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

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 DREAM HOUSE Study Series will explore the artistic social and cultural worlds where objects, interiors and design meet. The lectures and events will consider how historical contemporary ideas connect and convey meanings that celebrate culture in the making.

DREAM ON: Jung & Freud with Sophie Errey
Wednesday 13 July 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) and Jung’s development of ideas of the collective unconscious and archetypal symbols have profoundly affected contemporary culture at all levels, from the most popular to the most intellectually sophisticated. We will explore their related but different thinking, and how it has changed ideas about what role dreams play in our inner and outer landscape.    

SOPHIA ERREY is an artist, art educator and writer. She has lectured widely in the visual arts both historical and contemporary including developing and teaching a course on Art and Psychoanalysis. Her last lecture at The Johnston Collection was IDENTITY & ROMANCE: The Celtic Revival in Jewellery and Objects 

Group photo 1909 in front of Clark University. Front row, Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall, Carl Jung. Back row, Abraham Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi. Public Domain


DECODING THE 'CONUNDRUM CASTLE': A Twenty-First Century Reading of Walter Scott's house at Abbotsford with Suzanne Fraser
Wednesday 27 July 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

This lecture will examine the historic eccentricities and whimsicalities that comprise the site – both the exterior and interior – of the poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott’s fantastical castle, Abbotsford, in the Borders of Scotland (built between 1816 and 1824). The complexities of Scott’s house, which the author named his ‘conundrum castle’, will be reappraised in light of new research concerning national identity, Scottishness and romantic narratives.

SUZANNE FRASER is a recent PhD graduate and tutor/guest lecturer at the University of Melbourne. Her research encompasses 18th to 20th century British art, art of empires, and national identity. She recently contributed to the catalogue, FOR AULD LANG SYNE: images of Scottish Australia from First Fleet to Federation (Inglis and Macdonald, 2014). Her most recent lecture at The Johnston Collection was REVISITING THE ADAM STYLE: Design, Enlightenment, and 18th century Scotland.


DREAMING OF THE BELOVED: Heloise in literature from the 18th century to the present with Constant J. Mews and readings by Maryna Mews
Wednesday 3 August 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

This presentation explores the range of ways Heloise has been imagined in English literature, beginning with an enormously popular translation by John Hughes in 1713, and then Alexander Pope’s Eloisa to Abelard, a poem widely imitated in the eighteenth century. Why did the story of Abelard and Heloise create such interest in the 18th century. It looks at fascination in the 18th and early 19th century in the figure of Heloise, as one who dreams about her beloved within the constraints of religious life. The talk concludes by looking at various 20th-century presentations of Heloise in literature, notably by Helen Waddell as well as some more recent efforts. It argues that Heloise has always been perceived as a modern figure, in every generation.

CONSTANT J. MEWS, Director of the Centre for Studies in Religion and Theology at Monash University since 1991, is specialist in medieval intellectual and religious history, with a particular interest in the twelfth century. He is a major authority on the writings and intellectual milieu of Peter Abelard and Heloise, having edited Abelard's Theologia for the series Corpus Christianorum, and having published a number of books on this topic, including The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard: Perceptions of Dialogue in Twelfth-Century France (Palgrave, 1999) and Abelard and Heloise (Oxford University Press, 2005). He has also published extensively on Hildegard of Bingen and religious women in medieval culture.

Angelica Kauffmann (Austrian, 1741 – 1807), The Farewell of Abelard and Héloïse, circa 1787, oil on canvas, 656 x 655 nm, collection of Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia


DREAMING OF THE DEPARTED: Australian mourning portraits with Margot Riley
Tuesday 16 August 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Grieving protocols intensified throughout the second half of the 19th century, following the model set by Queen Victoria after the death of Prince Albert in 1861. Memorial portraiture – the practice of recording a person’s likeness soon after death – was already established in European art but gained greater currency as photography enabled the mechanisation of portrait-making. 

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 SCOTTY IN GUMNUT LAND | Australian Expressions of Scots Identity (2016).

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

Maurice Felton (1803-1842), Sophia Statham O'Brien (1820-1841), oil on canvas, collection of the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, DG 427: c074310001

THE HOUSE MUSEUM: Where House & Art Museum Converge with Georgina Walker
Wednesday 17 August 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Art historian Anne Higonnet refers to privately founded historic house-museums as ‘personal art collection museums’ because they were always intended to be publicly accessible, hence they are no longer entirely private, even though loosely speaking some were private houses. 

House-museums in her opinion are either houses that have been preserved for their historic or architectural importance, or simply because they belonged to a famous person. The waters start to muddy a little when a notable art collection is involved within the house, in which case, the question arises whether the art becomes the distinguishing feature, and not the house itself.

GEORGINA WALKER teaches into the Master of Art Curatorship program at The University of Melbourne. Her PhD thesis, The Private Museum: Contemporary Art Collecting and Philanthropy, investigated the recent growth in international private museums. She is one of a few international scholars who has conducted targeted research into this emerging and growing field.

CHINOISERIE | A Dream of Cathay with Sophie Errey
Wednesday 24 August 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

The exotic remote East figured for hundreds of years in the Western imagination as a source of fascinating but chaotic and semi-mythical images and stories, a dream world of seduction and longing. While the objects of desire changed, the lure of the realm called Cathay by Marco Polo remained. Beautiful, bizarre and astonishingly hybrid objects which reflect this dream form an important strand in The Johnston Collection.

SOPHIA ERREY is an artist, art educator and writer. She has lectured widely in the visual arts both historical and contemporary. She has previously developed a course on “Oriental Art and the West” for art students in both Melbourne and Hong Kong.


DREAMS OF RED SHOES I Magic and Escape with Hilary Davidson
Wednesday 31 August 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am 

Red shoes are the shoes of dreams. Full of magic and glamour, they have cast a spell over people for hundreds of years. This talk explores red shoes as vehicles for dreaming, and how they enchant, bewitch and entrap the cultural imagination from Hans Christian Andersen to The Wizard of Oz, suggesting what we might be or aspire to in escaping everyday life.

HILARY DAVIDSON is a dress and textile historian & curator who was formerly curator of fashion and decorative art at the Museum of London. She trained as a shoemaker, has researched extensively on red shoes and is currently completing a book on Regency fashion for Yale.

DREAM LIBRARIES | My own & those I have visited with John Byrne
Thursday 1 September 2016 | 12.00 pm to 1.30 pm [Please note this lecture starts at midday]

"All my life I have gathered books into my possession. Over the years the number grew. First, a mantlepiece for the books of a child, then pine boards and bricks to hold a university student`s texts and Penguin Classics, finally an adult`s bookcases filled to overflowing and the realization that I was becoming ""a book collector"". I began to dream of a ""proper"" library and 20 years later I built it in central Victoria.

 I love to sit in it`s quiet space,  gaze at the books and inhale the aroma of leather and old paper all the while recalling the joy and adventures that I had putting my collection together. I will tell you of the libraries, both private and public, which I have visited all over the world, the dreams (and nightmares)of those who built them and the influence these visits had on me."

JOHN BYRNE is a retired solicitor and founding member of the Johnson Society of Australia. He is currently a Governor of Dr Johnson's House, London, former President of The Johnson Society, Lichfield, England (2008-9), and former President of The Samuel Johnson Society of The West USA (2008-9). He has been a Johnson collector for over four decades and lectured widely in USA, UK and Australia.


DREAMS OF DESTINY: The Progeny of Bess of Hardwick with Dorothy Morgan
Wednesday 14 September 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

We all know Queen Victoria spread her children throughout the thrones of Europe, creating ties of kinship and obligation.  But did you know that three hundred years earlier Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, better known today as Bess of Hardwick, was doing exactly the same thing in the English aristocracy.  So successful was she that it has been suggested there is probably no present English aristocratic family, including the Royals, which does not contain her DNA.  How did she do it?

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. Her most recent talk at The Johnston Collection was SAVAGE NATIONALISM: Tartan from William Wallace to Alexander McQueen.



ORIENTALISM | Fantasies of conquest and sensuality in 19th century French art with Sylvia Sagona
Tuesday 13 September 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Orientalism as an art movement, developed during the French colonial expansion into North Africa in the mid 19th century at a time of change in social and medical perceptions of women. Orientalist art, depicting exotic, sensual and barbaric customs with almost photographic precision could be seen as an effort to not only justify colonialism but also to pander to nostalgic fantasies of the harem and the eternal feminine.

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.

Jean ¬Léon Gérôme (French, 1824 - ¬1904), After the bath, circa 1880, oil on canvas | 826 x 667 mm, private collection

2016 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown who changed the face of 18th century England, designing country estates and mansions, moving hills and making serpentine lakes and flowing rivers, a magical world of green.

‘Capability’ Brown (1716 – 1783) is best remembered for landscape on an immense scale, constructing not only gardens and parkland, but planting woods and building farms linked by carriage drives, or `ridings', many miles from the main house. Although his work is continually reassessed, every landscape gardener and landscape architect since, both in Britain and around the world, has been influenced in one way or another by Brown.

Thursday 18 August 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am SOLD OUT

This year is the 300th anniversary of the birth of ‘Capability’ Brown, the key genius behind the development of the English landscape garden style which swept over Europe and the USA and continues to dominate a great deal of Western garden design today. It brought the "sublime and the beautiful" from painting into the landscape in a revolutionary way. He was involved in no less than 140 different British gardens.

In our first lecture we look at Brown's life and art, and especially the great gardens of Blenheim and Petworth, perhaps his greatest achievements. 

PAINSHILL PARK with Ian George
Thursday 25 August 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am SOLD OUT

In the second lecture we look at the recently restored and reopened eighteenth century Surrey garden at Painshill designed by the Hon. Charles Hamilton between 1738 and 1773 which breathes much of the same unique British spirit. John Wilkes wrote to his daughter in 1772: "I … sauntered through the elysium of Mr Hamilton's gardens till eight in the evening, like the first solitary man through Paradise."

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.

Tuesday 30 August 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

This lecture tells the story of famous trees as documented in historical and modern paintings, prints, photographs and antiquarian books. Opening with 'great trees of the world' Geoffrey will focus on famous trees in Australia such as the legendary 'Dig Tree' and other symbols of personal, social and political aspiration.

GEOFFREY EDWARDS was Director of the Geelong Gallery for fifteen years. At the end of April 2016 Edwards retired to pursue lecturing, writing and advisory work. Prior to his Geelong Gallery position, Geoffrey held senior curatorial positions at the NGV.

‘NOBLE PROSPECTS IN THE NORTH’ with Richard Heathcote
Wednesday 7 September 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am SOLD OUT

Capability Brown designed over 20 landscapes in Yorkshire alone and in Derbyshire created for the Duke of Devonshire the definitive Arcadian landscape at Chatsworth his estate in The Peak District.  This year Richard Heathcote visited some of these cultural landscapes in the north of England and his talk will present his view on the shift in taste that Brown brought to the English country house with the style the French called 'Le Jardin Anglais'.

RICHARD HEATHCOTE is the Director of Carrick Hill historic house and garden in Adelaide and the National Chairman of the Australian Garden History Society.  His main interests as a garden historian and art curator concern the social use of gardens and how art informs our understanding and inspires our imaginations.


Thursday 28 July 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Chapel Street was a fashion street of dreams showcasing Australia’s funkiest boutiques selling the creations of our trendiest designers. A fashion community of hip retailers mentored ‘new talent’. It was buzzing and happening. But in the early 2000s, it suffered a downfall. How did Chapel Street rise from ordinary suburban shopping strip to national high fashion hotspot frequented by Australian and world famous celebrities? LESLEY SHARON ROSENTHAL will present the unique history of Chapel Street’s fashion and clothing history.

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 the book SCHMATTES: Stories of Fabulous Frocks, Funky Fashion and Flinders Lane (2005) documenting Flinders Lane’s colourful history of the rag trade. Lesley’s most recent talk at The Johnston Collection was PRAHRAN MARKET | A Journey From Temporary Outdoor Market To Chefs’ Gourmet Paradise.

early 20th Century Chapel Street, photograph courtesy of Stonnington History Centre

Tuesday 20 September 2016 | 10.00 am to 11.30 am

Nick Gadd has spent two years walking around Melbourne in a big circle, photographing and writing about ghostsigns (old faded signage) and other traces of the past. He will show photographs of his discoveries and tell some of the stories he has uncovered, which point to intriguing aspects of Melbourne’s history. 

NICK GADD is a Melbourne novelist, essayist and blogger.  His writings about Melbourne, history, literature, music and suburban life have appeared in The Guardian, Griffith Review, Eureka Street, and many others. He currently writes the blog Melbourne Circle about a long walk around the Melbourne suburbs. 

In 2015 Nick was the winner of the Nature Conservancy Prize for Nature Writing for the essay ‘A Landscape of Stories’, and was shortlisted in the essay category of the Melbourne Prize for Literature. He was recently awarded a month-long residency by the Mildura Writers Festival.