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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 Scottish Study Series By Yon Bonnie Brae will explore the artistic social and cultural worlds where art, fashion, interiors and design meet. The lectures and events will consider how historical and contemporary international and local artists connect with their contemporaries and convey meanings that celebrate culture in the making.

The Johnston Collection would like to acknowledge the encouragement and support of Dr Alison Inglis, Associate Professor, Art History Program, University of Melbourne with the development of the Scottish Study Series.

Wednedsay 1 June 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18

Dreaming of a glorious past, and challenged by the intricacy of the superb metalwork of the Celts, late 19th century designers were inspired to create jewellery and objects worthy of a Celtic chieftain’s family. In this lecture we will see some of these beautiful pieces and explore the context in which they were made.

SOPHIA ERREY is an artist, art educator and writer. She has lectured widely in the visual arts both historical and contemporary, and has a keen interest in metalwork. Her most recent lecture at the Collection was OF CLOSETS AND DRAWING ROOMS | Spaces, Occasions and Dress (2015).

PRIDE OF SCOTLAND | A story of Scotland’s unique silver and silversmithing with Ben Staunton
Tuesday 7 June 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18 

The story of Scottish silver is one tied closely to the Scottish identity. From numerous small provincial Scottish outposts that ignored the mandate to send silver into to official assay offices of Edinburgh and Glasgow, to the rejection of some of the more over the top English fashions for a more austere and simple form, Scottish silver speaks of national pride, conservative religion and a unique heritage. Join Ben Staunton as he looks at with a particular focus on Scottish silver of the 18th and 19th centuries.

BEN STAUNTON has been collecting and dealing in antique silver since his high school years. He has a particular focus on Australian Colonial and Provincial silver. He has written and spoken on a range of silver topics and currently serves on the Committee of the Silver Society of Australia. 

Thursday 23 June 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18 

From the 1840s until the 1950s the Australian economy ‘rode on the sheep’s back’. John Macarthur was a key player in the establishment of this industry in Australia. In 1789 he immigrated to the colony of New South Wales and in 1794 commenced experiments in wool growth by cross breeding sheep. This lecture will look at the role Macarthur played in the establishment of the early Australian wool industry.

REBECCA EVANS is an Assistant Curator at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), Sydney. She is founding member of the Australian Dress Register. Rebecca has worked on projects including LOVE LACE: Powerhouse Museum's International Lace Award (2011), A FINE POSSESSION: Jewellery and Identity (2014), and is currently curating an exhibition of Australian colonial dress, opening mid-2016. Her previously lecture at The Johnston Collection was COLONIAL FASHION | Wearing identity (2015).

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

Tuesday 21 June 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18

Why, at the age of nearly 60, did Alexander Macleay leave his respected life to accept a position in the far-flung colony of New South Wales bringing himself, his wife, his 6 daughters and his insect collection and library to Sydney?

As a well- educated Scot, Alexander Macleay (1767 – 1848) had commenced his career in the British Civil Service in 1795 as a chief clerk in the War office. When Alexander Macleay arrived in Sydney in 1825, to be Colonial Secretary of New South Wales, he was an experienced British Civil Servant and a respected gentleman entomology collector. 

His interest in Natural History had resulted in his insect collection being without parallel in England, with over 9000 specimens and he had been Honorary Secretary of the Linnean Society of London for 27 years. He had close contact with the established collectors of the day, with his cabinet being used by Kirby and Spence in their publications of 1815 – 1826.

ANNE HARBERS is an independent scholar in Art History. She holds a Master research degree in Chemistry and an MBA and for 25 years worked in the field of biotechnology. She is co-author of Jane Austen – Antipodean Views (2001). In 2014, she completed her Masters degree in Art History from the University of Sydney, and is currently enrolled as an external PhD candidate at Radboud Universiteit in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, working on 17th century Dutch art.

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

SAVAGE NATIONALISM: Tartan from William Wallace to Alexander McQueen with Dorothy Morgan
Wednesday 22 June 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18

Is tartan a fabric or a design, a marketing opportunity or a tool of imperialism, a fashion statement or a subversive weapon, a rallying call to a nation or the means of its oppression? From fierce Caledonian warriors to high fashion runways, tartan is a synonym for Scotland, recognised around the world. How did this humble cloth come into being, change over the centuries, and become such a potent symbol?

DOROTHY MORGAN, an honours history graduate of The University of Melbourne, was Guest Curator of both the exhibition FLOWERING NEEDLES: embroidery from Elizabeth to Victoria, (2010) and the house tour FAIR HALL TO GLAD PARLOUR: The Flower, Its Beauty & Meaning in Art & Ornament (2011). with a particular interest in embroidery and textiles she has presented several lectures on related topics at both The Johnston Collection and other venues.


EUGENE BARILO VON REISBERG is a Melbourne-based lecturer, researcher, and art consultant with a passion for nineteenth-century art, history, and culture. He is currently completing a doctoral dissertation on Franz Xaver Winterhalter, the 19th century elite portrait specialist, at the University of Melbourne.

FRANZ XAVER WINTERHALTER: At Their Majesty’s Service with Eugene Barilo von Reisberg
Tuesday 10 May 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18

For nearly forty years, from the early 1830s to the early 1870s, Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73) enjoyed a reputation of the most popular and highly sought-after elite portrait specialist of the era. His contemporaries referred to him as the Painter of Princes and the preferred portraitist of “the upper ten thousand.” He worked for the courts of Paris, London, St Petersburg, Berlin, and Vienna, capturing some of the most famous, powerful, and fascinating characters of the day, imbuing them with effortless glamour and timeless elegance. The lecture incorporates materials from recent scholarly publications and a retrospective exhibition of Winterhalter’s works to provide fresh insights into the artist’s legacy and unlock the secrets of his celebrated portraits. 

QUEEN VICTORIA’S SCOTTISH IDYLL with Eugene Barilo von Reisberg
Wednesday 15 June 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18

Raised on Walter Scott’s romantic novels and Edwin Landseer’s highland paintings, Queen Victoria fell in love with Scotland on her very visit in 1842. Her fascination was shared by her husband, Prince Albert, for whom Scotland reminded of his native Coburg. The construction and interior decoration of Balmoral Castle realised the royal couple’s Scottish fantasies. The lecture explores Victoria and Albert’s love for all things Scottish through their and their contemporaries’ letters, diaries, and works of art.

Tuesday 28 June 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18

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 led to the ultimately dispersal of family fortunes. The lecture traces the highs and lows in the life and times of Marie, Princess of Baden, Duchess of Hamilton.

It is 200 years since the first publication of Jane Austen’s Emma by John Murray in December 1815, with the first edition title page impressed in 1816.

The Johnston Collection is celebrating with a year-long programme of activities honouring of the ongoing interpretation of Jane Austen’s works.


Thursday 2 June 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18

Fanny Burney’s journals covering her years at the court of George III are only now being published in full after more than 200 years. This was the time when the King was diagnosed as ‘mad’ and imprisoned. Burney knew more than any other woman how his illness was being treated. This talk focuses on her challenging encounters with her sovereign during his illness and recovery.

ROMANCE AT COURT with John Wiltshire
Thursday 9 June 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18

During the months of the King’s madness, courtiers were under virtual house arrest. This talk tells the story of a previously hidden, and ultimately tragic, romantic relationship between Frances and Colonel Digby, the Queen’s vice-chancellor, during this time of intense stress. 

JOHN WILTSHIRE is Emeritus Professor at La Trobe University. He is the author of many books about Jane Austen, among others, and is currently preparing one on Frances Burney and medical experience. 

‘A MOST LUXURIOUS STATE’: Men and Music in Jane Austen’s Novels with Gillian Dooley
Tuesday 12 April 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18

In Austen’s novels, musicianship is mainly the preserve of the female sex. The main role of the true gentleman, as far as musicianship is concerned, is to be an appreciative listener. More than once, this is the shortest route to falling in love. But what does this mean for the musical man? 

GILLIAN DOOLEY is Honorary Senior Research Fellow in English at Flinders University, Adelaide, where she also works in the Library. She has published extensively on Jane Austen and a range of other novelists. Her latest book is Never Mind about the Bourgeoisie: The Correspondence between Iris Murdoch and Brian Medlin 1976-1995 (2014).


Wednesday 27 April 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18

For much of the 19th century Australia was reckoned as a country where there was little need for fashionable dress, yet early visitors to Melbourne commented on the inhabitant’s interest in dress and the plethora of shops which catered for a fashion-conscious clientele. Boosted by the influx of emigrants in the 1850s and a new-found wealth from the goldfields, Melbourne quickly became home to an array of dressmakers, drapers and department stores. Surviving items of dress from the mid-19th to the early-20th century not only attest to the commercial aspect of the clothing industry, but also provide an insight into a society which was finely attuned to the role of fashion as a signifier of prosperity and respectability.

LAURA JOCIC 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. She is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Melbourne, researching dress and its role in Australian colonial society and is also guest curating an exhibition on the artist Louis Kahan’s work in theatre, fashion and art. 

Wednesday 18 May 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18

In 2014 Prahran Market turned 150 years old. Writer, filmmaker and Market shopper, Lesley Sharon Rosenthal was commissioned to write the Market’s history. Lesley takes us through its fascinating milestones from sawdust floors, horse and carts and the Depression to migrant explosion, birth of delis, foodie entrepreneurs and chef’s gourmet paradise. The Market was a kind of microcosm of Melbourne’s evolving eating habits over the decades as well as a community heartbeat during the changing fortunes of time. Bring along your tastebuds!

LESLEY SHARON ROSENTHAL is a writer and filmmaker who has a love of history. Her films Boutique Magnifique, and Chapel of Chic documenting the history of Collins Street's fashion through its high-end boutiques and Chapel Street’s history of fashion over a hundred years, drew large audiences to ACMI and the Astor Theatre. She has also written Schmattes: Stories of Fabulous Frocks, Funky Fashion and Flinders Lane (2005) documenting Flinders Lane’s colourful history of the rag trade.


Thursday 26 May 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18 SOLD OUT

In September 2013 Adrian Dickens went to Paris in search of greater insight into the story of the abdication of England’s King Edward VIII - over 70 years has passed the greatest crisis in the modern history of the British monarchy in 1936. The mystery of, and the effects of the abdication are still being felt today. 

Dickens tried to discover more by visiting the Paris home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The result offers a different perspective on the British monarchy. In this lecture Dickens unlocks the history of this relationship and the fraught, often poisonous, relations with the Duke’s family. He re-examines the purpose of their cluttered, rambling possessions - and breathtaking jewels - and the role they play in understanding the impact of Mrs Simpson on the Monarchy that is unique in its political and historical significance. 

Learn how – and why – a man who didn’t want the throne of England spent the rest of his life trying to replicate it. Hear the stories behind the Duchess’ obsession with fashion and displays of jewels. Discover who ‘Cookie’ and ‘Shirley Temple’ are … and why the Windsor’s loathed them. Understand how the Windsor’s used their collections and possessions to undermine the occupants of Buckingham Palace.

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.

A NEW DRESS FOR EMMA with Lise Rodgers 
Thursday 18 February 2016 | 2.00 pm to 3.30 pm | $20 / $18


Wednesday 4 May 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18

Scottish settlers arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788 and currently represent 8.3% of the population with Scots ancestry the fourth most commonly nominated by Australian residents. International Tartan Day is celebrated annually on 1 July and a strong Scottish cultural presence continues to be found throughout our history and within our public collections. 

This talk will highlight Australian expressions of Scots nationalism as represented though depictions of motifs such as tartan, heather and the thistle in the State Library of NSW, and including the story of the 1988 Bicentenary design competition for Australia’s National Tartan.

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 previous talk at the Collection was FINE FEATHERS MAY MAKE FINE BIRDS, but do they make fine ladies? (2015).

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

Wednesday 11 May 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18

In the 1750s, Scottish artist Allan Ramsay developed a new mode of intimate, informal and intellectual picture called the ‘natural portrait’. This lecture considers the relationship of Ramsay’s portraiture to the Enlightenment exchange of ideas through polite conversation, focusing on his portraits of Margaret Lindsay of Evelick and philosophers David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

GEORGINA COLE’s interests include 18th century painting, architecture and art theory. In 2010, she received her doctorate from the University of Sydney with a thesis on doors and threshold spaces in 18th century genre painting. She is currently working on representations of blindness in 18th century art. Cole teaches the history of art at the National Art School and is a regular presenter at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Her most recent lecture at The Johnston Collection was REVEALING AND CONCEALING in the Rococo interior (2015).

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

TANGIBLE MEMORIES with Patricia Tryon Macdonald
Wednesday 25 May 2016, 10.00 am to 11.30 am $20/$18

Patricia Tryon Macdonald has been a migrant three times in her life, so feels great empathy for our early settlers.

In the 19th century migrants to Australia faced a long, potentially dangerous, voyage in cramped conditions and limited baggage, so what did they take to remind them of the home and country they would probably never see again? 

Perhaps the most poignant objects are those recovered from shipwrecks such as The Dunbar, which sank at Sydney Heads in 1857 on its second return voyage to the colony. A cache of items belonging to early Melbourne settlers unearthed at the ‘Little Lon’ site, when a building site was excavated by archaeologists in 1987-88, also provide fascinating insights into Melbourne 140 years ago, in what was once a notorious red light district.

These, and other precious things passed down the generations shed light on the precarious and challenging world of our early settlers.

PATRICIA TRYON MACDONALD is an independent curator. Her recent exhibitions include Exiles and Emigrants: Epic Journeys to Australia in the Victorian Era, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2005-2006) and For Auld Lang Syne: Images of Scottish Australia from First Fleet to Federation, Art Gallery of Ballarat (2014).


FROM OLD TO NEW LUXURY | From Hollywood stars to the late Queen Mother and everything in between with Peter McNeil and Giorgio Riello 

Tuesday 3 May 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18 SOLD OUT  

Modernist ideas minted in the first part of the twentieth century argued for a notion of luxury that transcended intrinsic value: luxuries that were simply not available for all to see, as had happened in the nineteenth century. In the inter-war years a new generation of designers, from Coco Chanel for fashion to Jean-Michel Frank for furnishing, turned their back on the ostentatious exoticism and orientialism of fin-de-siècle taste and reinvented the notion of luxury. The disciplined and severely elegant design of interiors and furniture for trans-Atlantic elites of the 1930s navigated between the poles of post-Bauhaus austerity and neo-Baroque opulence. Frank and Chanel exemplify the period’s ‘chic of poverty’, an expression minted by Cecil Beaton. One might say that the creation of luxury that does not look like such is the very pinnacle of luxury itself: a form of distinction that only those in the know can discern. The idea of purity (of forms but also of moral conduct) might seems at odd with the notion of excess that had characterised luxury over its long history. Yet, in an age in which decoration has become cheap and at the reach of the majority, luxury adopted its diametrical opposite to retain its exclusivity. Taste became a rare commodity that could be bought. The twentieth century therefore shows a distancing from the mere accumulation to a more aestheticised vision of what luxury means and the role that it has in people’s lives.
PETER McNEIL is Professor of Design History at the University of Technology Sydney and Distinguished Professor, Aalto University, Finland. He is the author of numerous publications including ten works on fashion, including the best-selling Shoes, also translated into Italian (with Giorgio Riello 2006; 2011). His new book entitled 'Pretty Gentlemen': Macaroni Men and the Eighteenth Century Fashion World is forthcoming with Yale University Press.
GIORGIO RIELLO is Professor of Global History and Culture and Director of the Institute of Advanced Study at the University of Warwick. He has published extensively on the history of fashion, design and consumption in early modern Europe and Asia and is the coordinator of the Leverhulme-funded ‘The Luxury Network’ , a collaboration between Warwick, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of Art and Design in New York, and the universities of Bologna, Stockholm and Melbourne. Together with Peter McNeil he recently published a book entitled Luxury: A Rich History (Oxford University Press 2016).


Over the centuries France and Scotland have often been allies against their common enemy; the English. Indeed, during the 100 years War, Joan of Arc was supported by Scottish guards in her victory over the English at Orleans. It would be Scottish spies employed as mapmakers for Henry VIII who would supply the French with vital intelligence for a thwarted invasion. When Mary Queen of Scots, who had been brought up at the French court, married the Dauphin of France, there were hopes that the two countries would be finally united. She brought the French language and customs to the Scottish court.

This series of lectures will examine the close relationship between these two countries based on mutual respect and cultural similarities

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.

THE EMPRESS EUGÉNIE: A Kirkpatrick on the throne of France with Sylvia Sagona 
Thursday 14 April 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18 SOLD OUT

The last Empress of the French was a Spanish beauty, Eugénie de Montijo, who owed her auburn hair and fiery temperament to her Scottish grandparents. When she became the wife of Napoleon 111 in 1853 she was called upon to play her role in recreating Paris as the capital of culture, elegance and cutting edged glamour. Her devout Catholicism would influence her husband’s foreign policy and ultimately lead to the fall of the Second Empire.

THE LEGEND OF FINGAL: The great 18th century Gaelic literary hoax which fooled Goethe, Napoleon, Schubert and Voltaire with Sylvia Sagona
Thursday 21 April 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18 SOLD OUT

James McPherson rose to celebrity as the “translator” of long lost Gaelic manuscripts which he had “discovered” in the Scottish highlands. The Works of Ossian, son of Fingal were hailed throughout Europe as the Gaelic equivalent of Homer and the stories of Walhalla. 

Napoleon always carried a copy to the battlefield and commissioned French artists to use the legend for his own propaganda. Despite being denounced as a fake by Samuel Johnson, the Ossian saga inspired the first works of the Romantic movement and McPherson, the great con man, bought the right to be interred in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.

THOMAS BLAIKIE: The Scottish landscape gardener of Malmaison, Parc Monceau and the Bagatelle with Sylvia Sagona
Thursday 28 April 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am | $20 / $18 SOLD OUT

French gardeners such as Lenôtre were famed for their imposing geometric style showcased at Versailles. So when something unusual and whimsical was called for the French Royal court turned to a Scottish gardener, Blaikie. 

When the Comte D’ Artois, brother of Louis VI, made a bet with Marie Antoinette about creating the Bagatelle gardens, he called in Blaikie to pull it off. The extraordinary Parc Monceau complete with grottos and ruins, was also designed by Blaikie for the Duc d’Orleans. 

Josephine who considered herself a trendsetter commissioned Blaikie to design the gardens of Malmaison in the fashionable English style at a time when her husband Napoleon was at war with the British.