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Welcome to our July Newsletter!

Tuesday 9th August 2016

Welcome to our July Newsletter! I am sorry that our July newsletter starts its journey to you in early August – your correspondent was delayed by a series of horticultural and musical adventures in Ireland and Sussex these last few weeks. Suitably enthused and just back in harness at our office, I am about to spend the next two weeks putting the finishing touches to our 2017 brochure, scheduled to arrive on your doorstep by mid September. In the meantime, we have put up on our website quite a few more visits for next year, and here are details of a few to whet your appetites. Our visits to the United States have grown in popularity and New York remains one of the most popular. To answer this demand, Magnificence Revealed: New York & the Lower Hudson Valley, 28 March – 5 April, will see James Hill lead another group to explore not only the great art collections – several visits to the Metropolitan, a private visit to the Museum of Modern Art, the Frick and the Pierpoint Morgan Library – but also a few days spent exploring the amazing houses of the Lower Hudson River Valley, a new addition to our itinerary. As with all our American adventures, the formal visits will be guided by Museum Curators and Specialist Guides as no one art historian could cover the wide variety of material which will be included. For those with musical interests, the Metropolitan Opera will present three operas during our stay: La Traviata, the season premiere of Eugene Onegin, and Aida, making this a wonderful opportunity to experience the city’s amazing cultural life. Romans & Conquistadors: Extremadura Explored, 6 – 13 May is a new addition to our growing portfolio of visits to the Iberian Peninsula. It is rich in a wide variety of monuments across the ages from the Romans at Merida to great medieval churches and above all, the amazing palaces built by local adventurers who made their fortunes in the conquest of the “New World”. Based in Mérida for two nights and in Cáceres for five nights, Extremadura is an area of many contrasts. Its landscape varies from the lush pastures and blossom covered hills of the north to the flat plains to the south. That said, nature has been more than kind and it produces some wonderful food and wine, reflected in the newly vibrant food scene of Cáceres, which participants will have ample free time to explore. This visit has attracted quite a number of bookings already, so if you are interested in joining David Sketchley and I, do get in touch! Many members of our mailing list will have heard Paula Nuttall lecture, either at the V&A or to both NADFAS and the Art Fund. She has led several visits for us in recent years and I am delighted that she has agreed to do so again next year: Flanders in the Early Renaissance: Bruges & Ghent, 1 – 5 June will be the ideal opportunity to explore these two exciting centres of the Flemish Renaissance, guided by one of our foremost experts on the subject. The Van Eyck family workshop, together with Rogier van der Weyden, created a style that influenced not only their contemporaries and successors but also reached beyond Flanders and down into Italy, one of the themes which will be explored. The next generation of Flemish artists was dominated by Hans Memling and given he lived in Bruges, where so many of his works remain, it will be the ideal base for this short, four-night visit, based in one of the city’s most stylish hotels. In the last few days we have had a cancellation for A Country House Revealed: Deene Park & the Brudenells, Tuesday, 13 September of this year and so there are two places available. The Brudenells have been seated at Deene, one of England’s most romantic houses, since 1514, their house increasing in grandeur as their fortunes prospered. It is a remarkable story told via an important collection, reflecting the family’s varied history. Coffee on arrival after which Charlotte Brudenell and Tom Duncan will lecture, followed by a seated formal lunch in the house, hosted by Robert & Charlotte Brudenell. The afternoon will be devoted to a “connoisseurs” tour with Mrs Brudenell, followed by tea. Finally, Henrietta Lawson Johnston worked in our office for several years and many of you will have benefitted from her kindness and patience – Stephen and I certainly did. In recent years she has developed her undoubted talents as an artist and I thought I would draw your attention to two forthcoming exhibitions in which she will show some of her oil paintings, together with works by her uncle, the well-known glass engraver, Philip Lawson Johnston. From Thursday to Saturday, September 15 – 17 they will exhibit at St Andrew’s Church, Linton Road, Oxford, OX2 6UG and from Thursday to Saturday, September 22 – 24, they will exhibit at The Orangery, Cotswold Wildlife Park, near Burford, OX18 4JP. If you would like further details and an invitation to either exhibition do look at her website (http://www.henriettalj.com) or contact Henrietta by email (hettslj@gmail.com). Until our next newsletter in a few weeks, all best wishes, Tom

Welcome to our June Newsletter!

Friday 1st July 2016

London’s National Gallery will this Autumn (12 October 2016 – 15 January 2017) host an exhibition, “Beyond Caravaggio” devoted to the remarkable influence Caravaggio had on European artists who descended on Rome in the late 16th and into the 17th centuries. To link with this much anticipated exhibition we have planned not only a Study Day in London on Wednesday 30 November but also a short weekend visit to Rome, 1 – 4 December, which will provide the ideal opportunity to come to terms with this great artist and his wider influence. London Study Day, 30 November 2016: Light, darkness and drama are the qualities most associated with the revolutionary work of Caravaggio. The National Gallery’s Autumn exhibition will focus on the influence of this most troubled of painterly geniuses and will be the first UK exhibition to explore his influence on contemporaries and successors, such as Gentileschi (who worked in England from 1626, dying here in 1639), Valentin and van Honthorst. James Hill will give a short introduction to Caravaggio’s life and art and Tom Duncan will lecture on the exhibition itself. These two morning lectures will be followed by a timed entry afternoon visit to the exhibition in the National Gallery. The cost is £69 and includes entry to the exhibition. We expect this to be a popular Study Day and suggest early booking. Weekend Visit to Rome, 1 – 4 December 2016: Long thought to have been born in the Lombard village of Caravaggio in 1573, recent research has revealed that Michelangelo Merisi was born in Milan in 1571. His early Milanese training is obscure and he may have spent time in Venice. He was certainly in Rome by the late 1580s and his early work was dominated by glorious still life paintings and the patronage of a group of worldly clerics led by Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, who secured for him his first major commission, the St Matthew cycle in the Contarelli Chapel of San Luigi dei Franchesi. From this period also come two paintings of St Peter and St Paul in the Cerasi Chapel of Santa Maria del Popolo – we visit both churches to see these masterpieces. The style of these revolutionary works was not acceptable to more conventional tastes. Their combination of figures based on real, often low-life characters, shown in all their unblemished humanity offended Caravaggio’s clerical clients. His dramatic sense and use of light and shade – chiaroscuro - though not new, had never been handled in this way before. He used it as a focal point to heighten our emotional experience of religious subject matter. Indeed, a whole new manner of presenting sacred narrative entered the artistic tradition via Caravaggio. This is seen in the work of his Roman contemporaries such as Orazio Gentileschi (who ended his days in London working for Queen Henrietta Maria) and successors, such as Manfredi and Guercino. Such revolutionary approaches to the business of painting were echoed in the artist’s dramatic, ultimately tragic, life. Tavern brawls, stabbings (if not murder itself) and many other difficulties meant that his last four years were spent in a sense “on the run”. Moving from Rome to Naples, he fled to Malta, followed by a period in Sicily, then a return to Naples and finally, death at Porto Ercole north of Rome, all of which lent a sensational tint to his final years. During all that time Caravaggio continued to paint works of art which in their day were considered both revolutionary and unprecedented. The Roman art world of the early to mid 1600s must have been a place of great opportunity. Young men came to study in the city and Caravaggio made a deep impression, not least on those who came from Utrecht, an outpost of Catholic belief stranded amongst the staunchly Dutch Calvinist Dutch Provinces, particularly Baburen, Honthorst and Terbrugghen. Their world is easily traced and this will form the joint focus of our explorations, in addition to the life and work of the troubled genius who so inspired them. We stay at the comfortable 3* Superior Albergo del Senato, centrally situated in the Piazza della Rotonda, directly overlooking the Pantheon, the finest monument of Roman antiquity. This respected hotel (in our view, it is most definitely 4*) could not be better placed for, or suited to, the theme of this visit, and is surrounded by a remarkable range of restaurants and other amenities. The cost is £1280 and includes the London Study Day on 30 November, 3 nights B&B in Rome, 2 Dinners & 1 Lunch. And finally, you may remember that I mentioned that Val and Helen Dillon put their house and garden up for sale earlier this year? Well, this has now happened and the Dillon Garden at 45 Sandford Road, Dublin 6 will remain open until the end of September after which the Dillons will pack up and move to a smaller house and garden nearby. Please check visit details, particularly timings, on their website. Val and Helen have welcomed members of our tours for about twenty years and I cannot remember a guest who did not come away impressed not only by the garden but by the genuinely warm welcome we always received. I am sure you would want to join Stephen and myself in wishing Val, Helen, Rosie and Ruby many happy years in their new house and garden. Until our next newsletter in a few weeks, all best wishes, Tom

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