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Lectures & Workshops


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.


Presented by well-known art, social and cultural historians, the PRETTY WILD Study Series will reflect on the theme of animals while exploring the artistic, social and cultural worlds where objects, interiors and design meet. 

This series of lectures and events will also consider how historical and contemporary ideas connect and convey meanings that celebrate culture in the making

STRAY | On the Kindness of Animals with Barbara Creed
Wednesday 16 August 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

"In The Winter’s Tale (1623) Shakespeare speaks of the kindness of animals who took in and nursed the ‘poor babe’, the abandoned human stray. In the Anthropocene all species are threatened with loss of a hearth, home, nest, forest, burrow, water, wilderness, plot of ground, a place where living things can settle and flourish - that essential thing the human species once used in order to define itself as ‘human’ and ‘civilised’. The ‘poor babe’ of the twenty-first century will need more than the kindness of others. Not only are the members of all species threatened with the loss of a home or habitat, the earth herself is at risk."
Barbara Creed

This timely lecture explores the relationship between human and animal in the context of the stray. Working through examples from the visual arts, film and literature, with reference to prominent writers and philosophers, Creed introduces the concept of the stray and in so doing lays bare the astonishing contradictions at the heart of our current condition.

BARBARA CREED is a Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor at the University of Melbourne and an Honorary Professorial Fellow.  Creed’s recent research is on animal studies, the inhuman and social justice issues. She is presently on the editorial advisory boards of Cultural Studies Review, eTropic and the Animal Studies Journal and on the boards of the international book series, Anthem and Animal Publics. 

In 2006 she was elected to the Australian Academy of the Humanities and is currently the director of the Human Rights and Animal Ethics Research Network (HRAE) at the University of Melbourne. Her latest publication is Stray: Human–Animal Ethics in the Anthropocene (2017).

image: Sir Edwin Henry Landseer's A distinguished member of the Humane Society (1831), which depicts a stray dog called 'Bob', a Newfoundland, who was rewarded with this title for saving 23 people from drowning in the sea at the London waterfront where he set up his 'home' on the sea wall. His honorary title earned him a medal and a daily meal!

Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (English, 1802–1873), A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society, 1831 (exhibited 1838), oil paint on canvas | 1118 × 1435 mm, collection of the Tate Collection, London, N01226, bequeathed by Newman Smith, 1887, image used with permission under Public Domain

PAWS & PORTRAITS | Animals in Art with Katherine Kovacic
Wednesday 30 August 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

When humankind first began painting on cave walls, we chose to depict animals. Since then, animals of all species have been an integral part of art, but none more so than our beloved domestic animals: dogs, horses, cats and birds. 

This lecture will consider animals in art from a variety of perspectives, including dogs as symbols, the significance of the human-animal bond, and audience response to animals in portraiture.

KATHERINE KOVACIC is an independent researcher with special interests in animal behaviour, the role of animals in art and representations of the human-animal bond. She has an Honours degree in Veterinary Science, and a Master of Arts and PhD in Art History.

image: Harold Septimus Power (New Zealand-born Australian, 1877-1951)
Rough Collie, England, circa 1920, oil (sketch) on canvas, private collection, image supplied and used with permission

ANIMAL MENAGERIE | Animals in Jewellery with Adrian Dickens
Wednesday 6 September 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Think of an animal ... think of a jeweller ... then think of the wearer; a screen star, a member of royalty, an international stateswoman, a fashion designer, a celebrity. 

In a world where beauty and adornment are so completely intertwined,A Menagerie of Jewels is the sixth talk in the Circa AD repertoire; and has been specifically researched and written to coincide with the current ANIMAL KINGDOM exhibition at the Collection.

Some are beautiful, some not so, some are macabre and some will amuse, many have meaning and a few send a message particularly when worn, but above all they are jewels that recognise the talents of some of the world's most famous jewellers including Van Cleef and Arpel, Rene Lalique, Cartier, Harry Winston and in particular JAR

A 50-minute fully illustrated presentation on the history and stories behind some of the world's most wearable ‘animals’!

ADRIAN DICKENS trained in the United Kingdom for six years and has been a fixture on the Melbourne and Sydney fine jewellery scene for over 30 years. Adrian’s knowledge of historical and recent jewellery trends are insightful. 

He regularly gives talks and presentations nationally and internationally. He has managed some of Australia’s fine jewellery houses and now runs Circa AD Jewels. His most recent lecture at The Johnston Collection was DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES | The Jewels of a modern day Princess.

caption:Jean Larivière (French, 1940 - )
campaign for Cartier (avec Panthére), Paris, France, circa 1950

EXQUISITE CREATURES | Raised threads and mythical beasts with Alison Cole
Wednesday 13 September 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

For centuries, the making of embroidered samplers was part of a young girl’s education – covering not only needlework but also religion, morals and sometimes politics. Seventeenth century stumpwork embroidered mirrors, pictures, caskets and boxes featured a large array of both real and fantastic creatures.

In this illustrated presentation, Alison Cole will look at the history of stumpwork, the stories behind the embroideries, the women that embroidered them and the common elements within the designs.

ALISON COLE has been embroidering for over 30 years, but has always been around embroidery from a very young age. She is the author of four books (All That Glitters, The Midas Touch, The Stumpwork Masterclass and The Embroiderer’s Little Book of Hints and Tips) and has also been the recipient of The Embroiderers Guild (Victoria) Branch Scholarship along with the prestigious Ethel Oates Scholarship, of which she used part to research the history of metal thread embroidery.

Over the years, Alison has won many awards and prizes for her needlework. She has researched and taught in many countries to the stage where she is a true expert in her field. Cole has previously spoken at The Johnston Collection on WRAPPED IN SILK & GOLD: A History of Stumpwork in 2010.

image: Alison Cole, Gryphon, Melbourne, 2010, Stumpwork, image supplied and used with permission

LEOPARDS & OTHER WILD CREATURES | Fancy dressing with Margot Riley 
Thursday 14 September 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Leopard is the most ubiquitous of the ‘big-cat’ animal prints, and the label generally applied to all creatures great and spotty including the ocelot, cheetah, and jaguar. What nature created as camouflage for wild beasts moving through the jungle’s dappled light, designers soon tamed into submission for their own patterning purposes. While the urge to surround ourselves with animal print may stem from a nostalgia for more primitive times when humans were hunters, it is in the versatility of their motifs – mimicking the distinctive natural markings of exotic species symbolic of wealth and status – that the key to their longevity lies. This talk offers a sartorial walk on the wild side.

MARGOT RILEY is a cultural historian with special interest in textiles and dress. From 1992-1994, she completed the Masters in Museum Studies Program at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and, since her return to Australia, has been working as a Curator with the collections of the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney. Her most recent talk at The Johnston Collection was DREAMING OF THE DEPARTED: Australian mourning portraits in 2016.

This lecture is generously supported by The Friends of The Johnston Collection.

image: The Swiss Photographic Studios, Sydney Dulcie Deamer in leopard skin costume [worn to the Artists Ball], Sydney, 1923 sepia toned silver gelatin photoprint courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Sydney (PXA 1609) image supplied and used with permission


THE FRENCH REFLECT ON THE NEW WORLD: Prize-winning contests and the Americas in French Académies in the 18th century with Bertrand Van Ruymbeke 
Tuesday 29 August 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Prize-winning contests (concours) offered by the Académies were immensely popular in 18th century France as several hundreds were organised, drawing thousands of memoirs over the course of the century. These essay contests bore on a wide range of topics in science, agriculture, urbanism, history, law, medicine, commerce, gambling, fashion and geography, as well as a myriad of regional issues.

This show and tell explores contests related to the Atlantic World whether on slavery, the New World, the American Revolution, colonisation, navigation or trade.

Bertrand Van Ruymbeke will present examples of those contests in a general way and then focus on one or two bearing on the discovery of the New World and slavery including the history of the Saint-Domingue (now the Republic of Haiti).

The liberation, by Toussaint L'Ouverture and his army looms large, as of Saint-Domingue was the most important French slave-based colony for France at the time. In this presentation we will also learn how the events in Saint-Domingue terrified British plantation owners in the West Indies, with a real fear that what had happened in Saint-Domingue could happen in British Colonies.

BERTRAND VAN RUYMBEKE is Professor of American History, Université de Paris 8 (University of Vincennes in Saint-Denis), France. He taught for a long time in the Department of History of the University of Charleston in South Carolina. Van Ruymbeke is the co-founder of the Journal of Early American History published by Brill in the Netherlands. In 2015 he became a senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France.

He is currently working on a research project relating to the French academies in the 18th century and on what people wrote about when they described the New World and the Pacific. 

Anne-Louis Girodet De Roucy-Trioson (French, 1767 – 1824) Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Belley, Deputy for Saint-Domingue (with a bust of Raynal), 1797, collection of Palace of Versailles, France | Public Domain


PICTURING MELBOURNE: the new Golden Age of illustrating Melbourne with Melinda Clarke, Deborah Young and Lewis Brownlie
Tuesday 5 September 2017 | | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Pictorial maps have been used and admired since the first medieval cartographer put pen to paper depicting mountains and trees across countries, people and objects around margins, and sea monsters in oceans.

You may have seen AC Cooke & Samuel Calvert’s 1880 illustration of Melbourne, and if you were around in the 1990’s it’s likely you remember The Melbourne Map, inspired by that first etching and produced by two young Melburnians, Melinda Clarke & Deborah Young.

Over the past 27 years there have been incredible changes to Melbourne’s landscape for example Docklands, Southern Cross Station, Melbourne Star, Eureka Tower, Melbourne Sports & Entertainment arenas, Birrarung Marr, Crown and Southbank developments, Federation Square, Bolte Bridge, Melbourne Museum to name just a few.

Join Melinda Clarke, Deborah Young and Lewis Brownlie as they describe the journey of mapping in the digital age, and the joy of discovering and documenting Melbourne all over again.

MELINDA CLARKE is the driving force behind the Melbourne Map published in 1990. She’s now on a quest to bring the enormously popular image back to life including all the new infrastructure, buildings, sporting arenas, parks and add a few more suburbs to the drawing. 

DEBORAH YOUNG is an artist and garden designer who first joined the team in 1987. She designed and drew the original character line drawing for the first edition – The Magic Melbourne Map. This historic view of Melbourne is held in the State and National Library archives, Historical Society records and adorns the walls of many a home and business around Melbourne and indeed the globe. 

LEWIS BROWNLIE is a new recruit. He has spent the last couple of years drawing Melbourne, one building at a time, attracted to the older colonial feel of his own past. Usually making artworks on location from direct observation - he finds this the most fulfilling method of capturing the feel of a place. He produced a colouring book of the city of Melbourne and more recently a colouring book of Fitzroy Gardens & Cooks Cottage – and a portrait of Fairhall and William Johnston’s cup for The Johnston Collection.

image:detail from the Melbourne Map, 2017


BUCKINGHAM PALACE | its history, occupants and contents
Tuesday 24 October 2017 | 2.00 pm to 3.30 pm

How the building developed from a modest Georgian house to the present Palace; from King George III's purchase of a family home in 1762 to the creation of a stunning palace by King George IV and John Nash in the 1820s; to the royal residence used by Queen Victoria and monarchs ever since as the centre of British Court life and the glittering setting for thousands of official functions and State visits.

The Palace also contains hundreds of art treasures from the Royal Collection, including world famous paintings, furniture, sculpture, porcelain, clocks and other objects.

Buckingham Palace, aerial view with the Queen Victoria Memorial in the foreground; the East Front; the internal quadrangle and Grand Entrance; and the garden behind

KING GEORGE III | ‘the most cultured monarch’, art collector, friend of America and family man
Thursday 26 October 2017 | 2.00 pm to 3.30 pm

George III is unjustly remembered solely as having been mad and having lost the American colonies. This lecture corrects this impression. He was a discerning art collector, patron of the arts and artists, friend of America and Americans, and a committed family man. He was also a keen architect who added the future Buckingham Palace to the Royal residences, and re-inhabited Windsor Castle. 

This lecture describes his life, family and wide interests, his patronage of the arts, his important additions to the Royal Collection and his relationship with North America and Americans.

King George III - portrait painted on the occasion of his Coronation
Sir Allan Ramsay, (English, 1713-84), George III (1738-1820), circa 1761-2, The Royal Collection, England, RCIN 405307, Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 | Public Domain

KING GEORGE IV | The greatest royal collector of art
Tuesday 31 October 2017 | 2.00 pm to 3.30 pm

George IV was the single greatest Royal collector of art and instigator of architectural projects. He was passionately fond of lavish decoration and display. As Prince of Wales, he refurbished Carlton House in London; and built Brighton Pavilion. As King, he converted Buckingham House into Buckingham Palace; and made huge changes to Windsor Castle. 

He furnished his palaces magnificently with French furniture, clocks, porcelain and sculpture. He was an avid collector of Dutch and Flemish paintings, including works by Rembrandt, Rubens and van Dyck. He patronised contemporary artists such as Reynolds, Gainsborough, Lawrence and Stubbs; and the sculptors Canova and Chantrey. He assembled the greatest collection of Sevres porcelain in the world; and a huge amount of historic and contemporary silver and gold objects.

King George IV - on the occasion of his Coronation
Sir Thomas Lawrence (English, 1769-1830), George IV (1762-1830), 1821, The Royal Collection, England, RCIN 405918, Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 | Public Domain

QUEEN VICTORIA & PRINCE ALBERT | Patrons of the arts and art collectors
Wednesday 1 November 2017 | 2.00 pm to 3.30 pm

Victoria and Albert were enthusiastic patrons of the arts throughout their marriage, commissioning and collecting works from both British and European artists. These included Old Master paintings, sculpture, furniture, jewellery and fine bindings. Victoria and Albert were as passionate about art as they were about each other. They viewed their roles as patrons of the arts as being part of the public duties of the monarchy. Buckingham Palace was known as ‘the headquarters of taste’. 

They also made important changes at Windsor Castle and added three other distinctive royal residences, Balmoral Castle, Osborne House and Sandringham House. They played a pivotal role with the ground breaking Great Exhibition of 1851, and were important patrons of early photography. 

This lecture also challenges the popular image of Victoria as a melancholy widow and reveals her as a passionate and open-minded woman.

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (German, 1805-1873), Queen Victoria (age 23), 1842, The Royal Collection, England, RCIN 406010, Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 | Public Domain

OLIVER EVERETT is Librarian Emeritus of the Royal Library, Windsor Castle. He was Librarian there and Assistant Keeper of the Royal Archives from 1985 to 2002. He wrote articles on the Royal Library, helped with several books on the Royal Collection, wrote the official guidebook on Windsor Castle, taught a history course on it and advised on a television series on it. 

He was in the British Diplomatic Service, 1967-78, including postings in India and Spain. He was Assistant Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales, 1978-80; and Private Secretary to Diana, Princess of Wales, 1981-83.

He lectures widely in Britain and abroad, including at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the New York Public Library. In Canada, at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.  In Australia, at National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and University of Melbourne; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane. And to art societies in Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Spain and New Zealand; and also on cruise ships. 

He was educated at Cambridge University and did post-graduate work at Tufts University, Massachusetts; and at the London School of Economics.

PIONEERS OF PORTRAITURE: Propriety and Prosperity in Mary Beale’s Portrait Practice with Lisa Mansfield
Tuesday 19 September 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Mary Beale’s commercial success as one of the most accomplished portrait painters working in 17th century Britain, attests her powers of observation, social graces, and uncommonly equal partnership with her husband in marriage and business. 

In examining her innovative approach to the representation of gender, this lecture will explore her conscious self-promotion as a woman artist within an illustrious lineage of female pioneers of portraiture extending back to the Renaissance.

LISA MANSFIELD is an art historian originally from Melbourne. Her doctoral dissertation examined the portraits of the French Renaissance King, Francis I (reign 1515-1547), which formed the basis for her book, Representations of Renaissance Monarchy: Francis I and the image-makers, 2016.

Lisa's core area of research investigates the political and psychological mechanics and communicative power of the face and body, particularly in Northern Renaissance traditions of portraiture. Additional research interests that inform Lisa's teaching practice include the construction of image and identity in virtual worlds (avatar creation in Second Life), and art censorship and iconoclasm in past and present historical contexts. 

Lisa completed her Ph.D. Art History at the University of Melbourne in 2005, where she was a tutor and guest lecturer from 1998 to 2005. In mid-2008 Lisa joined the Department of Art History, University of Adelaide, and teaches a range of courses in European art history. She recently presented a paper on Francis I, at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Brussels, and has lectured and published widely.

image: Mary Beale, (English, 1632/3-1699), Self-Portrait of Mary Beale with Her Husband and Son, circa 1660, oil on canvas, 602 x 740 mm, collection of The Geffrye, Museum of the Home, London, 49/1978, purchased with the assistance of the Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the Art Fund, 1978, image used with permission under Public Domain


Whatever you do, you must not look at Her Majesty

To coincide with the launch of the forthcoming film Victoria & Abdul starring Dame Judy Dench, slated for release in Australia on 22 September 2017, join Eugene Barilo von Reisberg as he introduces you to of some of the most famous 19th century portraits that look at Queen Victoria.

Discover how the portraits of Queen Victoria reflect the social changes of this fast-paced epoch, and how the artists of the era adapted the genre of portraiture to changing demands and divergent artists and royal demand.

Drawn from public museums, royal palaces, and private collections from around the world you will discover prominent portrait painters who captured Queen Victoria in her copious royal commissions.

Gain glimpses into the fascinating lives of the gifted artists and the colourful personality of Her Majesty; learn the secret language of portraiture; and uncover the covert messages shared between the portraits and the viewers.

BY POPULAR DEMAND | QUEEN VICTORIA'S MAHARAJAH: Indian Presence at Queen Victoria's Court
Wednesday 4 October 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Fascinated by one of Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s most exotic paintings, Portrait of Maharajah Duleep Singh, von Reisberg delved into the sitter’s biography and uncovered a fascinating tale of an Indian child prince; the legend of the fabled Koh-i-Noor diamond, one of the most important jewels in the British Royal Collection; and the Indian presence at the court of Queen Victoria, the first British monarch to be formally styled the Empress of India.

image: Portrait of Duleep Singh, Maharajah of Lahore (1837-93), by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73), 1854, oil on canvas, Collection of HM Queen Elizabeth II (RCIN 403843)

Wednesday 11 October 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Join Dr Eugene Barilo von Reisberg as he unravels fiction and reality and examines the confluence of genuine parental pride and exemplary monarchic propaganda behind one of the most iconic nineteenth-century portraits by the celebrated court painter Franz Xaver Winterhalter representing Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their five eldest children.

image: Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873), The Royal Family in 1846, The Royal Collection, England, RCIN 405413, Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 | Public Domain

PORTRAITURE AS CONTACT: Official Representations of British Monarchy Abroad
Wednesday 18 October 2017 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Official portraits of Queen Victoria were the first point of contact between the monarch and the millions of her culturally and religiously diverse subjects. As an allegorical embodiment of the British Empire, they also became one of the veritable cornerstones of national identity.

The lecture examines the complex iconography of official royal portraiture and investigates the procedures underpinning the dissemination and distribution of royal images, which came to play an important part in Queen Victoria’s performance of her royal duties and in the continued visibility of the British Monarchy.

image: Portrait of Queen Victoria (1819-1901), by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73), 1843, oil on canvas, Collection of HM Queen Elizabeth II (RCIN 404388).

DR 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. He has presented lectures at The Johnston Collection since 2011.