The series of Art Talks at Summer Lodge Country House Hotel and Restaurant offers a fun and informal way to learn more about your favourite artists as well as make a few new discoveries. Run by highly knowledgeable art historian Jennifer Spiers, the Art Talks take place on a monthly basis until the end of 2018 and cover everything from the best female Baroque painters to 20th-century icons like Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne. Here, Jennie explains what art fans can expect from the events.
How did the idea for the Art Talks series at Summer Lodge come about?
“I was looking for a new venue for my talks in the west of Dorset and came across Summer Lodge. On visiting the hotel, I instantly fell in love with the place and it has proved to be the perfect venue for my art history talks; the overall ambience of the hotel, the local interest and connection at Evershot with Thomas Hardy (I deliver a talk on Hardy and the Artists), and the warm and welcoming reception we receive from the staff.”
Can you briefly talk us through what a typical Art Talk will involve?
“The day begins at 10am, followed by a short break at 11am and then we finish around 1pm. I start off with an overview of the artist or group we’re focusing on that day, which includes placing the subject in the context of their time. I show loads of images, quite a few of which are gone into in some detail so that we really get the most out of the paintings. Throughout the morning there are lively discussions and we all generally have a lot of fun while looking, listening and learning. I always find that I learn a lot from my guests as everyone has a different interpretation and way of looking and understanding a painting. I give out handouts on movements, biographies and timelines, which act as a memento of the day as well as an aide memoire for further personal research online, in books or in galleries.”
How did you go about choosing which artists to cover in the talks?
“I am always coming up with new ideas myself, however, a lot of the talks are participant-led with people asking me to run sessions on topics they would like to know more about, which is always a challenge and a pleasure! This year I am also concentrating on delivering talks to complement various art exhibitions in National and local galleries. The Edward Burne-Jones talk coincides with the major Tate Britain exhibition taking places this autumn and I’ve also put together a talk inspired by the From Manet to Cézanne exhibition which is showing at the National Gallery until early next year.”
What do you think makes Summer Lodge an ideal venue for the talks?
“Summer Lodge has everything anyone could wish for in a venue: delightful staff who cannot do enough to ensure that guests are taken care of and the attention to every detail is superb, from the set-up of the Dorchester Suite where I deliver my talks, to the service of good quality teas and coffees and delicious pastries – my group members cannot get enough of the place! We also take a light lunch in the lovely conservatory, which overlooks the wonderful garden. It is a great environment for us to discuss the morning event, catch up with each other and get to know new people.”
Who are your personal favourite artists to talk about?
“This is always a difficult question for me to answer as I am always discovering new artists through my research and I deliver talks on everything from Gothic art to 20th-century pieces! However, I have a particular admiration for Charles Rennie Mackintosh who managed to imbue his artwork and architecture with a feeling of real love, dedication and true innovation. John Singer Sargent and Paul Cézanne are also favourites as well as Joan Eardley, Anne Redpath and groups of artists such as the Scottish Colourists and the Camden Town Group. Really, too many to list!”
What do you hope participants in the Art Talks will get from the event?
“Essentially, I am passionate about art and I love to see people at my talks really engaging with the artworks and feeling free to discuss, ask questions and talk about their own ideas about the paintings. The events are always informal, friendly and inclusive and so many of my group members have found a new or renewed interest in art. They have also made new friends and feel empowered to visit galleries armed with more knowledge and understanding, which has enhanced their enjoyment. As long as people have an enjoyable, educational and rewarding morning, I am very happy!”
Jennifer’s Art Talks take place at The Summer Lodge Country House Hotel and Restaurant and include morning break refreshments with croissants and Danish pastries.