collection of French porcelain, tapestry, furniture and other art works, together with his attitude to architecture and interior decoration.
Charles Lennox, Third Duke of Richmond (1735-1806), was a man of great energy and vision. In the world of the arts he was an innovator and always at the cutting edge of fashion.
The descendant of an illegitimate son of Charles II and his French mistress, Louise de Keroualle, the Duke was brought up a patriotic Englishman, but with a strong sense of his French ancestry. Developing an interest in the arts and sciences at an early age, he went on to create a collection that was unparalleled in its day for authenticity and originality. Numerous examples are drawn upon to illustrate the evolution of the collection, much of which is extant at Goodwood House, the Duke’s country seat.
A frustrating political career was temporarily interrupted by Richmond’s appointment as Ambassador and Minister Plenipotentiary to France in 1765.  This experience was pivotal to his attitude to art patronage, and comparison with the activities of other ambassadors of the period helps to illustrate his own individual style.

Robert Adam, 'Athenian' Stuart & William Chambers:

Three British Architects at the Dawn of Neo-Classicism



In the middle of the eighteenth century three young men who were to become legends in the world of architecture were studying in Rome. Drawn by a desire to study the ancient world, their timing was impeccable as they witnessed the early stirrings of a new movement in classical style that was to sweep Europe. Inspired by the discoveries of Pompeii and Herculaneum, Neo-Classicism was to become the dominant force in architectural style for the next forty years.



Each of these young men were to follow their own paths into the Pantheon of great British architects, Robert Adam by the brilliance of his highly original designs; James Stuart for his depictions of the ruins of Athens and Sir William Chambers as architect to the king and leading figure at the newly founded Royal Academy.




This talk explores their early adventures and charts their rise to fame, highlighting key elements of their styles and giving examples of their work, both in terms of their skills as interior designers and also their great accomplishments in the world of architecture.

Pugin, Burges and Mackintosh: An 'I - Spy' Guide to Victorian Period Style

This talk is effectively a sequel to the two part 'Restoration to Regency' and explores developments in architecture, interior decoration and furnishing during the Victorian era. Opening with the scholarly Gothic Revival of AWN Pugin and his brilliant follower William Burges, and concluding with the art nouveau of designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the talk features other leading personalities such as Ruskin, de Morgan, Morris and Whistler to illustrate the great variety and creativity of the Victorian era.

The title's rather oblique pun on 20th century double agents is an attempt at humour on my behalf, but if you have read this far then perhaps it has worked!

William Powell Frith, RA: A Private View of a Victorian Painter

This talk concerns the leading Victorian artist William Powell Frith, painter of celebrated panoramas of modern life. These large canvasses, crowded with figures and incidents and portraying people from all walks of life, were a sensation in their day and his work 'Derby Day' remains popular today. 

 Frith was born in Harrogate, Yorkshire in 1819 and from an early age displayed a precocious talent for painting. Perhaps surprisingly for the time, he was encouraged by his family to train as an artist and in 1835 he was packed off to London to study under a succession of tutors - even more of a surprise to Frith, as he wanted to become an auctioneer!

As a young artist he became an acquaintance of Charles Dickens and his early successes included work for the author depicting characters from his novels. Very much a traditionalist, he was always at odds with new movements in art. This was somewhat in contrast with his complex personal life in which he fathered many children and openly lived with his mistress whilst maintaining two families.


The talk culminates with an examination of what is perhaps the artists most fascinating work   A Private View at the Royal Academy, 1881 - a satirical work targeting fashion and high society in Victorian London.

Talks Page