Art talk on Zoom, Thursday 30 June

Next art talk is on Thursday evening, 30 June – via Zoom, so you can join in from anywhere, you are guaranteed a comfy seat, your choice of beverage, no issues with parking, you can even attend in your pyjamas! This week it’s the astonishing Jan van Eyck – an hour looking closely at the details in a beautiful painting, all very welcome. See our Art Talks tab for more details and ticket link!

Online art talks are back!

As well as running the Tree House I am an art historian – I have just given up my last university teaching job, but am restarting my own talks. I may get back to face to face talks at the bookshop at some point, but for now I am resurrecting the Zoom talks that I started during lockdown.

I am doing a series looking at paintings in detail – particularly paintings from Northern Europe in the Renaissance and the 17th century, which is my specialism. It’s easy to overlook some of the details, and some are barely visible to the naked eye. I will talk briefly about the works of art (there may be sculpture occasionally too, since that was my PhD subject!), to give some info and context, then we will spend time homing in on the details of both content and technique.

The talks are very accessible, but hopefully of interest whatever level of engagement you have had with works of art previously.

The first painting is one of my favourites, and combines reading with art history, my two great interests! It’s in the National Gallery in London and is the perfect size to hang on the wall – if you ever hear of it being stolen, track me down… It’s Mary Magdalen Reading by Rogier van der Weyden (from about 1435).

So if you are interested, buy a ticket via this link and join us via Zoom on 14 June. All very welcome, wherever you are in the world! I have an international audience, which is exciting.

Rogier van der Weyden, The Magdalen Reading (c.1435), National Gallery, London

Daytime art history at the Tree House Bookshop

monday art lecturesWe have had art lectures at the bookshop pretty much as long as the bookshop has been open (which, as an aside, is an amazing six and a half years!).  Mostly these have been evening lectures, but we are often asked about the possibility of daytime talks.  So this autumn there are art history talks on Monday mornings at 11.

The lecturer is me!  I am an art historian as well as a bookseller, with a PhD from Bristol University and 20 years of lecturing experience.  I still do a bit of professional teaching, but online (for Oxford University), which means I can do it from home in my pyjamas…perfect!  But now that we have the new projection equipment, lectures are even easier at the bookshop.  And even though it means I have to get dressed, it is all good fun.

Sometimes people say they feel daunted, and don’t come because they think it will be too highbrow or because they haven’t looked at paintings before.  But my lectures are informal, friendly, inclusive – suitable for all levels of knowledge, which sounds a tall order, but it isn’t really.

My specialisation is in the art of Northern Europe in the Renaissance (15th and 16th centuries), but I do a few other things as well, including tracing what I call the Northern Tradition through the Dutch 17th century, German Romanticism in the early 19th century, and into the 20th century, and of course I look at Italian Renaissance and late medieval art too.  This all sounds very grand, but the key is simply taking a painting and looking at it, and that’s what a lecture is for: you can read about art in books and on the internet, you can go to galleries, but a lecture gives you the opportunity to explore and discuss and ask questions and spend time looking closely with a guide and some fellow-explorers.  Paintings – and the labels that go with them – become much less daunting when you do this.

I have mentioned paintings, but my PhD subject was sculpture, which in Germany is an incredible thing in the Renaissance, and prints, which grew out of the development of printed books in the 15th century.  It’s all marvellous!

So if you’re free on a Monday morning, do come along at 11 o’clock – or if you prefer an evening talk, I still do those on Tuesday evenings once or twice a month.  Lectures are £8 on the door, including coffee/tea, and last about an hour plus time for questions.

This coming Monday, 28 October, I’ll be talking about the greatest European painter of the 15th century: Rogier van der Weyden.  A bold claim, but a genuine one!  Why have you heard of Botticelli, who is not as good nor as important/influential, but not of Rogier van der Weyden?  I can tell you that too if you come along.

Victoria (aka Dr Vic, or Doc Tors as some Bristol friends used to call me!)

This week at the Tree House

th2Our Events pages give more detailed information on what’s happening here at the Tree House, but here is a brief summary of what’s coming up this week.




Tuesday 11 August, 8pm: art history lecture on Rembrandt.  £6 inc tea/coffee.

Wednesday 12 August, 7pm: Nifty Needles, our social group for needlecrafters. £1 inc tea/coffee.

Thursday 13 August, 7.30pm: film.  Please ask for details.  £2 (£3 if you would like tea/coffee).

Friday 14 August, 7.30pm: Silent Reading Night.  £3, inc unlimited tea/coffee.

Lots more coming up soon, you can subscribe to our mailing list (see tab above) or keep an eye on our Events pages or Facebook page.

Hope to see you at something soon – and do spread the word!

Art History at the Tree House Bookshop

Gill Sans poster (2)Last week I realised that things had become too much, and that I wasn’t the right person to be running the Tree House…several people have managed to persuade me otherwise, one or two more have come forward to help, and my offer to sell the business has been withdrawn – you are stuck with me!

So I have been working on putting into action some of the ideas I have been considering and developing in recent weeks and months, and the first one is to start doing some art history talks/lectures in the shop.  I am an art historian by profession, having taught at a few different universities and other institutions, and still work as an art history lecturer as well as running the Tree House.  So I have devised a short series, to kick off this new aspect of the project, on the subject closest to my heart, the art of Renaissance Germany.  Not the widest known nor best loved of art historical periods, but it contains untold riches and many surprises.

As a starting point, I have chosen what I consider the jewel in the wonderful collection at local Compton Verney, a limewood sculpture of a female saint by Tilman Riemenschneider.  A name that trips off the tongue, no doubt…  But here she is – the finest example of Riemenschneider’s work in the UK.

Female Saint by Tilman Riemenschneider (c.1515; limewood; Compton Verney)

Female Saint by Tilman Riemenschneider (c.1515; limewood; Compton Verney)

I rarely get to Compton Verney, as I don’t drive and it’s impossible to get there without private transport, but it’s almost enough in itself as an incentive to learn (I have a long-held dream of owning and driving a Morris Traveller…).  It is a wonderful museum to have in our locality, and I would urge anyone who hasn’t been to go when you can – they have a lovely collection of German art, a rarity in itself in this country, but a wonderful collection generally, in beautiful grounds and with a lovely cafe!

So a local starting point, but an expansive journey onwards through the riches of German art of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.  The lectures will be on Tuesday mornings at 11am, and the charge will be £5 per lecture, to include coffee and biscuits.

The programme is:

12 November – The Compton Verney Saint: German sculpture c.1500

19 November – German printmaking

26 November – Albrecht Dürer

3 December – Landscape and German art

10 December – German art and the Italian Renaissance

They will be standalone lectures, but as a whole they constitute a short exploration of German art of the period. If there is any interest, I can repeat them in the evenings at some point; and I will be planning further talks in 2014.

If you are at a loose end on Tuesday mornings and want to escape the colder, darker days of autumn and winter, come and spend an hour or two looking at glorious images by some truly extraordinary artists.