Marlborough Decorative & Fine Arts Society (MaDFAS)

Welcome to MADFAS. Each lecture is delivered by our international and New Zealand experts and offers a wide range of fine arts including, art history, sculpture, design, porcelain, craft, archaeology and ceramics. Lectures are lively, interesting and beautifully illustrated.

Our lectures start at 6.15pm in the Marlborough Wine Research Centre, 85 Budge Street Blenheim. Lectures are an hour long and finish with a glass of wine and a sandwich and an opportunity to meet the lecturer.


In 2021 we have made the decision not to attempt bringing any lecturers in from overseas due to the ongoing uncertainty of travel and border restrictions. However, we are still offering a full programme of eight lectures, the first and last two being New Zealand based lecturers who will be with us in person. The middle four will be UK-based Arts Society lecturers who will deliver their lectures by live broadcast to our venues. We are optimistically anticipating an undisrupted year, but of course our arrangements may be subject to change if the need arises.


New members: The annual subscription is $150 per person, or $270 for a couple. To join Marlborough DFAS, please complete the MaDFAS Membership Application Form 2021 and mail with your internet payment to the Membership Secretary, PO Box 296, Picton, 7250.

Please note we are currently fully subscribed and new applicants will be placed on a waiting list.

Membership is not transferable.


We have limited door sales available at $30.00 per lecture. Members wishing to bring guests are given priority for spare seats, provided you contact us by the Monday preceding the meeting date. After that date supporters and casuals will be accepted on a ‘first request’ basis.
The cost for a casual attendee is $30 and the fee for visiting DFAS members is $20.00.

For more information or to notify changes of contact details please email


Pete Bossley

Marlborough Lecture Date : Thursday 25 February 2021

BArch (Hons), NZCD (Arch), Registered Architect (NZ), Fellow NZIA, RAIA, NZIA Gold Medal 2012, Alliance Partner Group GSA, Chair NZIA Auckland 2006-2008
Pete Bossley has an extensive reputation in architecture and interior design, with particular experience in galleries, museums and residential. He is known for several memorable buildings such as the Museum of NZ Te Papa Tongarewa, the Sir Peter Blake extension to the National Maritime Museum in Auckland, many iconic houses throughout the country, apartment buildings and social housing projects. He has exhibited and lectured extensively on his work here and overseas. He has also taught architectural design for over 25 years and was adjunct professor of Architecture at Unitec Architecture and Landscape School.  In 2012 Pete was awarded the NZIA Gold Medal, the highest honour in New Zealand Architecture.


Pete will discuss the importance of ideas to underline good architecture, identifying themes which have run through 40 years of architecture, using projects from his practice as examples. Themes which have been developed over the years and in numerous projects include…
-Fault lines: architectural responses to the perils of living in a faulted land. This is not in terms of seismic engineering, but more of the narrative arising from our fragile geological situation, and how this awareness has generated ideas which have driven the design of architectural projects.
-Encampments: a series of projects which respond to the New Zealand landform by referencing the traditional courtyard house, modified to accept the power of our landscape, incorporating it in to the design of the houses rather than precluding it. Camp formations ranging from Roman military bases to kiwi campsites suggest the value of creating a large whole from a series of smaller pods. Other themes will include the importance of our skyscapes, natural light, balance and imbalance. Contact for Guest Registration

Arthur Tompkins

Marlborough Lecture Date : Thursday 25 March 2021

Arthur Tompkins is a District Court Judge based in Wellington. Judge Tompkins teaches the ‘Art in War’ component course as part of the annual Graduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Heritage Protection Studies, presented by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art in Amelia, Umbria, Italy, and has lectured around New Zealand and abroad on various aspects of art crime. In 2016 he edited Art Crime and Its Prevention: A Handbook for Collectors and Art Professionals, and in 2018 wrote Plundering Beauty: An illustrated history of art crime in war, both published by Lund Humphries in London. He is the editor of Provenance Research Today: Principles, Practice, Problems, scheduled for publication by Lund Humphries in London in December 2020.


This talk is a survey of the theft, displacement, plundering and loss of great works of art during war down the centuries. The survey includes the art work with the longest history of crimes being committed against it, the most-often stolen work of art, and ends with the surreal story connecting James Bond, Francesco Goya, the Duke of Wellington, and television licensing fees.

Nigel Bates

Marlborough Lecture Date : Thursday 13 May 2021 – broadcast live from the UK

Nigel Bates was the Music Administrator of The Royal Ballet from 2012 to 2020 and has been a performer for nearly forty years in and out of London’s Royal Opera House, including seventeen years as Principal Percussionist with the Orchestra. He has worked with many of the leading figures in the classical music industry and was also a producer for both the BBC’s Maestro at the Opera and Pappano’s Classical Voices documentary series. He is a regular contributor to the printed and online content of the ROH. Nigel has given lectures for over twenty years, including arts societies and conservatoires in the UK and across Australia.


Tantrums & Tiaras is a look at backstage life at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the pressures faced by performers, be they singer, dancer, conductor or musician. We see how the building copes with the demands of modern productions and examine audience expectations both inside the theatre and out. We also look at some of the highs and try to understand some of the lows that have been the fortune of this world-class performing venue over the years. Fully illustrated including audio and video clips.

Dominic Riley

Marlborough Lecture Date : Thursday 24 June 2021 – broadcast live from the UK

Dominic Riley is an internationally renowned bookbinder and teacher. He specializes in the restoration of antiquarian books and the creation of contemporary fine bindings. He teaches bookbinding both in the UK and USA, and his prize-winning bindings are in collections worldwide, including the British Library. He is a Fellow of Designer Bookbinders and President of the Society of Bookbinders. In 2013 he won the prestigious Sir Paul Getty award in the International Bookbinding Competition, and his winning binding was acquired by the Bodleian Library in Oxford.


When it was completed in 1912, the Great Omar was the most elaborate and opulent binding ever created. It was embellished with over one thousand jewels, five thousand leather onlays and a hundred square feet of gold leaf and took a team of craftsmen over two and a half years to make. It went down with the Titanic. This lecture tells the story of the Great Omar and the bookbinders Sangorski and Sutcliffe, who were known for their fabulous, jewelled bindings. It is also the story of life after the tragedy, and of one young man in particular, who decided against the odds to recreate the binding – a venture which itself is mired in tragedy and which occupied him for the rest of his life. Contact for Guest Registration


Marlborough Lecture Date : Thursday 5 August 2021 

Bee Dawson is a Wellington based social historian who enjoys researching and writing books on the history of people, places and gardens. Her 19 books include: Lady Painters, the Flower Painters of Early New Zealand, A History of Gardening in New Zealand, and several family/farm histories – including The Plimmer Legacy which was published in May 2019. A former psychologist in the RNZAF, Bee lives with her husband Sandy on a windswept hill above Wellington Harbour.


The missionaries who arrived in New Zealand in 1814 planted a wide variety of food producing plants. When crops failed due to poor terrain and infertile soil, they gave up on gardening and traded guns for food brought by local Maori. Later mission stations were much more successful, both in spreading the word of God and in creating wonderful gardens: by the 1840s fruit, vegetables, flowers and bees were all flourishing. The lecture is illustrated with paintings of the era.

Nicholas Merchant

Marlborough Lecture Date : Thursday 9 September 2021 – broadcast live from the UK

Nicholas Merchant’s career has mirrored his abiding interest in antiques. He has worked for some of the major auction houses in London as well as running his own book business devoted to the decorative and fine arts. His particular interest is English 18th century furniture and country houses; he enjoys discussing objects, particularly in their historical context. He lectures extensively in the USA, South Africa, Europe and UK, including the V&A, as well as for the principal cruise lines. He is the Art Fund’s West Yorkshire Representative. He arranges specialist short breaks for collectors and a range of prestigious clients including groups of The Arts Society who enjoy visiting the treasures of the UK.


Queen Mary was born in May 1867, as the only daughter of Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, cousin of Queen Victoria and her husband, Francis, Duke of Teck. As the daughter of a minor (and impecunious) member of the Royal family, her position was somewhat equivocal, but her subsequent marriage to the heir to the throne, and so becoming in 1910 Queen of England and Empress of India, brought out her sterling qualities. The travails she witnessed in her life, with a complete reversal of all that she had known as a girl imposed an enormous strain. However, through all these vicissitudes collecting and re-arranging the extensive Royal Collection was, in her own words, “My One Great Hobby”. This lecture explores in detail these collecting interests and shows how her influence remains today.

Michelle Brown

MARLBOROUGH Lecture Date : Thursday 14 October 2021 – BROADCAST LIVE FROM THE UK

Michelle Brown, FSA, is Professor Emerita at SAS, University of London and a Visiting Professor at University College London. She was formerly the Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library. She is a leading expert on Late Antique, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon culture and on manuscripts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells. She has published, lectured (including in Australia) and broadcast widely. Her many publications include: Art of the Islands: Celtic, Pictish, Anglo-Saxon and Viking Visual Culture.

Note: This lecturer replaces Gregory O’Brien, who is rescheduled to February 2022


This illustrated lecture examines the different cultures present in these islands before the Norman conquest – Celtic, Pictish, Anglo-Saxon and Viking – and traces their interaction across the various artistic media, setting them within the historical context. Stunning metalwork, such as the Sutton Hoo and Staffordshire Hoard, the Ardagh Chalice and Tara brooch, magnificent manuscripts such as the books of Durrow and Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels and sculptures such as the Ruthwell Cross and the enigmatic Pictish carvings are amongst the masterpieces considered.

Mary Kisler

Marlborough Lecture Date : Thursday 18 November 2021

Mary Kisler is an author, art historian and Radio New Zealand art commentator, having recently retired as Senior Curator, Mackelvie Collection, International Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Mary earned her master’s degree in art history and Italian at the University of Auckland in 1994. She has been a curator at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki since 1998, caring for a collection that spans from c.1150 to 1950, a large part of which is European art but which also includes a small collection of Indian miniatures and Japanese ukiyo-e prints. In 2010 Godwit published her book Angels & Aristocrats: Early European Art in New Zealand Public Galleries. In 2019 the Auckland Art Gallery published her Hodgkins catalogue raisonnée to accompany a major Hodgkins exhibition.


This lecture examines the dialectic between Victorian morals and social constraints, not least for women, and how these ideas played out within the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the women they loved.

MaDFAS in the Community

MaDFAS is a registered charity and supports a range of local arts-related projects. In 2015 we were delighted to make a donation to the Marlborough Museum for the restoration of five very early vessels by well-known potter Elizabeth Lissaman.  Along with all the other DFAS New Zealand Societies, we also contributed to the Frances Hodgkin’s project. In 2016, MaDAS funded the framing of  works by AA Deans and Graham Percy for the Millenium Public Art Gallery so that they could be displayed as part of their new Collection exhibition. In 2017 we have funded a $500 First Prize in the Annual Members’ Exhibition of the Marlborough Art Society.  Our MaDFAS Chair was one of the three judges, who selected ‘Beyond Measure’ by Danielle Yealands as a worthy winner.

Bowl by Elizabeth Lissaman, c 1927, Gift of Dame Alison Roxburgh

The Kiwi – Fourteen Aspects, Graham Percy, 2005

Farmland View to Water (Weld Pass, Marlborough), AA Deans





Contact MaDFAS


Chair : Helen Smale / /

022 393 0602

Membership Secretary : John Aldridge / / 021 162 2074

Committee : Pat O’Brien, Chris Borrie, Jenny Tyney, Jo Grigg, Jenny Black, Christine Andrews, Maree Leonard