Lectures & Events

The Society runs a series of lectures on Wednesday evenings between September and April. They’re held at The American University in London, Queen’s Road, Richmond TW10 6JP. The lectures frequently coincide with exhibitions running in the major London galleries.

The final lectures in our 2020 series have been cancelled.

The American University

The lectures start at 8pm and admission is free for members, guests pay £5. They are held in the lecture room situated in the basement of the Cyril Taylor Library building which is just beyond the main building.

There is some free parking on site, and the 371 bus stops outside the campus.

Click here for map

Please note: There is always the possibility that the lecture room might be needed at short notice by the University. If so, members will be advised by email and we will try to ensure that the website is updated.

2019/20 Lecture Programme

18th September 2019

Contemporary Painting

For all the repeated claims of its death over the last 200 years, painting has arguably never been more vibrant and vital than it is today. This lecture surveys the range of styles, media and approaches that characterise contemporary painting as it is practised across the world. Contemporary painters have returned to earlier moments in the history of the medium and by doing so have revitalised and regenerated it. There’s something about painting that allows it to retain its historical position as a medium in spite of the wildly diverse approaches to art made possible by new technologies.

Lecturer: Ben Street

16th October 2019


Lucrezia Walker will discuss the first ever exhibition devoted to the portraits of Paul Gauguin (National Gallery 7 Oct – 26 Jan).  Famous as the friend of van Gogh during an intensely psychotic phase, Gauguin gained notoriety as the quintessential artist-hero after leaving Europe for ever to seek a new life in the South Seas where he lived in poverty and painted with freedom.  The drama of his private life made him the stuff of legend while his powerful use of bold colour was a huge influence on significant artists of the 20th century.

Lecturer: Lucrezia Walker

6th November 2019

William Blake

A visionary and mystic who reported seeing Satan on the stairs and angels roosting in an oak tree on Peckham Rye, William Blake went his independent way regardless of the conventions and strictures of the newly formed Royal Academy. His insistence on exploring the morality of everyday life, and his criticism of materialism and what he saw as the arid rationalism of commerce and the pursuit of profit, still speaks to 21st century concerns. Coinciding with Tate Britain’s William Blake exhibition, this lecture will look at the continuing appeal of his creative expression.

Lecturer: Jessica Saraga

27th November 2019

Art of the River – Through artists’ eyes

The River Thames has inspired artists for over three hundred years and continues to do so today. This talk includes a selection of artists from the historical to the contemporary and gives their fascinating views of the river and interpretations of its eventful history.

Lecturer: Alexandra Epps

11th December 2019

The Turner Prize explained

Established in 1984 and causing controversy almost every year since then, the Turner Prize is regarded by many as a great showcase for British avant-garde art, and by others as conceptualist rubbish. This lecture looks at great winners (and losers) from the past and clarifies the ideas behind the annual competition.

Lecturer: Frank Woodgate

22nd January 2020

Dame Laura Knight

In 1936 Dame Laura Knight became the first woman to be elected a full member of the Royal Academy in London. In her extraordinary career she painted landscapes, portraits, seascapes and scenes from the circus, the ballet and the theatre. This lecture provides an overview of her fascinating career and some of her remarkable achievements.

Lecturer: Rosalind Whyte

12th February 2020

Raphael: Genius of the Renaissance in Rome

It is 500 years since Raphael died in Rome on Good Friday aged only 37. The Pope, his most prestigious patron, was devastated and earth tremors were felt around the city. This lecture looks at his short but astonishing career as painter, architect, administrator and superb draughtsman and considers his lasting influence on subsequent artists

Lecturer: Jo Walton

4th March 2020

250 Years of the Royal Academy

Famous for its annual open Summer Exhibition, held every year without exception since 1769, the Royal Academy has been a pillar of British art and art education for over 250 years. This talk deals with the history of the institution and the art of the Royal Academicians, some considered brilliant, others more controversial.

Lecturer: Ian Swankie