'Thank you for your wonderful illustrated lecture at the Bankside Gallery on Thursday.' Isla Hackney, Royal Watercolour Society
‘Vigorous applause from a packed audience was evidence enough of the calibre of the museum lecture last Thursday by James Russell…’ Wiltshire Gazette & Herald
‘Alfriston put yet more gloss on its artistic credentials with a sell-out talk celebrating the work of Eric Ravilious.’ Sussex Express
‘Thank you for such a great talk on Saturday, and for signing the books. People thoroughly enjoyed it and we've had great feedback...’ Sara Cooper, Towner Gallery
‘Thanks again for the talk, it was a great start to our proposed autumn series of lectures.’ David Oelman, Fry Art Gallery
‘Like many other people, apparently, I could have gone on listening to you for a lot longer! Thank you so much for making the effort to come all this way.’ Catherine Bingham, Rye Arts Festival
On this page you will find a brief outline of the lectures I am offering for NADFAS societies, arts festivals and museum friends' groups. Each one is based around a Powerpoint presentation of high quality images, featuring artworks, archive photos, ephemera and my own photos. Where possible I tailor lectures to the location, for instance by including paintings created locally. I can also be flexible about the length of talks, which usually last between forty-five minutes and an hour; time permitting, I'm always happy to answer questions or chat for a bit afterwards.
The lectures listed below can be combined or extended to create a three-part Study Day; just get in touch and we can discuss what you need. At the bottom of the page I've included some details of previous public lectures, along with a few reviews. I've lectured in lots of different places, from independent bookshops to the Victoria and Albert Museum, and I aim to enlighten and entertain in equal measure. I am sometimes available at short notice, so if you have a cancellation I may be able to help. For further information, NADFAS members can look me up on the Directory. Otherwise, please email:
jdrussell2(at)hotmail.com, changing (at) to @.
ERIC RAVILIOUS: A LIFE IN PICTURES
Like my series Ravilious in Pictures, this lecture explores the life of the multi-talented British artist through his mysterious, emotionally charged watercolours. From his student days at the Royal College of Art to his death in 1942 while serving as a war artist, we meet the people and visit the places that inspired him, drawing on private correspondence, archive photos and original research to create an intimate portrait of the artist and his world. At the same time we look closely at the paintings, examining subject, design and technique. The paintings are a delight, the story funny, moving and full of surprises.
WOODCUTS AND WEDGWOOD, SHOPS AND SUBMARINES: RAVILIOUS, DESIGNER
During his short life Eric Ravilious was acknowledged as a brilliant wood engraver, designer of ceramics and lithographer, and today his designs and illustrations are widely available once more, on china, cards and stationery. In this lecture we explore the making of his most familiar work, from wood engravings of winter scenes to the lithographs featured in ‘High Street’, his 1938 book of shops, and the Alphabet design created for Wedgwood. We see how his work has influenced contemporary designers, and there are plenty of tips for collectors.
PAUL NASH: A LIFE IN PICTURES
Based on my book Paul Nash in Pictures: Landscape and Dream, this lecture tells the story of Paul Nash's life through a selection of his finest paintings, supported by photographs and other material. From his own writing we learn that Nash was witty, playful and passionate. Investigating paintings like 'Event on the Downs' we discover a world of love and struggle and realise that he was both clever and emotionally driven. A war artist in both World Wars, Nash defied chronic illness to paint until the last day of his life, leaving us with a unique vision of the British landscape.
PAUL AND JOHN NASH: BROTHERS IN ART
Growing up together in the shadow of their mother's illness, Paul and John Nash emerged as artists at the same time, exhibiting their work in a joint exhibition in 1913. The following year they both enlisted in the Artists' Rifles, and both served on the Western Front before working together as war artists. Both subsequently explored wood engraving and book illustration, but otherwise their art moved in different directions and, while remaining close, they each sought to distance themselves from the tag of 'the Nash brothers'. It could be the plot of a novel, but every word of this intriguing, personal story of brotherly love, strife and competition is true!
CHRISTOPHER WOOD: TROUBLED GENIUS
If Christopher Wood is not a household name today it is only because he died at the age of 29. That was in 1930. Ten years earlier he had set off for Paris determined to become 'the greatest painter that has ever lived'; befriended by Picasso and Jean Cocteau, he learned fast but struggled to balance the demands of life and work. By 1927 he was exhibiting in London, then came a brief but spectacular burst of creativity. Frenetic, troubled but capable of immense joy, Wood was one of very few 20th century British artists who touched true greatness. We study his paintings closely, exploring his influences and evolving technique, and celebrating his original vision.
EDWARD SEAGO: FROM THE CIRCUS TO SANDRINGHAM
My book on 20th century British landscape painter Edward Seago is due to be published in 2014. Like LS Lowry, Seago was immensely popular but disdained by critics; today the best of his landscapes look fantastic, while his life story is full of interest. A prolific author, he overcame childhood illness before running away with the circus. He also mixed in aristocratic circles, making friends among the Royal family; a colourful wartime career and a trip to Antarctica aboard the Royal Yacht add to this fascinating account. Seago is much loved by artists, and here we explore a number of his finest paintings in detail, looking at his choice of subject, design and technique.
NOT ALL CAME HOME: BRITISH WAR ARTISTS OF WORLD WAR TWO
When Kenneth Clark set up the War Artists scheme in 1939 he hoped to employ British artists and keep them safe. In this wide-ranging lecture we follow the fortunes of those chosen, from Eric Ravilious, John Piper and Edward Bawden to Laura Knight and Evelyn Dunbar. We will see how the experience of war inspired different artists, examine some of the striking artworks created during the conflict, and commemorate the lives of those who did not come home. This lecture can be amended to compare the experience of artists in World War One and Two - just let me know!
BRITISH WOOD ENGRAVING: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY
One of the triumphs of early 20th century British art was the revival of wood engraving, an art form that had enjoyed an earlier heyday in Georgian England. In this wide-ranging survey we explore the life of master engraver Thomas Bewick and the role of engraving in the popular chapbooks of his age. From there we leap to the reign of George V and the revival that saw an extraordinary output of books and commercial illustration. Today little of this work is ever seen, hidden as it is in books and archives, and in this lecture I aim to show just how wonderful it was. The artists featured include Robert Gibbings, Eric Gill, Eric Ravilious, Clare Leighton, Gwen Raverat and Gertrude Hermes - not all in black and white!
HIDDEN TREASURES OF BOOK ILLUSTRATION
By their very nature, book illustrations tend to be hidden, and the work of even well-known artists is rarely seen. In a broad survey we enter the secret world of the illustrated book, focusing mainly on popular titles such as Alice in Wonderland and Gilbert White's Selborne - showing the diverse ways in which artists have responded to the text. We look at wood engravings, line drawings, pochoir illustrations and lithographs by a diverse range of artists, including John Tenniel and EH Shepard, Barnett Freedman and Eric Ravilious, Kathleen Hale and Quentin Blake. A visual and literary treat.
Eric Ravilious: A Travelling Artist - Royal Watercolour Society
Paul Nash: Landscape and Dream - Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
Ravilious: Submarine - National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
Eric Ravilious & the White Horses of Wiltshire (2) – Wiltshire Heritage Museum
Ravilious Study Day – Victoria & Albert Museum
Eric Ravilious at Hungerford Books, Hungerford
Eric Ravilious & Paul Nash: Travelling Artists – Rye Arts Festival
Eric Ravilious: a Life in Pictures – Friends of the Towner Gallery
Eric Ravilious & the White Horses of Wiltshire – Devizes Festival – report
A Paul Nash Evening - St Bride Library, London
Paul Nash in Oxford - Blackwells Art Bookshop, Oxford
Ravilious in Pictures - Yellow-Lighted Book Festival
Ravilious in Essex - Fry Art Gallery, Saffron Walden
Eric Ravilious & James Ravilious - Familiar Visions, Towner Gallery