11th February 2022
Lecture at The Locker Room, Devonshire Park
‘Talent, Wit, Buffoonery’ – King George IV, His Life, Loves & Tastes
Dr Alexandra Loske
We were treated to a fascinating overview of George IV’s world by Alexandra Loske, Curator at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. She described how this monarch came to define the late 18th and early 19th centuries as an age of ostentation, culture and outrageous extravagance, at least in Royal circles. George was born in 1762 and immediately inherited the title of Prince of Wales, becoming Prince Regent in in 1822, before assuming the throne on the death of his father George III in 1820, until his own death in 1830. Originally a good looking, if rather effeminate figure, excessive living took its toll, and, as the many caricatures show, suffered from ill health and was grossly overweight. Personally frustrated in his relationships, he illegally married his great love Maria Fitzherbert, but was forced into an extremely unhappy marriage to Princess Caroline of Brunswick; 1st cousins who had not previously met and who shared an immediate and mutual dislike. The only child from the union, Princess Charlotte, sadly died later in childbirth, which effectively ended any possibility of providing a direct descendant for the throne. Eventually it was a distant relation, Victoria, who became Queen.
George lived life to the full in every sense; had many mistresses and indulged his passions in ornate gold objects, exquisite porcelain, fine paintings, music, and dance, running up huge debts in the process. Initially housing his treasures at Carlton House in London, he commissioned a new pleasure palace in the form of the Brighton Royal Pavilion, a controversial building influenced by Moorish and Indian architecture. Concluding her talk, Alexandra described the recent exhibitions at the Royal Pavilion, including many works loaned from Buckingham Palace and other royal residences, and displayed in their original setting.
10th September 2021
Lecture at the Towner Art Gallery
To the Manor Born: Unpacking the Towner Art Collection
Dr Helen Rufus-Ward & Helena Birch
This fascinating introduction to the history of the Towner and its art collection was given in two parts.
First, Helen Rufus-Ward described how the gallery, developed around a legacy of £6,000 and 22 paintings from local Alderman John Chisholm Towner in 1920 and was used to establish a home for the collection at Gildredge Manor House where it opened on 2nd June 1923. Combined with the local history museum, it remained there, serving the people of Eastbourne until closing in 2005 and eventually reopening in its present purpose-built gallery in 2009. Helen described some of the original paintings, representing the art appreciation of the day and which went on to form the core of the present collection.
The second part of the talk by Helena Birch focused on some key local artists whose work has since contributed to the collection. These included Joseph Swanwick, Margaret Benecke, William Gear, Harold Mockford and Eric Ravilious. These works, mainly reflected a more contemporary style and, as Helena explained, were often obtained amongst considerable controversy. As well as being an artist, William Gear was an early curator who encountered much local hostility to both his work and acquisitions from other artists, but which now form the basis of this highly regarded contemporary collection. Beachy Head is of course a key local feature and Helena finished by illustrating several works on this theme.
Together these two well researched talks help to explain the current success of the Towner as a key, award winning, art gallery in Britain.