January Newsletter from the Chair

The Arts Society York

Update from Helen Byard

If January has typical weather, today has been typical:  hard frost, bitterly cold, bright sunshine, and the promise of snow.   What is less typical is the lack of human contact:  no crowds at the sales, the roads empty and the playgrounds silent.   But better things are in prospect – you may have had the vaccine, or have a date for the injection, and this note comes to tell you about things that may entertain you via the internet or give you something to look forward to.

First, an early note about our January lecture.   Leslie Primo is an art historian who is going to talk to us about The Journey of the Magi.   He has recorded a podcast with fellow art historian, Richard Stemp, by way of an introduction and addition to the lecture on one of the paintings.  This is the link:  When listening to the podcast, it is useful to have the painting on screen as you listen.   I will send you the Zoom information about our meeting in a couple of weeks.

We still hope to be able to offer an afternoon in late February wandering around a drift of snowdrops.  This will, of course, be dependent upon lockdown developments.   The suggestion is to travel independently (i.e. no minibus), then joining together at the garden.   I am sure you will understand that Susan Elliott must wait until more information is available before she can send out details.

Joanna Finlay is now in discussion with Travel Editions about the possibility of a visit to the Gardens of North Wales in the summer.   Thus, members would be given the opportunity to have a break in the early part of the year while also being outside for much of the time.  More details will be given as soon as they are available. The Crete Visit is tentatively rescheduled for October this year.

I have received a notice from The Arts Society regarding the election of Trustees.   If you are attracted by the idea of becoming a Trustee of The Arts Society, please let me know and I will send you the document.

In the meantime, here is some other information that you might find of interest.

The Royal Academy has published its programme for 2021, and this can be seen at, from where you can also access a virtual tour of the 2020 Summer Exhibition.

Stella Lyons is giving her first 2021 lecture on Friday, 8 January at 11am:  Gustav Klimt: A Viennese Gilt Trip.   Get more details from

It only remains for me to send you every good wish for a healthy and happy 2021.

Helen Byard
January 2020

Postscript: I am extremely sorry to have to advise you of the death of Dr Dick Reid, OBE, President of the Society from 2004 - 2015.    The Society was extremely fortunate in having such a distinguished craftsman as its President, and there was great sadness when he retired and we saw less of him at meetings.  The funeral will be private, but I understand there will be a Memorial Service when circumstances permit.   I know you will join me in sending our condolences to Buff Reid and their family.

On a different note, I am delighted to announce that one of our members, Julia Charlton-Weedy, is to be the next National Chairman of The Arts Society, having been elected a Trustee in 2016.   Julia has been a member of this Society for many years, and was an extremely charming and efficient Chairman from 2012-15.   It is excellent news and I am sure you will join me in sending her our very best wishes for a successful term.

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Coronavirus Update

The Arts Society

Guidance on Coronavirus

Issued by The Arts Society Head Office

Dear Colleagues,

As the Coronavirus continues to escalate, we are issuing the following important guidance to all of our Societies.

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, China in December 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) believes COVID-19 more severely affects older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes).

Based on the WHO’s declaration that this is a public health emergency of international concern, the UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the UK from low to moderate. On 10 February, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, announced enhanced legal powers to protect public health, and earlier this week outlined the UK’s national response to the virus.

Whilst each Society and indeed Member must decide for themselves what precautions it may wish to take, The Arts Society strongly suggests you follow this advice:

  • If you or a family member is showing signs of illness, please do not attend your meetings and consult the guidance below.
  • We recommend that members consider refraining from any physical contact.
  •  Wash hands thoroughly before and after meetings for 20 seconds with hot water.

Any individual who feels unwell should follow the advice from Public Health England. If an individual is known to have been infected with COVID-19, then it is standard policy for Public Health to contact all those they have been in contact with. Full co-operation is expected to ensure the risk to others is minimised.

It is currently our expectation that all scheduled national and Area meetings will continue as planned. This is based on the Government guidance that whilst exercising caution, individuals should carry on as normal. We are monitoring the situation closely and will advise in the event of any possible changes.

Should there be the necessity for the office in London to close there is a contingency plan in place. Although the switchboard will state that the office is closed where possible direct line phone numbers will have been diverted and emails will continue to be monitored.

Please find below a link to the Governments Guidance (updated daily), and also the Government Action Plan.



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Hull Study Day Report

Hull Study Day Report

17 October, 2019

The visit began at Hull Minster, Holy Trinity Church, which was hosting a special exhibition entitled “Michaelangelo – A different view”. This allowed visitors to view the Florentine master’s Sistine Chapel frescos at ground level.  It proved extremely interesting and was an extraordinarily rare opportunity to examine closely reproductions of the frescos, and to admire details that cannot normally be seen.  After lunch, members were free to visit either the Ferens Art Gallery or the Maritime Museum

Thanks to Study Day organiser, Susan Elliott.

Helen Byard

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SCULPT Art in the Churches Report

SCULPT Study Day Report

Art-in-the-Churches: SCULPT
26 September

Members enjoyed a Study Day in the Dales during September, visiting a number of the Churches involved in the SCULPT project.  The weather was perfect and the art proved stimulating and thought-provoking.  Some of the Churches were unknown to the members, who enjoyed examining the buildings as well as appreciating the art installations. After lunching in Masham, an unexpected pleasure was the tour of the Dales undertaken in error by the minibus driver.

Thanks to Study Day organiser, Susan Elliott.

Helen Byard

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Nancy Visit Report


Nancy Visit Report

Nancy: September 9-13 2019

The visit to Nancy and Metz was a revelation. Not just for Art Nouveau, but also for the ability to walk round a townscape that is not crowded with other tourists and to stand and examine a building that stands as a monument to its time. Also, our guide, Mike Hope, was knowledgeable and enthusiastic as well as being experienced in leading groups who require regular stops for coffee and ice-cream.

We travelled by Eurostar and TGV to Nancy and enjoyed a meal on the first evening in a Belle Epoque restaurant, the Majestic. The following day was taken up by a walk round Nancy, not just examining Art Nouveau buildings, but wandering along medieval streets and admiring the huge Stanislas Square, surrounded by buildings constructed in the Baroque style.

Metz on our second full day proved interesting. The town is close to the German border and its history of occupation is clear upon arrival, with the architecture of the Railway Station. Entering the hilltop cathedral, which is in the medieval area, is breath-taking, since it has an immensely tall Gothic nave and impressive stained glass. We recovered our breath in the September sunshine and were able to enjoy lunch outside. To contrast with the overwhelming grandeur of the Cathedral, the small Church of St Maximin is where we found stained-glass windows designed by Jean Cocteau. The Pompidou Centre was memorable because of the unusual shape of the roof, and the excellent café where many of us ended the afternoon, reviving ourselves after experiencing some unusual art.

On Wednesday, we began the morning by viewing a row of houses built in the early 20th century in the Art Nouveau style, and then visited the Musee de l’Ecole de Nancy, a charming and beautiful house set in a delightful garden. The house, an Art Nouveau gem, is furnished with objects designed by Émile Gallé, Victor Prouvé, Louis Majorelle, Antonin Daum and Eugène Vallin. An aquarium, erected in a corner of the garden, contains stained glass by Jacques Gruber. Our afternoon was taken up with a visit to the Musee de Beaux Arts, where some were disappointed not to be able to see the Daum glass galleries, while others learnt about the painter Émile Friant.

Mike Hope had saved Maison Bergeret for our final visit in Nancy, and it was an appropriate climax. An Art Nouveau building, surrounded and squeezed by departments belonging to the University, it is clearly under threat of demolition, and we felt privileged to be able to enter and wander round the untouched rooms, filled with the original bespoke furniture. The stained-glass amazed us all, while the fittings showed the attention to the smallest detail.

This was a truly successful visit, both educational and enjoyable, and thanks were expressed to Mike Hope, our lecturer, and Joanna Finlay, the Visits Secretary.

Helen Byard

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Mouseman & Ampleforth Study Day Report


Study Day at the Mouseman of Kilburn and Ampleforth Abbey

We had a most interesting and stimulating Study Day Outing, firstly to Kilburn, where we had a very nice welcome with coffee and biscuits before the great grandson of the founder of the famous Mouseman furniture, Robert Thompson gave us a short talk on the history of how his great grandfather started carving furniture.  We then watched a film about it before we were taken round the Visitor Centre which was set out in rooms in the era of the 1930’s, where we could enjoy seeing the beautiful carved furniture which is still being crafted today.

We then went on to Ampleforth Abbey for soup and sandwiches before being given a brief history of how the Abbey came to be built there after the monks had returned from France when it had become too dangerous for them to stay.    We were then taken on a fascinating tour of the Abbey, which was extensive, and contained some Mouseman furniture.

We were made very welcome at both places, and altogether had a most memorable day.   I am sure many of us will be returning to both venues to enjoy the beautiful countryside and look at leisure at the artefacts.

Susan Elliott


Robert Thompson of Kilburn
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Sheffield Leonardo da Vinci Study Day Report

Leonardo da Vinci at the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield

Study Day at Sheffield

Thirteen members left a cold and wet York Racecourse on Thursday, 7 March, and arrived on a cold, wet day at the Sheffield Millennium Gallery in time for a reviving coffee and welcome from our guide, Marcus Newton. He took us on a comprehensive tour of the City, which included the neo-Classical City Hall, built in the 1930s and still bearing the scars from bombs which fell nearby, and the 300-year-old Unitarian Upper Chapel.  We admired the Women of Steel statue which commemorates the women who worked  in the steel industries during both world wars, and learnt much about the history and architecture of the city.   We certainly earned our lunch.  We gathered in the afternoon to listen to a talk about the Leonardo da Vinci drawings from one of the Millennium Galleries staff, before visiting the galleries to see the drawings for ourselves.  It proved an amazing opportunity to see the drawings at close range and, indeed, staff offered magnifying sheets to allow visitors to see the detail even more clearly.  There is one drawing of horses that reminded more than one member of Thelwell’s ponies, while the drawings of flowing water kept others entranced.   The gallery was busy but there was enough space to allow us plenty of time to examine each picture without being hassled.

Thanks are due to Susan Elliott for a very worthwhile and varied Study Day.

Helen Byard


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York Gallery Study Day Report

Ceramics gallery

Study Day at York Art Gallery

Twenty members enjoyed a Study Day on 7 December. We began by touring the Treasurer’s House, and learnt from the room stewards that Frank Green, a wealthy Wakefield industrialist and avid collector, had bought the house in 1897 when it was sub-divided into separate houses, and spent time refurbishing, altering and furnishing it appropriately, ensuring that the items of furniture he purchased remained in his chosen position by inserting studs in the floors to indicate where the pieces should stand (we all spent time searching for the almost invisible stud heads). The stewards explained about the furniture and decoration, as well as telling us anecdotes about Frank Green and his friends, who included members of the Royal family.

The Art Gallery was our destination in the afternoon. Having been split into two groups, we were taken outside to learn about the history and architecture of the building, before returning to the warmth of the new Ceramics Galleries. Dorothy Nott, who took the group I was in, was a knowledgeable and expert guide, and we were able to spend time examining the pottery and learning about the distinguished potters who created them and the generous donors who had gifted their collections. There was time for a brief visit into the Burton Gallery, where we were able to admire a new acquisition, the Automaton Clock, and learn a little more about William Etty and some of the other painters and sculptors whose work was on display.

It was a most successful and interesting day, and thanks are due to Susan Elliott for organising this event.

Helen Byard


Ceramics gallery
Sultan's Bureau
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Porto and Lisbon Visit Report

Lalique jewellery


Our trip to Portugal began with a delayed flight, with the result that we arrived in Porto late in the evening, checking in to the hotel in time for bed. It was a late start the following morning for a coach drive into the Douro valley, stopping at the Quinta de Marrocos. Our guide at the Quinta spoke excellent English and, as we toured the vineyard, she explained the history and production methods for port, before we sat down to a lunch which, appropriately, began and ended with glasses of port. It was interesting to see that the ancient barrels are covered in cobwebs, left for the spiders to catch the wasps and flies which are drawn to the wine-saturated wood. We returned to Porto in time for brief visits to the Cathedral and the Railway Station. The latter’s ticket hall is covered with scenic tiling, quite different from the tiles in Moorish Spain. Our evening culminated in a most interesting lecture on the Baroque by Nicholas Merchant, who accompanied us as our lecturer, explained the origins and reasons for this decorative development.

Tuesday began with a tour of the Gothic Church of San Francisco, decorated inside with somewhat OTT Baroque carvings. On then to the Palacio del Bolsa, the Porto Stock Exchange. A boat trip on the Douro River was an unexpected addition in the afternoon, and this allowed us to see the City, its walls and bridges from the water. A final visit was to the mirrored Café Majestic, a reminder of the belle époque in the centre of Porto, where we were able to indulge in Pastéis de Nata and ice-cream.

The following day began with a brief stop in Coimbra, a medieval town containing an ancient University. The drive continued up the mountains to Sintra, our driver negotiating the single- track road with cars and buses meeting us on the way down. Our destination was the Palacio de Monserrate, a fairy-tale castle, combining Moorish and Baroque architecture, perched on a hillside, overlooking a stunning garden, filled with enormous trees and shrubs, interspersed with ponds and fountains, and enhanced by lawns which dropped away to the valley. Exuberant, exotic and unforgettable. On to Lisbon, where we enjoyed Nicholas Merchant’s knowledgeable lecture about Calouste Gulbenkian and his legacy of the Museum.

The Gulbenkian Museum was, for your writer, the highlight of the week. It seems perfect: the size, the quality and variety – just as I was thinking that I had seen enough Roman coins, I turned the corner and there were Greek statues; there was French furniture, there were Turkish rugs, Moroccan tiling, Chinese temple lions. Triptych panels and galleries of Old Master paintings. To climax, cases of Lalique jewellery – amazing and beautiful yet unsettling as one examined it closely. There wasn’t time to visit the Modern Collection of paintings, housed separately, but that will just be a reason for another visit.

It was unfortunate that we did not complete the planned itinerary, due to breakdown in communication between the Portuguese guide, his company and our agency. Joanna Finlay worked extremely hard to ensure that we covered nearly all our programme, and she must be congratulated. We were able to get a flavour and taste of both Porto and Lisbon. The group was extremely friendly, everyone mixed well, and it was good to see that some new members and friends came on the trip.

Helen Byard

quinta lunch
Sintra Palacio de Monserrat Gardens
Marrocos vineyard
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50th Anniversary Celebration

50th Anniversary Celebration

The Arts Society York 50th

The Arts Society York and The Arts Society Ebor Celebrate Fifty Years of NADFAS

On Sunday, 24 June, the 50th Anniversary of the national society was celebrated in sparkling style with a garden party at the Manor House, Heslington, York.  Mr George Smith generously gave his garden for the celebration, and more than 140 members of The Arts Society York and The Arts Society Ebor enjoyed the beautiful grounds in glorious sunshine, while welcoming Julie Goldsmith, the National Chairman.  Members toasted the anniversary, and were delighted that a donation was made to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

Last year, it was Jo Foster's excellent idea to ask George Smith if we could hold the anniversary party in his garden, and his generosity in giving us the afternoon meant that we were able to give a donation to his chosen charity. The garden looked glorious - a real tribute to all the hard work undertaken by George, Brian and David. I don't think that any guests went thirsty or hungry - mainly due to the efforts made by Helen and Conal Gregory, who worked incredibly hard to ensure that supplies of sparkling wine and elderflower cordial kept everyone's glasses full. Committee members from York and Ebor served canapes even unto the furthest reaches of the garden, and I think that everyone enjoyed the beautiful surroundings.

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Beverley Study Day Report

Beverley Study Day Report

We arrived by coach at The Treasure House, where we were met by a member of the Tourist Board who gave all of us a goody bag full of helpful information about Beverley.  After a restoring cup of coffee we were walked by our helpful guides from Beverley Civic Society over to the Guildhall were we were given a comprehensive talk about the beautiful old building and what had happened there long ago, and what it is used for today.  We then found places to have some lunch, with the help of the useful street maps from our goody bags, after which we all met up at the Market Cross where we were given a most interesting and comprehensive talk on the buildings in Beverley in the Market Square.

We then walked over to St. Mary’s Church and had a lovely tour of this beautiful old building, noting particularly the fine roof bosses and painted ceiling, and the very oldest areas of the Church. We were very fortunate to be given a cup of tea accompanied by delicious scones with clotted cream and jam at St Mary’s, before we went back to the coach, and travelled safely back to York.

Beverley is a charming and friendly town, and well worth visiting, and I think all of us attending thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Susan Elliott

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Newcastle Visit Report

Newcastle Visit Report

Visit to Newcastle 11-14 June 2018

Newcastle may be thought of by many in York as the city up the road that is just worth a day trip for shopping or the theatre. Those who went there with the Society may beg to differ. We began at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, located in a converted Flour Mill. Guided by MT, one of the Crew, to the viewing galleries we had a perfect view of the City and its bridges, as well as being able to see the kittiwakes, nesting on the Flour Mills ledge. MT explained that two of the galleries were being prepared for the Great Exhibition of the North, due to open in a fortnight, but we were able to tour part of the "Idea of the North" exhibition, which included thought-provoking photographs by the Amber Collective, documenting working class communities in the North-East from the 1970s to the present day.

Our next destination was a contrast. The gardens of Whalton Manor are a foil for the house, which is a listed building, roofed in stone tiles. We were fortunate to be guided by the Head Gardener, who explained the planting scheme and was happy to provide planting tips. Resisting the temptation to buy plants, we succumbed to the temptation at teatime of large slices of home-made cake. The Grand Hotel at Tynemouth provided our accommodation: an Edwardian hotel, built overlooking the sandy beach and dunes. Tynemouth is a centre for surfers as well as all those who enjoy the seaside. It was a short walk from there to the station and we used the Metro into the city centre for a busy second day.

This began with a tour of the City led by Pat, our blue badge guide. Beginning at the Grey Monument, we admired the elegant buildings and townscape developed by Richard Grainger in the early 19th century, before walking into the Central Arcade, then on to the covered market where the oldest Marks & Spencer stall still exists. Only one member tried the scales in the Weighing Shop – still operating daily for those who wish to check their weight for 50p - and learnt about the City’s "Chares", which in York would be snickleways. We ended our walk by the quayside and heard about Bessie Surtees, who eloped by climbing from one of the windows of her parents’ home in 1772. The house – and the window – are still to be seen. A rare treat in the afternoon was to climb into the organ loft of the Roman Catholic Cathedral for an explanation from the organist about the workings of the instrument and listen to a brief burst of a Toccata and Fugue by Bach. The organ and its balcony are recent innovations, the result of a generous benefaction, and they complement a most interesting and colourful building.

We ended the day with a guided tour of the pre-Raphaelite pictures at the Laing Art Gallery. Wednesday saw us on the coach to Jarrow, where there is the original Burtons factory (Burtons Tailoring, that is), and the Gin & Ale House. Both buildings are covered in early 20th century tiling, which has survived. The staff in Jarrow Town Hall kindly allowed us to see their Jarrow March memorabilia case, a sobering reflection of the difficulties encountered by communities in that area. Jarrow Hall with the Bede Museum and Anglo-Saxon Farm came after that.

South Shields Town Hall climaxed the day – completed in 1910 and built with confidence by local craftsmen and with the best materials. We were welcomed by the Mayor, Kenneth Stevenson, and his Mayoress, and by Fay Cunningham, a former Mayor, who shared her passion for the building with us. A tour of the Theatre Royal was the first stop on Thursday morning, and our guide took us from the gods to the pit as well as everywhere between – comprehensive and fascinating. On to Trinity House to hear more of the maritime history of the City, before we ended at the Anglican Cathedral, where it was good to discover that our guide, Canon Steven Harvey, was a former Chaplain at St Peter’s School. He proved a delightful and knowledgeable guide to the Cathedral. We returned to York exhilarated and exhausted.

Such Visits take a great deal of organisation, and Joanna Finlay must be congratulated on the variety of places that she chose for us to see. Visits are an excellent way for all members, whether new or established, single or partnered, to get together.

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