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Lectures & Workshops

Our Winter | Spring 2018 lecture series is now open for booking. Further lectures will be added to the program so continue to watch this space.

PLEASE NOTE | A lecture ticket does not include a tour of Fairhall exhibition-house. For Fairhall tours please make a booking through House Tours on the menu above.

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.


2018 will mark the 200th anniversary of  the release of Jane Austen’s last completed novel, Persuasion.To commemorate this event we are presenting three lectures celebrating and honoring Jane’s creativity and talent. 

JANE AUSTEN & CATHARINE MACAULAY | A story of disinheritance, where the Austens get the goods with Karen Green
Thursday 14 June 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

In this illustrated lecture Karen Green will talk about the rarely noticed family relationships that connect the famous republican historian, Catharine Macaulay, (born Catharine Sawbridge) with the Austen and Knight families. 

Tracing the marriage relationships between these families, she shows how Macaulay’s cousins were disinherited by the Knights’ decision to make Edward Austen their heir, revealing a complex web of overlooked inter-connections worthy of an Austen novel.

Karen Green is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne. She has published numerous articles and books, including A History of Women’s Political Thought in Europe, 1700–1800 (Cambridge, 2014), A History of Women’s Political Thought in Europe, 1400–1700 (with Jacqueline Broad, Cambridge, 2009), and The Woman of Reason: Feminism, Humanism and Political Thought (Continuum, 1995). She is currently editing Catharine Macaulay’s correspondence for Oxford University Press. This will be her first lecture at The Johnston Collection.

image: engraved by Marais le Jeune [Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune, (French, 1741–1814]
from the frontispiece of Histoire de l'Angleterre
[portrait of] Catharine (née Sawbridge) Macaulay, (1731-1791), late 18th century
stipple engraving on paper | paper size 187 mm x 119 mm (7 ⅜ in. x 4 ⅝ in.) 
image courtesy of the speaker

JANE AUSTEN’S LAST WORDS: Persuasion and Sanditon with John Wiltshire
Thursday 30 August 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Hardly had Jane Austen finished writing (and re-writing) Persuasion than she started work on a new novel, known as Sanditon. They are amazingly different works.  John Wiltshire will talk about them and their manuscripts, which together tell us so much about Jane Austen’s genius and art.

John Wiltshire is an Emeritus Professor at La Trobe University. He has written extensively on Jane Austen, and is currently editing a collection of essays on Persuasion.  His most recent book is The Hidden Jane Austen.

image: Cassandra Austen (English, 1773-1845)
Jane Austen, circa 1810
pencil and watercolour on paper | 114 mm x 80 mm
© National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 3630
purchased with help from The Friends of the National Libraries, 1948

Thursday 25 October 2018 at 2.00 pm to 3.30 pm

Persuasion is the last novel fully completed by Jane Austen. It was published at the end of 1817, six months after her death.

This beautifully costumed and staged presentation commemorates the 200th year anniversary since the posthumous publication of Persuasion, and this significant milestone honors the ongoing interpretation and influence of Jane Austen’s life and works.

LISE RODGERS is an accomplished Melbourne actress whose career has spanned stage, screen and radio. Widely known for her ongoing Jane Austen series of performances, it is her passion for the Spoken Word that inspires her series of performed readings. Her most recent presentation at The Johnston Collection was Dressed For Success, as part of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival | Arts Program Series 2018.

image Sir Thomas Lawrence, PRA (English, 1769-1830)
Portrait of Mrs John Allnutt, (née Eleanor Brandram)
(half-length) oil on canvas 
private collection

GARDENS ON THE EDGE: A journey through Australian landscapes with Christine Reid
Wednesday 17 October 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

In its images Gardens on the Edge is as much about the diversity and character of the Australian continent as it is about the gardens. Its accompanying stories not only explore the establishment of the garden, but also reference Australian history and geography, and cover issues ranging from dealing with droughts and climate change to restoring a long-neglected kitchen garden.

Join internationally respected gardening author Christine Reid as she discusses the newly published Gardens on the Edge. Together with images by renowned photographer Simon Griffiths, Reid focuses on 18 stunning gardens from around Australia situated on a natural 'frontier'-rainforest, desert, bushland, saltbush plains, a volcanic crater, the ocean's edge, a harbour. The featured gardens have been created or restored in locations where the surrounding natural landscape is as significant as the cultivated and designed elements. 

Christine Reid is an Australian garden writer whose interests include the social and cultural history of gardens and designed landscapes, both historic and contemporary. She writes for a wide range of Australian and international publications, including Gardens Illustrated in the UK. Christine has contributed to books including The Gardener’s Garden (Phaidon, 2014) and The Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens (Oxford University Press, 2002) and wrote the Australian entries for the revised edition of The Oxford Companion to Gardens (Oxford University Press, 2006). Christine Reid initiated the ‘Out of India’ study series of lectures held at The Johnston Collection in 2014.

Image supplied by Simon Griffiths

Tuesday 23 October 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

The recent exhibition PATTERNS OF COLLECTING | FROM THE BOWER at The Johnston Collection invited us to reflect on collecting as inspiration, and on collecting for its own sake.

In this spirit, our three queens and three princesses are linked by their enthusiasm for collecting, and for displaying their pieces.  They acquire their jewels as gifts and inheritances, find them in showrooms and at the great auction houses, and some have to be made specially to suit their taste.  Some are ladies who love style, some are gals who love ostentation, all six collectors love the glamour and prestige that jewellery bestows.

Join Adrian Dickens for this fully illustrated presentation that will delight, enlighten and amuse!

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 CircaAD Jewels. This is the eighth talk in the Adrian Dickens series, the most recent being A JEWEL IN THE CROWN | The Indian influence on early 20th century jewellery in May 2018.

image “The Pahlavi Crown, designed by Haj Siraj-ed-Din, for Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1925”

ON FRENCH HOUSE CHIC with Jane Webster
Thursday 8 November 2018 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

When we found a run-down chateau of Bosgouet, we'd been dreaming of buying a house in France for some time. We'd become obsessed with the idea of living in the French countryside, of learning a new language and traditions, and of giving our children a new perspective on the world. … The adventure brought us together as a family more strongly than ever, and we found a sense of harmony here in the French countryside.

In the more than ten years since Jane Webster moved her young family to France, she has spent countless hours observing French style and inspiring people to adopt a French way of life as well. This illustrated talk on French House Chic includes intimate imagery of never-before seen French houses as well as Jane’s personal introduction to suppliers, creators and stores. Be inspired by Webster's very personal and charming story of a lifetime of cultivating an eye for style and bringing it to life in their own home as well as a thoughtful depiction of French country life.

JANE WEBSTER is the author of At My French Table (2014), French Ties (2012), French House Chic (2018) and the soon to be released Chateau Life by Assouline (2018).  She spends six months in France each year where she runs cooking classes and food and wine tours. Webster runs The French Table from her magnificent home, the Château Bosgouet in Normandy. She spends six months in France each year where she organizes cultural tours and cooking classes throughout the region.

detail of illustration from French House Chic
Jane Webster published by Thames & Hudson (Australia) Pty. Ltd.


Thursday 22 November 2018 | 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm |  $50.00

Join author Jane Webster and be captivated by her tales of living la vie de château at Château Bosgouet in Normandy. The French have long been lauded as culinary experts, and the emphasis they place on time spent around the dinner table is yet another secret worth borrowing. Jane will entrance us with her stories of Château Life, with its sixty recipes - organised around ten themes, including holiday traditions, lunch box contents, joie de vivre, and the French Sunday lunch. They are a sensational catalogue of the Webster clan’s favorite food moments.

This is a special event organised by The Friends of The Johnston Collection

MYTHS & MISTLESTOE with Ian George
Saturday 8 December 2018 | 10.00 am to 12.00 pm

For anyone living in a predominantly Christian country it is hard to avoid Christmas. But how much do we know about its origins and history? 

There is a great deal of mythology from a range of backgrounds. For example, why do we install Christmas trees and what do they symbolise? Do you know when we first began to observe Christmas – and why? Why do we focus on 25 December? 

What are the twelve days of Christmas about and which cultures observe them most fully? Who is Santa Claus and how does Father Christmas get into the act? Why do we eat what we do and sing what we do at Christmas? Do we use mistletoe anymore and why did it start? 

What then is Christmas really about?

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. His most recent lecture at the Collection was The Other Paintings of Robert Peake The Elder (2018).