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Lives of the Artists: The Struggle for Freedom


     Monday 15th January               Monday 22nd January                Monday 29th January

          Sandro Botticelli                      El Greco and Toledo                        Claude Monet                             Pagan Mythology and                 The City, the Church                Painter, Pioneer, Power

     Religious Suppression                       and the King

Botticelli - Venus Arising from the Waves.jpg
El Greco.jpg

 Botticelli. The Birth of Venus. 1485         El Greco. View of Toledo. 1599                 Monet. Impression, Sunrise. 1872



Artistic freedom of expression can often provoke a negative reaction from those 'conservative' powers that consider their authority or tastes to be challenged by new developments. This series will look at three examples, across three different centuries and three different countries, of artists who struggled, and sometimes lost the fight for freedom.


The lectures will be 'live', via Zoom Webinar on consecutive Monday early evenings, at 6pm UK time. Each lecture lasts about 50 minutes, after which we will answer questions you can type in to the Zoom system.

Please note: The lectures will be recorded and available to view on demand for up to 6 days after the end of each lecture, so you can enjoy them no matter where in the world you are or what time of day suits you best. 

How to Sign Up

To participate in any one of the lectures or in the series of three lectures, simply click on the relevant 'Buy Now' button below, depending on whether you want to sign up for the full course of three lectures, for £36, or for individual lectures, at £15 each. You can also invite a friend to one lecture of your choosing, at a cost of £8.


Lives of the Artists: 'The Struggle for Freedom'. In these three lectures, we will explore the recurring struggle for artistic freedom to experiment and move art forward into new realms and forms. What should be a story of regular and positive evolution can too often turn into a battle with 'authority', in its many forms - kings, governments, religious authorities, art critics and even public 'taste'. Our story covers the period from the late fifteenth to the late nineteenth centuries, a period when art was constantly evolving. We start with Botticelli, whose fascination with classical antiquity and humanist values clashed with the arrival in Florence of one of the most fanatical and vitriolic clerics of the period. Next we explore El Greco's struggle to circumvent the control exerted by the Spanish Inquisition over the form and content of art. Finally we come to Claude Monet, whose clash was not with religious or state authority, but with the art establishment and critics, who dismissed his 'impressionist' work. 

                                                                          Course cost £36


Lecture 1: Monday 15th January. Botticelli: Pagan mythology and religious suppression

Sandro Botticelli was amongst the foremost of the Renaissance painters who sought to satisfy the late fifteenth century Florentine fascination with all things related to classical antiquity. His paintings dealing with the ‘pagan’ mythologies of antiquity were thus a significant departure from the traditional religious subjects of his earlier work. However, during the final decade of the century, under the influence of the theocratic demagogue Savonarola, he abandoned his secular, pagan material, and reverted to religious painting. This lecture will trace the trajectory of that journey.


                                                                        Lecture cost £15


Lecture 2: Monday 22nd January. El Greco and Toledo: the city, the Church and the King.

El Greco was a foreigner when he arrived in Toledo in 1577. He found it difficult to fit in to a Spanish Society ruled by a Hapsburg King and a powerful Inquisition. This is a story about failure, freedom and constant struggles which culminate in an extraordinary new style of painting. In this lecture we will unpick why, when he died in 1614 with huge debts, he was obliterated, until a resurgence of interest in the 19th Century when Picasso and his friends brought him to the public’s attention.

                                                                        Lecture cost £15

Lecture 3: Monday 29th January. Claude Monet: Painter, Pioneer, Power.

As one of the founders of the Impressionist group, Monet’s early work was derided by the art establishment. While he struggled to create a new style of painting, the critics dismissed him as a charlatan as his ever-growing family depended on him financially. In this lecture we will explore his begging letters and his torment over the death of his first wife. His dogged determination to succeed will ultimately make him one of the best-known French artists of all time, feted by the State and adored by so many. This story is about his struggle for freedom.

                                                                        Lecture cost £15

Invite a Friend

You can invite a friend to one lecture of your choosing, at half price. Click the Buy Now button to complete your purchase and we will e-mail you for contact details for your friend, and the name of the lecture you'd like to offer them.


                                                                           Cost £8

When we receive notification of your payment, we will also receive details of the e-mail address associated with your PayPal account, and will send you an e-mail acknowledging receipt within 3 days.


If you haven't used Zoom before, it's easy. The later e-mail we will send you, a day or so before the lecture is due to start, will include the Zoom Webinar link. On the date of the lecture you simply click on the link - approximately 5-10 minutes before the start time of 6pm UK time - and when Zoom Webinar opens you follow the on-screen instructions.


Finally, after each lecture finishes, we will send you a link to a recording of the lecture, which will be available to view for a further 6 days.

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See also Jacqueline's book,  ‘A Taste of Art: London’ (Unicorn Press 2019)

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