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Venice and the British
13th September 2023 @ 8:00 pm
Speaker: Martin Heard
Venice is unique. The city of canals, gondolas and iconic monuments, its culture and identity is world famous. Today, with more than 20 million visitors a year, it is one of the truly great tourist destinations. Yet the popularity of Venice is no modern phenomenon. Historically the city has been a magnet for travellers wishing to experience its exotic atmosphere, the vices of the flesh and gaming, or the aesthetic virtues of its art, architecture and music. Venice was (and still is), if anything, an experience in which to be immersed, an experience that has been cherished and celebrated by artists, composers, and writers for centuries.
This lecture discusses the contribution and involvement in Venice’s cultural history of the British, who have defined much of what is the Venetian experience.
From the sixteenth century through to the first half of the twentieth century, aristocrats, playboy princes, painters, poets and connoisseurs have expressed their ideals and impressions of what Venice meant to them emotionally and intellectually. Their physical mementoes and creations – the topographical views of the city and lagoon, the objects d’art, the old master paintings from the Venetian School – enrich Britain’s public and private collections of art.
In 1851 the publication of John Ruskin’s ‘Stones of Venice’ exalted Venice’s medieval past and encouraged British middle-class tourists to throng to the city, now conveniently travelling by rail on the newly built causeway from the mainland. In the 1920s and 30s Venice was ‘re-branded’, as it were, into a Mediterranean resort for the rich and famous. Venice’s very existence is threatened by flooding, pollution and overcrowding perhaps, but our love for the city and its beauty will continue to be part of our cultural heritage.
About the speaker
Our speaker, Martin Heard is an independent Art Historian and an accredited lecturer for The Arts Society. He specialises mainly in French and British 18th and 19th Century art and garden history.
Formerly he worked in fine art book publishing, local government, and for twenty years in Information Technology. With the latter career he was able to live for several years in Belgium, the USA and for a time in Canada. Retiring early, he has resumed study of his second love (the first being, of course, his wife) and devotes his time researching subjects that interest him. In recent years he has completed two lecture tours of Australia and New Zealand.
This is an on-line talk via Zoom. Members will be receiving their Zoom link via email.