The Johnston Collection
find us on facebook     make a donation
The Johnston Collection
  Lectures Login (for office purpose only)  

Lectures & Workshops 

We begin our 2017 lecture series in February when we return with an exciting  new series of Talks, Study Series and Workshops. Lectures are now available for booking (with descriptions further below). In 2017 our What's On brochure will only be available in digital form.


Please use the bar on the right-hand side of the booking calendar below to see the full list of lectures programmed for each month.

HAUTE COUTURE HOUSES with Paola Di Trocchio
Wednesday 3 May 2017 | 10.00 am 11.30 am

The history of haute couture will be traced from its beginnings in the 19th century to its contemporary manifestation.  The construction of garments often engages interdisciplinary innovation along with often performative presentation. Currently at the forefront of design and experimentation, haute couture bridges an evocative intersection between past and future.  

PAOLA DI TROCCHIO is Curator, Fashion and Textiles at the NGV, Melbourne. She has curated  numerous exhibitions that have recently included 200 Years of Australian Fashion and Italian Jewels:  Bulgari Style.

COLOURING THE CARIBBEAN| representing a new world with Trevor Burnard
Tuesday 23 May 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am 

When the English ventured overseas in the late 16th  and early 17th centuries, they established a variety of colonial settlements that, especially in the 17th century, were bewildering in their political and social diversity.

Artists, writers and historians recorded these new lands, people and places so as to see English settlement as an encounter with peoples, alongside the representations of the effects colonisation, endeavour and enterprise.

This lecture will revisit plantations in the Americas, consider the Haitian Revolution and other representations of African in European art, as well considering works held in The Johnston Collection.

TREVOR BURNARD is professor and head of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Mastery, Tyranny, and Desire and Creole Gentlemen, as well as coeditor of The Routledge History of Slavery.

after Agostino Brunias (1728 - 1796) (Italian, active in Britain (1758-1770; 1777-1780s))
The Linen Market at St Domingo engraved print on paper published by John P. Thompson (London), 6 October 1804 (Creative Commons)

Thursday 25 May 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am 

Where do colours come from and how do they get their names? What was the “Venetian secret” of the 18th century? Were the Impressionists more than seekers after transitory sensations-to what extent were they exploring the optical science of perception according to the colour theories of Michel Eugène Chevreul (1786-1889)? Do artist’s select their colours or do the colours choose themselves as Matisse suggests?

Ian George helps us look at recent studies showing us how observant (or unobservant) we are: what are our favourite colours and why: where our colours come from: and asking how much colour there is in our lives

DR IAN GEORGE AO has been an art critic and historian since the 1960's. His postgraduate work was in aesthetics. Since then he has served on the Visual Arts Committee of the Festival of Perth, as a Trustee of the Queensland Art Gallery and Vice-President of the Queensland Festival, had two terms on the Community Arts Board of the Australia Council and is a regular lecturer at the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of SA and the National Gallery of Victoria. 

image caption: Michel Eugène Chevreul (French, 1786-1889), Colour wheel, Paris, 1861 (Public Domain)

A PRINCESS FOR SCOTLAND: Marie Duchess of Hamilton with Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 
Tuesday 30 May 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am 

Her birth spelled the end of a German princely dynasty; her marriage resulted in the partial loss of her social position; the wayward lives of her children ended the long line of Scottish dukes and ultimately led to the dispersal of family fortunes. The lecture traces the highs and lows in the life and times of Marie, Princess of Baden, Duchess of Hamilton. 

EUGENE BARILO VON REISBERG is a Melbourne-based lecturer, researcher, and art consultant.  He has completed a doctoral dissertation on Franz Xaver Winterhalter, the 19th century elite portrait specialist, at the University of Melbourne, and lectures and publishes widely on 19th century art, history, and culture.

See also the Eugene Barilo von Reisberg Study Series NAPOLEON'S CHILDREN

image caption: Richard Buckner (English, 1812-83), Marie Duchess of Hamilton (1818-88), with her son, Lord William Douglas-Hamilton (1845-1895), oil on canvas, Private Collection



This series will investigate the ideas behind collecting in 17th and 18th century Italy and their political and cultural influence on the English aristocracy undertaking the Grand Tour.

SYLVIA SAGONA is an internationally recognised specialist on 19th century French society. She retired from the French Department at The University of Melbourne to work on historical documentaries for French and Australian television and is currently researching a book on the invention of the restaurant in Paris in the 18th century.

Lecture 1 | THE ENGLISH OF THE 18th CENTURY GRAND TOUR: The politics of display
Thursday 27 April 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

In the 18th century the Grand Tour became a rite of passage for young English Protestant aristocrats destined to assume their rightful place in government with an increased appreciation of the solidity and uprightness of English institutions. The art they brought back testified to refinement as well as familiarity with the decadence and sensuality of Catholic Europe. Portraits encoded reference to the sitter as inheritor of the wisdom of ancient Rome and survivor of the sinful vices of Venice. Canaletto's veduta would fill private collections as testimony that taste was not just a virtue but a duty to one's country.

image caption: Johan Zoffany (German, 1733 –1810), The Tribuna of the Uffizi, 1772-8, Royal Collection RCIN 406983

Lecture 2 | THE BORGHESE COLLECTION, ROME |"An Elysium of Delight"
Thursday 4 May 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Cardinal Scipio Borghese, used the immense wealth and influence he wielded as Papal Nephew in 17th century Rome to assemble one of the largest and most impressive private collections in Europe. Based on the idea of the teatrum mundi, he placed prize pieces from the ancient world next to contemporary art by Caravaggio, Raphael and Titian in order to stimulate conversation and reflection on art and life. Although a ruthless collector who would seize works commissioned for churches and other patrons, it was his keen eye which first recognised the talent of Gian Lorenzo Bernini whose masterpieces are still on display in the magnificent villa surrounded by landscaped gardens.

image caption: Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Italian, 1598 – 1680), David, 1623–24, Galleria Borghese, Rome

Lecture 3 | THE CA REZZONICO COLLECTION IN VENICE | The last glory days of the Serenissima
Thursday 11 May 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

The Ca Rezzonico on the Grand Canal, dedicated to exploring 18th century Venice, is one of the lesser known museums of the city offering a glimpse behind the scenes of life in Venice's great days. The chequered history of the Ca Rezzonico, passing from hand to hand as families grew wealthy then fell from power, is a micro history of Venice itself.

The Rezzonico bought their way into the aristocracy and commissioned Tiepolo and Guarana to create ceiling frescos and trompe l'oeil decorations for their magnificent reception rooms and chapel. By the 19th century the palazzo was home to Robert Browning and Singer Sargent before an eccentric Count went bankrupt adding to the lush furnishings and art collection. It now houses entire rooms salvaged from distressed Venetian palazzi that have crumbled beyond repair.

image caption: Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal), (Italy, 1697 – 1768), The Return of the Bucintoro to the Molo on Ascension Day, 1732, The Royal Collection, England, RCIN 404417



EUGENE BARILO VON REISBERG is a Melbourne-based lecturer, researcher, and art consultant.  He has completed a doctoral dissertation on Franz Xaver Winterhalter, the 19th century elite portrait specialist, at the University of Melbourne, and lectures and publishes widely on 19th century art, history, and culture.

PART I | THE ADOPTED - Eugene, Duke of Leuchtenberg; Hortense, Queen of Holland; and Stephanie, Grand Duchess of Baden;
Tuesday 2 May 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Upon proclaiming himself Emperor, Napoleon wanted desperately to ally himself with the reigning dynasties of Europe. The lack of unmarried siblings did not stop him. After placing his brothers and sisters on the thrones of conquered nations, he formally adopted Eugène, Hortense, and Stéphanie de Beauharnais - the children and a niece of his wife, Empress Josephine - to use them as pawns in his Game of Thrones.

image caption: Jean-Baptiste Isabey (French, 1767-1855), Portrait of Hortense, Queen of Holland (1783-1837), 1813, watercolor on cardboard | 130 × 95 mm, collection of the Musée National du Château de Malmaison (Creative Commons)


PART II | THE LEGITIMATE - the King of Rome (also will talk about Empress Marie-Louise Napoleon's little-known second wife)
Tuesday 9 May 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Napoleon’s second marriage in 1810 to the Archduchess Marie Louise, daughter of the Emperor Franz I of Austria, satisfied his ultimate ambition - to ally himself with a reigning European dynasty. His longing to establish his own dynasty was realised when the new Empress was delivered of a son. However, Napoleon’s relentless military ambition soon led to his downfall which turned his trophy wife and the cherished child into fugitives.

image caption: 

PART III | THE BASTARDS - Princesse de Chimay, Comte Walewski, Comte de Leon ... and assorted others.
Tuesday 16 May 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Napoleon’s alleged sexual conquests were said to rival his military achievements, and throughout the 19th century there was no shortage of those who proudly claimed their descent from the Emperor. The lecture focuses on three of the people with the most reputable claim to Napoleon’s DNA - Charles Leon, Alexandre Walewski, and Emilie Pellapra.

image caption: Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73), Portrait of Emilie, Princesse de Chimay (1808-71), 1849, oil on canvas, private collection, (Creative Commons)


DRESSING FOR THE CAMERA: photography and the colonial portrait with Laura Jocic 
Wednesday 17 May 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am  

The invention of photography allowed a wide range of people, who previously could not afford to commission a painter, to have their portraits taken. Surviving images of 19th century Australian settlers provide an insight into changing styles of dress and the nuances in the way garments and accessories were worn. Dressed for the camera, many of these portraits also unlock stories of emigration and the role photography played in maintaining ties with families who had been divided through emigration. 

LAURA JOCIC is undertaking a PhD at the University of Melbourne, researching dress and its role in Australian colonial society. She was formerly a curator in the department of Australian Fashion and Textiles at the National Gallery of Victoria where she curated a number of exhibitions including Australian Made: 100 Years of Fashion. In 2016 Laura curated the exhibition LOUIS KAHAN: art, theatre, fashion for the Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn. 

image caption: Paterson Bros., Melbourne (photographer), Young woman wearing a crinoline, circa 1862, albumen print, Private collection

It is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death on 18 July 1817 and to commemorate this significant event we begin a year-long programme of activities honoring the ongoing interpretation and influence of Jane Austen’s life and works.

Wednesday 22 March 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am 

Jane Austen’s novels have become synonymous with early 19th century fashion, especially through filmed adaptations of her work. But what did people in this period really wear? How would Austen, her family and her characters have dressed as they moved through the countryside, villages and cities of late Georgian England? This lecture explores the world of Regency clothing to bring to life the fashionable world behind Austen’s immortal words.

HILARY DAVIDSON is a dress and textile historian & curator who was formerly curator of fashion and decorative art at the Museum of London. She has researched Austen-age fashion for a decade and is currently completing a major book on dress in the British Regency world for Yale (2018). Her most recent lecture at The Johnston Collection was DREAMS OF RED SHOES | Magic and Escape in 2016.

image caption: Cassandra Austen (English, 1773–1845), portrait of Jane Austen (1775-1817), circa 1804, watercolour on paper, private collection, (Creative Commons)

“MY EMMA” with Lise Rodgers 
Thursday 27 April 2017 | 2.00 pm to 3.30 pm

… for my next, I have taken a heroine whom no one but myself will much like
Jane Austen, 1814

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Emma in 1816, this new production reveals a more mature Jane, confident in her abilities as a novelist and for the first time taking an active role in managing her own affairs. 

Based on her letters of the period and of course the novel itself, here is the opportunity to celebrate the folk of Highbury and none more fascinating than Miss Emma Woodhouse herself. 

LISE RODGERS is an accomplished Melbourne actress whose career has spanned stage, screen and radio. An interest in the world and characters of Jane Austen is the inspiration behind her series of ‘Jane’ performances. 

image caption: Sir William Beechey RA (English, 1753-1839), Portrait of Marcia Fox, circa 1810, (Public Domain)