Lecture Programme

Lectures at the Lit & Phil

Gail-Nina's triads of art lectures continue in 2017: as with her previous sets of three talks examining different aspects of a movement or theme in art, each one will stand alone as an independent lecture, so don't worry if you can only attend one or two.

These talks are organised by the Lit & Phil (you don't need to be a member in order to attend any of their public events), and tickets cost £3 per talk, from the Lit & Phil Library, 23 Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1SE (map), in person or over the phone (0191) 232 0192. It is advisable to book seats in advance; if you reserve a ticket and are subsequently unable to attend, please let us know as we often have a waiting list.

Art talks run from 6.00 - 7.00 pm and are in the ground floor rooms (so no stairs).

Three double portraits

Portraits always tread a tightrope between the expectations of the sitter and the capacities of the artist, between likeness and style, appearance and insight. Double portraits see this tension taken a significant step further, inviting the viewer to explore the ways a relationship can be revealed (or occluded) via its representation.

All three paintings are in the National Gallery, London.

Wednesday 15th March, 6.00 pm
The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck, 1434
Among the most influential works of the Flemish Renaissance, and a key early acquisition of the National Gallery, van Eyck's exquisitely painted little panel encodes rituals of identity we still don't fully understand. Does it really show Italian merchant Giovanni Arnolfini, does it record a marriage or betrothal and should we really see the dazzlingly naturalistic details of the couple's bed-chamber as symbols telling us about the sitters' lives and social context?
Wednesday 22nd March, 6.00 pm
The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1533
Two visiting Frenchmen painted in London by German immigrant artist Hans Holbein, The Ambassadors might be viewed as a swish, swaggering statement of rank and identity. A closer look at its historical context places its creation at a moment of remarkable political and religious tension. Was Holbein just painting a couple of fashion-conscious European court visitors or is there another message in the prominent central still life and the strange distorted skull that intrudes into the realistic space occupied by the sitters?
Wednesday 29th March, 6.00 pm
Mr and Mrs Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough, c. 1750
Often represented as an icon of quintessential Englishness, Gainsborough's early canvas combines an idyllic pastoral landscape with the double portrait of a young married couple from his native Suffolk. Casually fashionable, apparently enjoying a leisured moment on their estate, they can be viewed as the epitome of a sort of nonchalant, "Country Life" good breeding, but the painting is also about ownership, wealth and family, placing its sitters in a political context that even today still inspires debate and dissent.