The Arts Society Wellington

Please note : Due to the Coronavirus situation we have cancelled our March, May, June and August lectures. We intend resuming in September with some programme changes – please see the lecture notes below.  Thank you for your understanding.

Formerly the Decorative & Fine Arts Society of Wellington Incorporated (WeDFAS), we have recently changed our name to The Arts Society Wellington, in line with the re-branding of our parent body in the UK. We offer the opportunity to hear eight top quality, diverse and interesting lectures each year covering a wide range of Decorative and Fine Arts subjects. Recently our members have enjoyed hearing about architecture, glass, painting, fashion, porcelain, artists, sculpture, art history, design, craft, archaeology, literature and ceramics. Our lecturers primarily come from the UK where they have undergone a stringent selection process to qualify as lecturers for The Arts Society (based in the UK). The Arts Society lecturers have a reputation as excellent speakers who deliver well-researched and illustrated talks. The Arts Society Wellington had its first lecture in August 2006 and was the third Society to be established in New Zealand. Our membership has grown to 236 since then. At a Special General Meeting on 30 July 2018 the Society adopted its new operating name and updated its Rules.  The current Rules can be read here.

Programme Details

The Arts Society Wellington hosts eight one-hour lectures per year. They take place on a Monday evening with a 6pm start, at the National Library Auditorium, Aitken Street, Thorndon , unless otherwise advised. We round off the evening with a glass of wine and sandwiches, providing members with an opportunity to meet the lecturer and each other. Our Special Interest Sessions, when offered, consist of two 60 minute lectures and include a break for refreshments. Their subject matter differs from the programmed evening lecture and they are a more in-depth and interactive event. There is a fee of $35 for all members and guests attending.


The Arts Society Wellington has a full membership and a waiting list. The waiting list operates in date order. Membership is not transferable. Waiting list members are invited to attend our Study Days. To express an interest to join, please download the Application Form 2020 and send it to the Membership Secretary at PO Box 19030, Marion Square, Wellington, 6141 or to To enquire about lectures or have your name added to the waiting list please contact our Membership Secretary, Denise Almao, or PO Box 19030, Marion Square, Wellington, 6141.

Annual membership is $140.00 or $250.00 for two living at the same address. The membership subscription covers the cost of venue and equipment, travel and accommodation and fees for lecturers and refreshments after the lectures. As an incorporated charitable trust we are a non-profit organisation and support the arts within our community.

Because seating in our lecture theatre is limited, members are required to advise our Membership Secretary in advance if they wish to bring a guest. We regret any one guest is restricted to attending just two lectures per year.

There is a charge of $25.00 per guest. Members of other NZ Societies or international members of The Arts Society are welcome to attend our lectures at a charge of $15.00 on notification to our Membership Secretary.

Wellington Programme: Lecturer Biographies and Topics


Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 24 February 2020

Guy de la Bédoyère is a historian and archaeologist well-known for his frequent appearances on Channel 4’s Time Team and his numerous books on Roman history and other topics for Batsford, Thames and Hudson, Yale University Press and others. Guy has degrees from the universities of Durham and London and worked for many years in the BBC. He also taught History and Classical Civilization at a girls’ grammar school for nine years. Guy has lectured to societies in Britain, the Gloucester History Festival and also in Australia. He is an elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.


One of the most extraordinary facts about the Roman Empire is that the first five emperors were members of the same family but not one was the son of his predecessor. In reality the bloodline passed down through the female line. Descent from Augustus’ sister Octavia, his wife Livia’s sons by her previous husband, and Augustus’ daughter Julia, turned out to be the only way Rome’s first and longest-lasting dynasty existed at all. Alongside such famous emperors as Caligula, Claudius and Nero were the women of the Julio-Claudians whose dynastic significant conferred on them exceptional power. Some almost ruled in their own right, challenging the customs and traditions of the male-centric Roman world to the core. This lecture looks at these women through the art and sculpture of the time and later centuries, and also on coins, telling their remarkable stories.


Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 30 March 2020 / Cancelled due to coronavirus

Marc Allum is a freelance art and antiques journalist, writer and broadcaster based in Wiltshire. He has worked as a specialist on the BBC Antiques Roadshow for 22 series and has appeared on numerous other television and radio programmes. Marc regularly writes for mainstream magazines and is an author, antiques consultant and lecturer. He has contributed to or written 15 books including the 40th anniversary Antiques Roadshow – Forty Years of Great Finds, which he co-authored with colleague Paul Atterbury. He also runs a fine art valuation and consultancy service.


The Grand Tour was regarded as an essential rite of passage for the aristocracy and educated classes. Its origins, dating from the 15th century and incorporating the wonders of the ancient world from the Mediterranean to the Holy Land, reached their zenith in the 18th and 19th centuries with the discoveries of Pompeii and Herculaneum. This talk, based on Marc’s passion for collecting Grand Tour souvenirs, is a fascinating insight into the world of early tourist travel and collecting, and its influence on the fashion and style of a nation.


Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 11 May 2020 / Cancelled due to coronavirus

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.


Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) is arguably the most important Indian artistic figure of the modern era. The first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, claimed that he had two gurus: Gandhi and Tagore. A renowned poet, novelist, composer and painter, Tagore is also the only person in history to have written the national anthems for two countries (India and Bangladesh). He became a global sensation when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, the first non-European to do so. This lecture provides an introduction to Tagore’s remarkable life and work, including his novels, poetry, songs and paintings. It also explores the role Tagore’s art played in the story of India’s fight for independence. 


Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 15 June 2020 / Cancelled due to coronavirus

Lucrezia Walker Is a regular lecturer at the National Gallery both in front of the paintings and in the lecture theatre. For the Tate Gallery’s Development Department she speaks to their corporate sponsors in their offices and at their private receptions in both Tates. She teaches US undergraduates on their Study Abroad semesters in London. She was Lay Canon for the Visual Arts at St Paul’s Cathedral 2010-2014.


Australian artist and friend of the Impressionists. Two of his friends at art school in Paris were Toulouse-Lautrec and Vincent van Gogh. Monet highly rated Russell’s work, and Matisse, said that Russell had taught him everything he knew about colour. Another artist and friend, the sculptor Rodin, said that in the future Russell would be as famous as himself, Monet and Renoir. This did not turn out to be the case. But in later years Russell’s work has received increasing attention, and his paintings shown in exhibitions in Australia, France and England. Last year he was showcased in the exhibition of Australian Impressionists at London’s National Gallery. During their lifetimes Russell was more successful than the unknown van Gogh. What reversed this situation? How do artists become famous? Who writes the canon? A good story has much to do with it. And good publicity. Van Gogh’s story is well known. But the extraordinary story of his friend Russell is rarely told. But he was an excellent painter and led an interesting vagabond life in Australia and Europe. And his story of a life devoted to adventure, love, tragedy and art is one worth telling.


Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 3 August 2020 / Cancelled due to coronavirus

Shauna Isaac has been active in World War II art restitution for several years and has worked with families and government organisations to recover Nazi looted art. She set up the Central Registry on Looted Cultural Property and served as a member of the Working Group for the Holocaust Era Assets Conference in Prague. Shauna studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art in the UK and Smith College in the USA. She is a regular lecturer at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Her publications include articles for The Art Newspaper, The Times Literary Supplement and Art Quarterly. She is a contributor to the book Insiders/Outsiders: Refuges from Nazi Europe and their contribution to British Visual Culture.


The Nazis looted over 20% of Western Art during World War II, confiscating art from Jewish families and emptying museums throughout Europe. This lecture will provide an overview of Nazi looting by setting the scene in Nazi Germany, discussing Hitler’s obsession with art and how the Monuments Men recovered art after the war.  Several landmark cases will be discussed in detail, including Gustav Klimt’s celebrated Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer and the stash of over 1200 artworks found in possession of the son of a notorious Nazi dealer.


Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 7 September 2020 / BY ONLINE BROADCAST DIRECT TO MEMBERS AT HOME due to coronavirus

Stella Lyons gained her BA in the History of Art with a 1st class in her dissertation from the University of Bristol, and her MA in History of Art at the University of Warwick. She spent a year studying Renaissance art in Italy at the British Institute of Florence, and three months studying Venetian art in Venice. In addition, she attended drawing classes at the prestigious Charles H. Cecil studios in Florence. In 2017, Stella was selected by The Arts Society to lecture at the launch of ‘Drawing Room Discussions’ in association with ROSL ARTS, hosted by Guardian arts correspondent Maev Kennedy. Stella runs her own art history courses and she is also a regular lecturer in the UK and Europe for The Arts Society, National Trust, Contemporary Arts Society Wales (CASW), Classical Education Forum, WEA, and several travel companies. Stella also works as an artist’s model for the internationally renowned figurative artist, Harry Holland.


During the 19th Century, Glasgow was known as the ‘Second City of the British Empire’. It was a vibrant place, a city which was growing – both industrially and culturally. It was within this innovative environment that the Glasgow Boys were born. The ‘Boys’ were a group of around 20 young artists who revolutionised Scottish painting by bringing it into the mainstream of European art. They rebelled against the elitist, Edinburgh dominated art scene, the artists they termed the ‘Gluepots’, and carved their own, distinctive paths. The Glasgow Boys were the subject of a successful Royal Academy exhibition, Pioneering Painters, in 2010. This talk explores their diverse, modern and inventive work.


Wellington Lecture Date : Monday 12 October 2020 / BROADCAST FROM THE UK due to coronavirus

Mary Rose Rivett-Carnac gained a 1st class honours degree in History of Art & English Literature, and an MA (Distinction) in Victorian Media & Culture from Royal Holloway, University of London. She has written several arts-related articles and is a guide at Dorich House Museum, studio-home of the Russian sculptor Dora Gordine, and at Turner’s House in Twickenham. Since 2007 Mary Rose has worked part-time for the acclaimed arts project, Art UK.


In the 19th century enterprising artists travelled from Britain to New Zealand to forge new lives, teaching art and painting. Britain provided a large and ready market for their works. Remarkable paintings of New Zealand’s landscapes, culture and people, and by artists including Frances Hodgkins, Charles Goldie, John Drawbridge, Ralph Hotere and many others are held in UK public collections. Remarkably, around 80% of the paintings are held in store but have been uncovered in a unique project called Art UK (, into which the lecture offers a fascinating insight.


wellington Lecture Date : monday 16 NOVEMBER 2020

David Maskill studied at the University of Canterbury (MA) and for a PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. From 1993-2019, he was senior lecturer in Art History at Victoria University of Wellington where he taught courses on European art from the medieval period to the French Revolution. He has participated in both the Attingham Summer School (2010) and the Attingham Royal Collection Studies course (2017) for the study of historical country houses and their collections.


With the establishment of the Royal Manufactory of the Gobelins in Paris in 1662, France replaced Italy as the tastemaker for the decorative arts in Europe. The Gobelins factory brought together in one place the best Italian, Flemish, German and French craftsmen. There, with the benefit of unlimited royal patronage, they created exquisite furniture, tapestries, and silverware for one discerning client – the Sun King, Louis XIV. The productions of the Gobelins were the envy of the rest of Europe and every European ruler sought to imitate the Sun King’s taste.

Supporting the Arts

The Arts Society Wellington is one of the sponsors of Artsplash, the annual Wellington Regional Young People’s Arts Festival, a week-long festival that brings together thousands of primary and intermediate school children from throughout Wellington to celebrate and perform dance, drama, music, visual arts and wearable art in one of the city’s premium venues. We have also supported the Friends of the New Zealand Portrait Gallery to enable them to bring students from lower decile schools in the Wellington region to view the Gallery’s exhibitions.

Contact The Arts Society Wellington


Chair  :  Robyn Vavasour /
Vice Chair  :  Karin Beatson /
Membership Secretary  :  Denise Almao /
Committee  :  Jane Kirkcaldie, Peter Bull, Richard Eats, Belinda Langford, Jules Proctor, Lucia Tubbs