nedfasNelson Decorative & Fine Arts Society (NEDFAS)

 The Nelson Decorative & Fine Arts Society (NEDFAS) aims to foster interest in and knowledge of Decorative & Fine arts, artistic heritage, culture and history. We are a member society of the UK-based The Arts Society which has a global membership of over 90,000. The Nelson Society provides its members with eight high quality lectures per year. Our lecturers primarily come from the UK where they have undergone a stringent selection process to qualify as lecturers for The Arts Society. Our lecturers are excellent speakers who deliver well-researched and illustrated talks. Recent lectures have focused on architecture, design, glass, fashion, porcelain, ceramics, artists, art and art history, sculpture and literature.



In 2021 we have made the decision not to attempt bringing any lecturers in from overseas. However, we are still offering a full programme of eight lectures, the four New Zealand-based lectures will be with us in person and the four UK-based Arts Society lecturers will deliver their lectures by live broadcast to our venues or to members at home if Covid-19 restrictions require this. We are optimistically anticipating an undisrupted year, but of course our arrangements may be subject to change if the need arises.

NEDFAS Programme Details

The Nelson lectures are held at The Suter Theatre, Bridge St on a Wednesday with a 6.30pm start. The lectures are of one hour duration and are followed by a social time during which a glass of wine or juice and sandwiches are served. This provides an opportunity for members to meet the lecturer and other members.


Our 2020 lecture programme was affected by the Covid-19 situation, however we were still able to provide 5 of the 8 scheduled lectures; 3 lectures in person, 1 via live zoom at home, and 1 via live zoom at the Suter Theatre – so all in all not too bad in these uncertain times.

However, we would like to offer our returning members a reduced subscription equal to the 3 lectures we were unable to provide in 2020.
For returning members, the annual subscription is $85 per person, or $155 for a couple living at the same address.
Please download and complete the NEDFAS 2021 Returning Membership Subscription

For new members, the annual subscription is $135 per person, or $245 for a couple living at the same address.
Please download and complete the NEDFAS 2021 New Membership Subscription

The annual subscription covers the cost of venue and equipment, travel and accommodation for the lecturer, and refreshments after the lectures. Membership is limited to 180 members and a Wait List is managed by our Membership Secretary.

Please email forms to

Members are required to advise our Membership Secretary if they wish to bring a guest. We regret that any one guest is restricted to attending just three lectures per year. There is a charge of $25.00 per guest. Members of other DFASNZ or The Arts Society (international) are welcomed to our lectures at a charge of $15.00. To enquire about membership or guest attendances, please contact our Membership Secretary.

Nelson Programme: 2021 Lecturer Biographies and Topics

Pete Bossley

Nelson Lecture Date : Wednesday 24 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

Nelson Lecture Date : Wednesday 24 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.


Nelson Lecture Date : Wednesday 12 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.


What is it that conductors do that makes orchestras respond in so many different ways? Is it a good baton technique? A strong personality? The way they look? Why are there relatively few women found on the podium? And why are the conductors paid so much more than anyone else on the concert platform? Drawing on history and his own musical experiences from well over six thousand performances and recordings, Nigel seeks out some answers. This lecture contains some rare video footage of conductors in rehearsal and performance.


Nelson Lecture Date : Wednesday 23 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. Contact for Guest Registration


Why was the best paper made from the worn out clothes of peasants? Why did leather have to be tanned outside the city walls? Why is gold leaf so thin that it is measured in atoms and cannot be touched with the hands? Why do printers have to do everything upside down and backwards? Why did gold finishers get paid more than other bookbinders despite not washing their hair? And why is the art of bookbinding itself, surely the most complex of all hand crafts, as beguiling and enchanting today as it was when it was invented on the banks of the Nile 2,000 years ago. This lecture is a ‘Through the Round Window’ for grown-ups, and tells the fascinating story of everything that makes a traditional hand bound book.


Nelson Lecture Date : Wednesday 4 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

Nelson Lecture Date : Wednesday 8 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.


Imagine, late 19th century Southern Ireland, a young girl of “good family”, living in an 18th century mansion, a tranquil rural existence. It sounds idyllic, the sort of life colour supplements write about with floods of purple prose. This was the life of the subject of this lecture, as the 19th century drew to its close. In 1900 Eileen’s Mother took her to the Exposition Universelle in Paris, and as the saying goes “she never looked back”. An imaginative, and determined girl, Eileen was determined not to see Enniscorthy again. She enrolled in the Slade School of Art, progressed to learn the true art of lacquer in Paris and after the First War became one of Paris’s most recherché and sought-after designers. Not for her the stuffed Victorian furniture of her home but for her, what we now call, “cutting-edge” design. In her studio in the rue Bonaparte she created works which rivalled all the great 20th century furniture makers of Paris. The Art Deco Exhibition of 1925 was the turning point of her life when the world became aware of her. Ever restless, she built in the late 20’s an extraordinary house at Roquebrunne which became the envy of one of the best- known architects of the period, Le Corbusier. This is a fascinating story of the girl from Enniscorthy, who became one of the most innovative designers of the 20th century.

Michelle Brown

NELSON Lecture Date : Wednesday 13 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


The Luttrell Psalter offers a fascinating insight into life in England in the turbulent 14th century. Made in Norwich and Lincs for Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, Lord of the Manor of Irnham (Lincs.) in the 1330s, its margins contain a riot of imaginative images peopled not only by saints and grotesques, but by the family and the ordinary folk who worked their land. Their successes and scandals are explored in coded images. For this was an age when kings were deposed by their adulterous queens, heiresses eloped with clerks and the property-merger marriages of barons risked incest. The Black Death was about to decimate Europe, the Scots and French were hostile, and the peasants were getting restless, stalking the margins of society and of the pages. Meanwhile, a hard-hitting Dominican friar sought to get Sir Geoffrey and his people to heaven and painted his spiritual teachings for them, illuminating the age-old cry ‘de profundis’ of the Psalms.

Mary Kisler

Nelson Lecture Date : Wednesday 15 March 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.


Whereas in 17th century Dutch still life painting, every piece of fruit or tableware was redolent with symbolic meaning, modern French artists preferred to paint their families, lovers, and friends, either enjoying a meal, or savouring a glance of wine in one of Paris’s new and exciting Café-concerts. This lecture explores the central role such images play within the development of European Modernism.

NEDFAS Supporting the Arts

In 2019 our members were very fortunate to have Julie Catchpole, Director of the Suter Gallery, offer our members an exclusive viewing of Royce McGlashen’s exhibition ’70 for 70’. This tour preceded Ian Swankie’s lecture ‘Pots and Frocks – the world of Grayson Perry: From Essex Punk Potter to Superstar National Treasure’.

From this exhibition NEDFAS presented two Royce McGlashen plates to the Suter Collection. The title of the exhibition ’70 for 70’ referred to Royce’s 70th birthday as well as the challenge to himself to create 70 ‘plates’; the plates and paintings reflected on his inspirations, and in some cases on his own development in ceramics. Royce and his wife Trudie attended the viewing and contributed towards the discussion of his work. The tour was well attended by our members.

Contact NeDFAS


Chair  :  Claire Grant /
Deputy Chair  :  Deborah Moore
Committee : Ainslie Riddoch, Michele Van der Post, Raphaella Carver, Susie Kirk, Claire Dowson, Catherine Butchard, Chris Jennings, Judith Fitchett

Membership enquiries :