The Arts Society Westminster will be holding a series of Study Days during 2019 at the

Oxford & Cambridge Club, 71 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5HD

The cost of a Study Day is £40 per person, to include coffee/tea/biscuits and a light sandwich/fruit lunch. Cash bar is available.

Cheques to be made payable to Westminster Decorative & Fine Arts Society and sent to Jeannette Cawley with a current email address or SAE to receive additional details.

or email:


Registered Charity No 1140639               The Arts Society Westminster is the operational name for Westminster Decorative & Fine Arts Society


Modern artists’ approach to traditional themes in art

Friday 14 June 2019

Lecturer Valerie Woodgate BA

To a large extent, all art is about other art. In this study day we will compare Old Master paintings with the modern treatment of the same subjects, and examine the extent to which  modern art is inspired by the example of earlier eras. In many ways, modern art has a surprising amount in common with the Old Masters, but there are also, many differences and reinterpretations of subject and style. We consider the effect of these differences, whether they add to, or change, our understanding of the subject and its message. Until the end of the 19th century the genre, or subject-matter, of a work of art was very important, and in this study day we consider the subject in the order of the genres and discuss why they were so important.

Programme of 3 lectures:

Lecture 1  Still-life and Landscape

The lowest of the genres, regarded as ‘props’ and ‘background’ to more serious subjects such as portraits or History Paintings. The 17th century saw the introduction of these topics as subjects of works of art in their own right. Still-life artists will include Chardin, Damien Hirst, Van Gogh, and Tracy Emin. For landscape we look at Poussin, Ruisdael, Constable, Monet, Hockney and many others.

Lecture 2  Genre and Portraits

Genre is defined as pictures of the everyday lives of people ‘like ourselves or less than ourselves’. The subject covers a wide range of situations and will include works by David Wilkie, Picasso, Frank Holl and Max Beckmann. Portraits, including the self-portrait, can be of the great, the good and the plain evil. From Leonardo, Raphael and Rembrandt,  to Picasso, Frieda Kahlo, Warhol and Tracey Emin - these and many others artists demonstrate the endless variety and fascination of the subject.


Lecture 3

History Painting or High Art

The highest of the genres encompasses elevated subjects from the Bible, Greek mythology and Classical history, and is concerned with people ‘greater than ourselves’.  Under this heading we find masterpieces by artists ithat include Titian, Ingres, El Greco, Masaccio, Dali, Twombly and William Blake.