If Ovid had never existed, there would be plenty of blank walls in the world’s art galleries. His masterpiece, Metamorphoses, has uniquely influenced art and literature across 2,000 years, ravishing the palettes of artists from Raphael and Titian through Velasquez, Rembrandt and Giordano to Tiepolo, Poussin and Moreau. Lives, he says wryly, will always be liable to sudden change by forces outside ourselves and of that alone can we be certain. But who is the magician?
This series of lectures will be delivered by Graham Fawcett for The Course on Thursdays (10.45-12.45) between 16th January and 19th March, 2020. Go to The Course to book individual lectures or the series.
The following series of lectures are available to groups on request. Please contact Graham Fawcett (see contact details below) for further information.
Planet Art and Word
This lecture series creates strength and variety from the vastness of its subject: the World and everything in it as encountered by artists and writers throughout the centuries. Now we can read, look at, see what they saw from hill-top, valley-side, shore-line, doorway and windowsill across land, sea and sky: the Earth, and human life in all its glory and diversity.
From aerial sweeps to close-ups, Homer’s Iliad gives you a god’s-eye-view of the action, the city, the plain, the fields and mountains, the Greek ships at anchor, the cast of thousands. This is a massively impressive and moving epic poem of Troy and everything said to have happened there. Art takes the story to its heart, with a near-alphabet of painters from Angelica Kauffman and Botticelli to Tiepolo catching our breath beside fine translations of Homer’s Iliad in English.
Homer’s Odyssey’s non-stop action and flashback narrates the breathless adventures of Odysseus, who, ten years after the end of the war at Troy, has still not come home to the island of Ithaca, his wandering voyage made thrilling by danger and enchantment in encounters with elemental and supernatural worlds. Imaginings of artists re-invigorate the poem with their energy in paintings, watercolours and drawings from across centuries of art from Poussin to Chagall and illustrations by Flaxman and Flint.
Transforming the Masterpiece find answers to the question: what have artists been letting themselves in for when they rework visually the greatest poems and stories ever written? Is it an act of homage, or rivalry, or translation, or all three at once? And when a poet takes on a painting, is the challenge the same in reverse? Each session sifts through a handful of paintings, each alongside the text which inspired them all, and then focussing on one of them, decide: is it worth more to us as a version of the original or as a masterpiece in its own right?
When narrative in literature and poetry has the capacity to inspire the eye and ear with equal force, composers and painters alike are found rushing to re-deliver that impact in the language of paint and music. This is how it looks, they say, or, this is how it sounds. Talking Pictures, Sounding Sense will present striking examples of response to the same poem or story in both art and music, when painters and composers have met like moths round the candle-flame of the same narrative.
Hamlet’s demand to his mother, that she hold his dead father’s picture in one hand and new husband Claudio’s in the other, becomes our cue to compare works of art from the world’s great gallery of homage to Shakespeare’s plays. Here, artists have felt driven to recreate the enduring charisma of the Bard’s most famous characters and so celebrate the dramatic turning-points in the plays which changed lives then and have done so ever since for theatre-goers and readers alike.
The story of an unforgettable meeting is always a gift for artists and writers alike. This well-illustrated weekly series will bring us face to face with paintings, poetry and fiction in which fame, beauty, myth, history and the human spirit bring people together in such dramatic circumstances that they, and we, are left thinking that never before have we seen, or read, anything quite like it.
The Art of The Divine Comedy of Dante, the 700th anniversary of whose death falls in 2021. Described by T.S. Eliot as ‘the highest point that poetry has ever reached or ever can reach’, his epic poem describing a journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven has been a rich source of inspiration for generations of artists, poets, sculptors and illustrators. Among them Botticelli, Dali, John Flaxman, Gustave Doré and William Blake show how Dante’s tales of love and the grotesque have influenced their work.
How can we know, before we ever go there, that a new place will exhilarate us? Painting, photography, fiction, travel-writing, and poetry put us on the plane with expectations, and pictures in our minds, and we then match what they promise against the realities. Afterwards, art and writing intensify what we found, providing sights we missed and clothing our memories of them in the aura of legend. Exhilarating Places visits charismatic cultural centres of our world and others we have dreamed of and invented. They catch our eye and instantly deliver both real and imagined destinations in great art and writing.
“Our classic, the classic of all Europe, is Virgil”, said T S Eliot in 1944. 75 years on, the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, but not European culture. What better moment could there be to retrace the journey Virgil created for Aeneas: escape from the Trojan inferno, voyage to Carthage, love for Dido, abandonment of her to found a new Troy at Rome, and pilgrimage to the Underworld, a golden bough as passport. Artists picture it all as if they travelled with him.
Top: John William Waterhouse, Ulysses and the Sirens