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.


We are still challenged by the ongoing Covid-19 situation, however in 2021 we were able to deliver a full programme of eight lectures to members, either gathered at the venue or online at home.

For the first half of 2022 we do not expect to be bringing any lecturers into New Zealand from overseas although remain optimistic that this may change by the end of the year. However, we are still offering a full programme of eight lectures, and hope that we will be able to gather for them all at our venue. There will continue to be a mix of accredited The Arts Society lecturers from the UK (delivered by live broadcast) and a couple of New Zealand and Australian based lecturers – ideally with us in person. We hope that things will run smoothly but will be ready to adapt our programme arrangements if necessary. We will continue to deliver lectures directly to members at home if gathering restrictions require it.

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.


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 2022 NeDFAS Returning Membership Form

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 2022 NeDFAS New Membership Form

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 – 2022 Lecturer Biographies and Topics

Ian Swankie

NELSON Lecture Date : Wednesday 2 March 2022 – Broadcast live from the UK

direct to members at home 

A Londoner with a passion for art and architecture, Ian is an official guide at Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Guildhall Art Gallery and St Paul’s Cathedral, and gives tours around each venue. He is also a qualified and active freelance London guide and leads regular tours for various corporations and organisations. Since 2012 he has led a popular weekly independent art lecture group in his home-town of Richmond in West London. He is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Art Scholars, one of the City livery companies.


If you think of St Pancras International or New York Grand Central you imagine long romantic journeys. You know they are special places promising excitement and adventure. But there are dozens of other glorious stations in the UK and abroad. We will take a journey around some of the most evocative and splendid stations in the world. We will look not only at the magnificence of the architecture and the brilliant engineering but will discover numerous artworks within the stations and examine many depictions of stations in art – like Claude Monet’s Gare St Lazare or William Powell Frith’s Paddington. It may sound a bit anoraky, but it’s definitely not. It’s lavish, colourful and fun.

Caroline Shenton

Nelson Lecture Date : Wednesday 30 March 2022 – BROADCAST LIVE FROM THE UK

direct to members at home – revised time: 7.30pm

Dr. Caroline Shenton is an archivist and historian. She was formerly Director of the Parliamentary Archives in London, and before that was a senior archivist at the National Archives. Her book The Day Parliament Burned Down won the Political Book of the Year Award in 2013 and Mary Beard called it ‘microhistory at its absolute best’. Its acclaimed sequel, Mr Barry’s War, about the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster, was a Book of the Year in 2016 for The Daily Telegraph and BBC History Magazine, and was described by Lucy Worsley as “a real jewel, finely wrought and beautiful”. Caroline was Political Writer in Residence at Gladstone’s Library in 2017, has appeared at the Cheltenham, Hay and Henley literary festivals and on BBC radio and TV. Caroline’s third book, National Treasures, will tell the extraordinary and sometimes hilarious stories behind the saving of London’s art and museum collections in World War Two.


Settled by the Romans, who first brought wine and gastronomy to this most luscious of French regions, Burgundy is packed with stupendous and moving architectural wonders dating from the eleventh and twelfth centuries – many of them now World Heritage Sites. Autun, Vezelay, Fontenay, Pontigny and Cluny were spiritual service stations for crusaders, pilgrims and monks, profoundly influencing Western European art in the middle ages. From the heavenly portals and sculpted capitals of the Côte-d’Or to the Maconnais, come on an armchair tour through this most gorgeous Romanesque terroir, and find out how those Benedictine abbeys and Cistercian monasteries in turn created some of the best wines in the world on their estates which we still enjoy today. Travel tips and tasting recommendations included! 

Stephen Taylor

Nelson Lecture Date : Wednesday 11 May 2022 – broadcast live from the UK


Stephen Taylor is an artist and art historian who studied John Constable as a post graduate at Essex and Yale, taught art at Felsted School and went on to became Head of Painting at The Open College of the Arts and course director for the Inchbald School of Design. In 2000, Stephen turned to landscape painting with early shows at King’s College Cambridge, Meisel’s New York and Vertigo in London. Now has pictures in private collections world-wide and his book Oak: One tree, three years, fifty paintings was featured in The GuardianThe New Statesman and on Oprah Winfrey’s website.


20th Century Interiors.  Before the First World War, the early homes of Frank Lloyd Wright and the designs of The Vienna Secession were exceptional, creative, attempts to square arts and crafts ideals with the industrial world.  A desire for a fresh start after the war appeared in all forms of culture. Art Deco offered a way of decorating modern architecture, and domestic interiors throughout society began to reflect ‘The Modern’. We follow this story in America and Europe, through post-war Scandinavian design and the back story of Ikea to the present day.  Designers and interiors include Adolf Loos; Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye; Alvar Aalto ‘s Villa Mariea; Jon Wealleans and Mr Freedom; Colefax and Fowler homes; David Hicks; Charles Jencks and Philippe Starck.

Gregory O’Brien

Nelson Lecture Date : Wednesday 22 June 2022

Poet, essayist, editor and artist Gregory O’Brien is a busy and energetic presence in both arts and literature within New Zealand. With one foot in the literary world and the other in the visual art realm, Gregory has been on the cultural scene for nearly three decades. Gregory trained as a journalist in Auckland and worked as a newspaper reporter in Northland before returning to study art history and English at Auckland University. Between 1997 and 2009 he was curator at the City Gallery, Wellington, and was awarded the Arts Foundation Laureate in 2012 and the MNZM in 2013. Greg has illustrated his own poetry books and has written three publications introducing art to young people. His artworks can be found on book covers worldwide and his poems and drawings were the basis for a winter fashion collection by Auckland designer Doris de Pont in 2006. He has produced books on artists including Ralph Hotere, Graham Percy and Pat Hanly and is currently working on a monograph of Don Binney.

Note: this lecture was originally scheduled for March


Expanding on the artistic territories covered in his recent book Always song in the water (AUP 2019) and his forthcoming monograph on Don Binney, art writer/curator/poet Gregory O’Brien will explore aspects of the relationship between place, visual art and the written word in the recent art of Aotearoa/New Zealand  art. He will discuss the many ways that place–in particular the provincial landscape–has been a radicalising rather than a conservative force in this country’s imaginative life. Spanning the work of a number of artists O’Brien has written about in the past–among them Ralph Hotere, Colin McCahon, Robin White, John Pule and Elizabeth Thomson–he will explore the imaginative possibilities of the landscape genre as well as signalling an evolving awareness of Oceanic realities that both challenges and enhances our understanding of these islands on which we live.

Andrew Hopkins

Nelson Lecture Date : Wednesday 3 August 2022 – broadcast live from the UK

Andrew Hopkins is a previous Assistant Director of the British School at Rome from 1998 to 2002 and since 2004, Associate Professor at the University of L’Aquila. Part of his PhD (Courtauld Institute 1995) on Venetian architecture was awarded the Essay Medal of 1996 by the Society of Architectural Historians (GB). A Fellow at Harvard University’s Villa I Tatti in Florence in 2003-2004, and in 2009 was the Paul Mellon Senior Visiting Fellow, Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Amongst his many publications are, with Arnold Witte, Alois RieglThe Origins of Baroque Art in Rome (2010), and Baldassare Longhena and the Venetian Baroque (2012). 


This talk is about the White House’s most celebrated twentieth century residents. Others had been, perhaps, more intellectual, such as Eleonora Roosevelt, certainly others utterly perfidious, just to name Nixon for one, but no other couple who inhabited the White House were ever so glamorous, sophisticated and celebrated. Of course, they will never be forgotten given the tragic end to the Kennedy presidency, but this has tended to overshadow, somewhat, the astounding aesthetic and artistic changes made during their relatively brief tenure. Apart from the wonderful film tour of the residence made by Mrs Kennedy and still shown to visitors today, the Rose Garden was a fine creation by Jackie and her friend, the renowned garden designer Bunny Mellon. So too, the interiors were restored seriously, based on historical research and items belonging to the house throughout its history were purchased and returned, even in many cases gifted back by patriotic individuals. Take a trip down memory lane and visit Camelot in this richly illustrated talk.

Barry Venning

Nelson Lecture Date : Wednesday 7 September 2022

Barry Venning is an historian of British art with a particular interest in the work of JMW Turner, on whom he has published widely, including the volume on Turner in Phaidon’s Art & Ideas series, and several catalogue essays for exhibitions in the UK, Germany, Italy and Poland. He was the BBC’s script consultant on Turner’s Fighting Temeraire and has recently taken part (2013) in a BBC documentary called The Genius of Turner: Painting the Industrial Revolution.
Barry has also published a study of John Constable’s paintings. His interests and his teaching extend from medieval architecture to contemporary British art. He is currently Associate Lecturer with the Open University and lecturing on a freelance basis for The Arts Society, Christie’s Education and other organisations.


A journey through the 60s in music and images, following the Beatles from the Hamburg Reeperbahn in 1960 to Abbey Road in 1969. The band was fascinated by the visual arts and learned early on that artists, photographers and designers could assist their rise to global fame. Talented photographers such as Astrid Kirchherr, Robert Freeman, Robert Whitaker, Angus McBean and Linda McCartney recorded their lives and promoted their music, while the innovative covers for Rubber Soul (Bob Freeman) Revolver (Klaus Voormann), the White Album (Richard Hamilton) and Sgt. Pepper (Peter Blake, Jann Haworth & others) turned album design into an art form in its own right. Complete with music clips to accompany the presentation.

John Stevens

Waikato Lecture Date : Wednesday 12 October 2022 – BROADCAST LIVE FROM THE UK

Dr. John Stevens is a Research Associate at SOAS, University of London, and a member of academic staff at the SOAS South Asia Institute.  His PhD in History is from University College London. He teaches British Imperial history, Indian history and Bengali language, and is a regular visitor to India and Bangladesh. He publishes widely in the fields of British and Indian history. His biography of the Indian guru Keshab Chandra Sen – Keshab: Bengal’s Forgotten Prophet – was published by Hurst and Oxford University Press in 2018.He appears regularly in the Indian media, and was recently a guest on BBC Radio Four’s In Our Time, discussing the poet and artist Rabindranath Tagore. 


Before the British arrived in India, the Indian subcontinent was ruled by the Mughal Emperors. The stunning buildings and gardens they constructed from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century have left an indelible stamp on India’s architectural and cultural landscape. Mughal architecture fused elements from Islamic, Persian, Turkish and Indian architectural traditions, and gave rise to some of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in the world. From the Jama Masjid in Delhi, to the Taj Mahal in Agra, to the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, this lecture will take you on a tour of some of India’s greatest buildings, and provide insight into the historical contexts and colourful personalities involved in their construction.

Mary Kisler

Nelson Lecture Date : Wednesday 16 November 2022 

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, Raphaella Carver,  Claire Dowson, Catherine Butchard, Chris Jennings, Judith Fitchett

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