14 April 2023


Impressionism in Stone – Claude Monet in Venice, 1908

Lecture by Sarah Quill

Venice, with its impressive architecture and canals, has always been a magnet for artists and this was especially true in the in the “Impressionist” period in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Sarah Quill, an art historian, and photographer, who has lived for many years in Venice, was able to give a very informative description of Monet’s only visit.

The city and its lagoon had been painted many times and Monet, 68 years old at the time, was initially reluctant to accept the invitation, feeling that he had little more to offer. This soon changed however once he began to sample the sights and explore its possibilities. There was just so much to draw his attention. Being almost excessively devoted to capturing the light, he would return again and again to the same location at the same time of day to work on his canvases. Sometimes this would involve sitting in a gondola in all weathers and across the seasons. Monet maintained that ‘it was only the surrounding atmosphere that gave objects real value’. He was always conscious of the need to appeal to his collectors, even to the extent of modifying the view for aesthetic reasons, such as including the collapsed Campellini Tower in his view of the Ducal Palace. He stayed with his wife, Alice Hoschedé, at the Palazzo Barbaro, on the Grand Canal, for much of the visit, enjoying the support of Princesse Winnaretta, heiress to the Singer sewing machine fortune.

In all, Monet produced 37 canvases on 11 different subjects in the 10 weeks of his stay, some of which he completed back home at Giverny. Much of what we know of Monet’s experiences and ways of working were detailed by Alice in her letters to her daughter. Monet did intend to return to Venice, but this visit never materialised. Most of his works were exhibited in Paris in 1912, under the direction of Paul Durand-Ruel, gallery owner and Monet’s dealer.

15th March 2023


A Passion for Music

Presented by Elizabeth Muir-Lewis and Ian Julier

On a freezing day as winter blasted back to Eastbourne, we were transported and warmed through a joint ‘Passion in Music,’to the Royal College of Music, Vienna and Glyndebourne via many opera stages and excerpts of wonderful music.

Ian was a sympathetic interviewer drawing out anecdotes from Elizabeth and helping us to share in the highs (and sometimes lows) of lives spent at the heart of classical music. He had worked as Head of Music Resources at Glyndebourne for 15 years and shared knowledge and feeling.

‘I’m a peculiar person really,’ Elizabeth laughed, but we were all in awe of some famous names and performances rolling off her tongue – Pavarotti, Glyndebourne’s John Christie and Jani Strasser, Sir George Solti, Stravinsky and, of course, her beloved husband and great tenor Richard Lewis.

I knew very little about classical music, apart from some well- known operatic arias but came away well informed and enthusiastic to dip into some referenced pieces. It was especially moving to hear a recording of Elizabeth singing in French (Song of Sadness Henri Duparc from a poem by Henri Cazalis).  I also will hear Frank Sinatra with new ears!

From Elizabeth feeling ‘…this music is good for me’, when at 12 years she heard Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’ on the home gramophone and her father, realising ‘she was a daughter who could actually make some money out of this,after 4 years at the Royal College of Music.  Ian and Elizabeth also explored the reasons why a passion in music and shared experiences of singing or listening evoke such an emotional response in us all.

There was laughter as Elizabeth shared funny tales, ‘you need to go away and have a love affair,about operatic passion, ‘you can’t cry and sing,’ to her strong ‘No Way!when asked to appear naked on stage as a nymph in Boston!

Above all her life and love of husband Richard Lewis CBE took centre stage and led us to Elizabeth’s book – When the Last Note Sounds, available from  (or from Elizabeth herself) from which she read (and later happily signed for those buying a copy). As a singer herself, Elizabeth brought to life their life in music (listening to Richard singing fantastic pieces moved Elizabeth to tears) and explained why the great era after WWII brought a British Musical Renaissance.

The curtain is yet to fall on Elizabeth Muir-Lewis and there are many songs still be sung.

Philipa Coughlan

March 2023