Art Presentations by Wendy Evans


Prepared presentations***

Click links below to go to:

General Topics

Art Topics by Time Period

Talks Focusing on Special Artists

Major Museums
(choose 1 or select a series)

Each illustrated talk explores the most important works in the greatest art museums in the world.   The images presented will bring back fond memories of artworks familiar to you and give ideas for what to look for in future visits to these museums.

Museums in the US
 Art Institute of Chicago
 Barnes, Philadelphia
 Cincinnati Museum of Art
 Cleveland Museum of Art
 Detroit Institute of Arts
 Jewish Museum, New York
 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
 Museum of Modern Art, New York
 National Gallery of Art,
Washington, DC
 Toledo Museum of Art, OH

Museums in Austria
 Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Museums in France
 Musee du Louvre, Paris
 Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Museums in Germany
 Gemaldegalerie, Berlin

Museums in Italy 
 Borghese, Rome
 Uffizi, Florence
 Vatican, Rome

Museums in the Netherlands
 Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Museums in Russia
 Hermitage State Museum, St Petersburg

Museums in Spain
 Prado, Madrid

Museums in the UK
 British Museum, London
 National Gallery, London
 Tate, London, Liverpool, St Ives






Looking at Art with the Eyes of an Artist

Arthur Schopenhauer said:  Treat a work of art like a prince: let it speak to you first.
Georgia O'Keeffe wrote:  Nobody sees a flower, really – it is so small – we haven't time, and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
In this richly-illustrated presentation we’ll explore how to get a work of art to speak, how to visit a museum, and how to make friends with the art you see.


American Art Collectors of Art
and their Treasures
(choose 1, 2 or the series)

Collectors usually have very personal reasons behind their choices of what to buy.  In this series we'll look in depth at the art and tell the stories behind the collections put together by three American collectors.
Duncan Phillips of Washington DC whose collection became America's first museum of modernist art.
Alfred C. Barnes who built the Barnes Collection into a unique educational institution, now                controversially moved from his house and rehoused in a beautiful museum in Philadelphia.

Richard Manoogian who, with his wife Jane, built an outstanding collection of American art they share with museums in Michigan and elsewhere.


The Art of Flowers

Artists over the centuries and across cultures have depicted flowers for a number of reasons, not least their inherent beauty. Georgia O'Keeffe painted flowers close up and large to get even busy people to notice them. Other artists used flowers symbolically. Flowers can speak of love, transience or death. This presentation looks at a wide variety of flowers in art.  


Feasting on Art

This presentation brings an art feast for your eyes, complete with ingredients, cooking pots, helpful servants, serving dishes, tables laden with food to sample, and paintings of others enjoying meals including the ultimate Thanksgiving dinner by Norman Rockwell. Bon appetit!  


The Art of Garden Design

Alexander Pope in 1734 argued that "all gardening is landscape painting. Just like a landscape hung up."  This presentation will discuss how art has impacted garden design and will explore famous gardens from a variety of times and continents including gardens created by artists. Plus a look at the work of Piet Oudolf including his garden on Belle Isle.



Claude Monet and his Gardens

Description and image to be added soon




Architecture in Detroit and Beyond
(choose any 1 or 2 talks, or the series)

These talks look at buildings from Detroit's rise in the late 19th century to today. The last talk in the series takes us beyond Detroit to deal with a Detroit architect who changed the face of cities and towns from Detroit to Novosibirsk.

Detroit Architecture: Old and New looks at a mix of architects, styles, and types of buildings including homes, skyscrapers, and public buildings.
Detroit Architecture: Sacred Spaces Detroit's churches have interesting histories, varied architecture and beautiful stained glass windows. From the mid 1800s to the Great Depression Detroiters built one magnificent house of worship after another. We'll explore a selection from the earliest surviving ones, Saints Peter and Paul Church and the Mariners' Church on.
Detroit's Architect: Albert Kahn - Temples, Factories and More looks at some of the more than 400 structures Albert Kahn built in the Detroit area then goes beyond Detroit to trace how this modest immigrant with only an elementary school education went from obscure beginnings to world renown. His innovations changed how factories were built and were crucial for the rise of the auto industry and in enabling the US to become the Arsenal of Democracy.



Detroit Architecture in Focus

Detroit is growing again. We'll focus on three special figures in the history of Detroit's architecture by looking at the buildings of Louis Kamper, the engineering and architectural innovations of Albert Kahn, and the design priciples of Wirt Rowland. Along the way and in closing we'll look at renovations of old buildings and plans for new ones.

The Saarinens: A Designing Family


Saarinen House at Cranbrook exemplifies Eliel Saarinen's belief that an architect's mission is total design from the building and its setting down to the spoon on the table and every other detail. He believed in including his talented family in the design process. This presentation focuses on Eliel Saarinen's buildings at Cranbrook but begins in his native Finland and branches out to include designs by Loja, Pipa, and Eero Saarinens.

Frank Gehry: Big Dreams and Big Fish


His father thought Frank was a dreamer who would never amount to anything. It took till age 68 for Gehry to rocket to fame with the Getty Museum in Bilbao. We'll trace his story, fish and all!

Sensational Selfies: How Artists Picture Themselves
(1 talk or series of 3)

 Living as we do in an age of selfies it is worth exploring how and why artists depicted themselves. Looking at fascinating images in a wide variety of media from ancient times to today, we'll discuss the changing cultural framework within which self-portraits were made. Included will be artists who inserted themselves into scenes with others, those who depicted themselves at work or at special moments in their life, those who took close looks at themselves over their lifetimes, and even some who show themselves as someone else be that saint or sinner.

The British Royals

A historical look at a selection of monarchs from Alfred the Great to Elizabeth II with plenty of pictures and stories of royal objects and events from births to burnt cakes, crowns to christenings, marriages to mistresses, and palaces to privies. Bring your coronets and pearls.

The Real Downton Abbey
and Other Stately Homes of Britain

What's a Wyvern?  Why did the Prince of Wales want a portrait of Mrs. Musters?  Explore the art and the stories from Highclere Castle, the location and inspiration for Downton Abbey TV series plus more stories, art and landscaping from other stately homes.  You'll find truth stranger and every bit as salacious and exciting as the fiction.

Skins, Skeins and Stitches:
Fabric Art through the Ages

There is evidence of weaving back in the Stone Age. Since then we have wrapped ourselves in fabric, walked on carpets, and decorated with embroidery and tapestries. Long dismissed as mere craft, skills in traditional fabric making and decorating have now been embraced as art by museums and adopted by artists as appropriate ways to create art and express their ideas. We look at a range of examples over time and across continents.

Stitching Stories:
Fabric Art through the Ages

Quilts, samplers, embroidery, and appliqué have been used to tell meaningful stories, some historical, some religious, some personal ,and many not only beautiful but deeply moving. We'll explore a range of stitched examples from the Bayeux Tapestry, ritual textiles, and samplers to the Fabric of Survival and other stories in 20th century samplers, quilts and embroideries. 


From Mud to Magic:
Ceramics through the Ages

This presentation takes a trip through the history of working with clay from stone age sculptures, through delicate porcelains, to the studio potters of today. Since Detroit is home to Pewabic pottery we'll take a special look at the work of its founder Mary Chase Perry.


Experiencing the Spiritual through Art

People from cultures around the world and over the centuries have found the sacred in art and have used art to encourage spiritual experiences. While showing art from various faiths as well as secular art, this presentation will suggest ways in which you can engage more fully with art in order to experience its spirituality more deeply.

The Detroit Institute of Arts:
Detroit's Cultural Treasure House
(single talk or series of chosen museum collections)

Explore the more than 125-year history of one of the world's great public art museums with this entertaining slide lecture on the striking personalities, generous donors and notable acquisitions that have made the DIA the jewel in Detroit's cultural crown.

Additional talks in the series look in depth at the art in the collection:  Choose from particular collections within the museum: European painting, European sculpture and decorative art; American art; Asian art; Modern and Contemporary Art; African-American Art; Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; Rivera Court; and Art from the Ancient World.

Tricks and Treats in Art

Spooks and scares, tricks and treats are part of the fun of Halloween and of this presentation. It will focus on the tricks artists use to bring you their treats. But there will be plenty of spooks and scares too. Prepare to be terrified!


Telling a Story:
The Art of Illustration
(pick a single talk or the series)

Artists created images to illustrate stories on ancient scrolls, in medieval manuscripts, and in printed books and magazines.

This series covers a wide range of the best illustrations as a way to demonstrate a picture is worth a thousand words and that illustrations can be very fine art.

Introduction to Illustration Artists like Albrecht Durer, Henri Matisse, and Marc Chagall produced their own illustrated books. We'll look these as part of a wide range of images illustrating stories.

Norman Rockwell: America's Storyteller No one has captured American life more vividly than Norman Rockwell. We'll explore several of his memorable covers for the Saturday Evening Post as well as a selection of other work from his long and productive career.

Illustrations in Books for Children Some of our most loved illustrations are in books for children. We'll look at examples from late 19th and early 20th century illustrators, like Randolph Caldecott and Beatrix Potter, to contemporary award winners like Maurice Sendak, Mo Willems, and Leo Lionni.

Cities for Art Lovers
(choose 1 or select a series)

Each talk in this series looks at the best art and architecture to be seen in public places and museums, the well-known ones as well as others less well-known. 

You will enjoy the images presented whether you are looking for ideas for future visits, want to remember past joys or just sample the best art the world has to offer.

     1. Berlin
     2. Boston
     3. Chicago
     3. London
     4. Paris 
     5. Madrid
     6. Rome 
     7. Vienna
     8. Washington DC

Art Controversies Old and New
(single talk or 3-part series)

Art has been controversial over the centuries for a variety of reasons. We'll explore some of the issues, such as:

Does art require craftsmanship, beauty, or fine materials?  Is it the artist's mind or his hand that is crucial?  What about art done with help from assistants or optical devices?  Is Impressionism a "mess of palette scrapings" as a critic claimed?  Is modern art something your child could have done?
Where is the line between art and pornography, art and sacrilege, art and vandalism, art and politics?
Who chooses the canon?  Should governments fund art?  Should public art require public approval?  Who should keep art plundered long ago?

Magical Multiples:  The Art of the Print
(single talk or 3-part series)

Prints have intrigued us since the first woodcuts.  Since prints have their own particular aesthetics, artists from the fifteenth century to today explored the visual possibilities of printmaking.  We'll talk about how different prints are made and look at a rich variety of fine artworks from inventive printmakers such as Albrecht Durer, Rembrandt, Goya, Kathe Kollwitz, Edvard Munch, and Mary Cassatt.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Women in Art

(single talk or 3-part series)

Over the centuries, men making art have portrayed women for the delectation of male patrons. The artists tended to show women either as goddesses or evil temptresses.  This lavishly illustrated lecture or lecture series looks at how the male gaze has rendered the female and explores the changes when women have the chance to become artists themselves.

Session 1:     How the male gaze has rendered the     female over the centuries
Session 2:     Women struggle for a place in the art world (15th though 19th century)

Session 3:     Women artists get to speak for themselves (20th century)

Saints and Sinners

We all love stories.  

This illustrated presentation looks at tales of villains and heroes from various cultures as pictured by artists.  From ancient times on artists have considered examples of virtue and vice a prime source of inspiration.  

We'll look at a range of responses from serious to romantic, and devout to irreverent.

English Accents

Perhaps you think English art is like English cooking – boring!  Not so, as you will find out with this journey from Old Masters like Hogarth and Turner to the sensational, even scandalous, Young British Artists and Turner Prize winners of today.

Color in Art series:
(choose 1 or select to form a series)

Each illustrated talk explores the use of color in art in terms of its effect on composition or mood, its symbolism, and the periods in art when a particular color becomes prominent.

(1)       Seeing Red
(2)       Reflections on White

Art of particular time periods

The Art and Ideas of the Ancient World
4 part series or any individual class

Explore the ideas underpinning the art and architecture of the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome. The region had such a huge influence on western art it was labeled the Birthplace of Civilization, but perhaps is now becoming its graveyard.

Cradle of Civilization

The Iraq war, rise of ISIS, and other conflicts in the Middle East are causing terrible human tragedies. There is also a wealth of history that is under threat of loss or destruction as Iraq, Syria and other countries in the region are full of world heritage sites, museums, and archaeolical areas yet to be fully explored.
This illustrated talk will explore the ideas, inventions, and that led Mesopotamia to be dubbed the birthplace of civilization. We'll look at the archaeological discoveries that excited Europe in the 1920s and discuss the challenges the art and architecture face in the region today.

Continuity Forever:
The Art of Ancient Egypt

This talk will bring 3000 years of ancient Egypt to life in all its glory.  We'll resurrect a people who loved life and worked to ensure they could continue to live life to its fullest even after death. As Tjaiemhotep urged "Cease not to drink, to get drunk, to enjoy making love, to make the day joyful, to follow your inclination day and night, do not allow grief to enter your heart."  

British Accents

A richly-illustrated survey of art in Britain from the 1550s when Tudor monarchs hired painters from Europe to the work of contemporary artists like Banksy. (Can be single session, or fuller 2 or 3-week series)

16th though 18th centuries  Covering many forms of art, such as portraits by Hans Holbein the Younger and Thomas Gainsborough, satirical prints by William Hogarth, porcelain by Josiah Wedgwood and neoclassical architecture by Robert Adam.

19th century  A rich period for British art.  Landscape painting flourished as did the precisely-detailed art of the Pre_raphaelite Brotherhood.  Whistler advocated art for art's sake while the Arts and Crafts Movement sought to improve design.

20th century on  The modernist art of Europe and the horrors of the Woirld Wars impacted British art.  Pop art started in England.  The Young British Artists championed by Charles Saatchi gained exposure and created controversy while Andy Goldsworthy and others sought beauty in nature.

Titans of the Italian Renaissance
(single talk or 3-part series)

The High Renaissance was a brief - 30 year - tranquil period at the end of the 15th and start of the 16th centuries when the technical mastery to produce illusionistic art and the desire to make classically- inspired art came togther in the hands of profound thinkers.  

We'll look at a rich variety of images by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael while exploring their personal stories and the times in which they lived as well as their contributions to art.  

Celebrities, courted by princes and popes, these men produced some of the most influential works of western art.

Art of the Italian Renaissance
(single talk or 3-part series)

This talk or series looks at the changes in art as thinkers and artists moved from focusing on the soul and the spiritual world to an interest in people and the physical world. That led in turn to interest in the ideas and ideals of ancient Greece and Rome. We'll explore reasons for these changes and look in depth at the artists who made the developments that remain at the core of Western art for centuries. 

Renaissance and Baroque Art
(single talk or 3-part series)

About 500 years ago Europe went through a period of exciting change as people awoke to the wonders of our world and to the ideas and ideals of ancient Greece and Rome.  We will trace the changes in art brought about by this Renaissance, then go on to explore the social, religious, and economic reasons causing art to move from classical calm to the dramatic sensationalism of the Baroque.  We'll try to capture some of the fervor sixteenth and seventeenth century audiences would have felt confronting the masterpieces created during this era.

Sensuous Poetry:
The Art of 16th Century Venice

Bellini, Giorgione, Tiziano – even their names are poetic.  Their art was no less so.  Venetian artists revel in the sensuality of color and the glory of the female form.  Compared to the Venetians, contemporary Renaissance Italians painted only prose.

Art in Times of Conflict
(single talk or 3-part series)

Today is not the first time art has been destroyed because of beliefs nor is it the first time art has been employed to promote political or religious ideas. This series of presentations explores the role of art in three historical periods.  

Art during the Reformation and Counterreformation  Protestants destroyed art as  distracting at best, idolatrous at worst. The Catholic Church used art to encourage faith.
 Art and World War I   Artists had official roles in World War I to create recruitment posters and camouflage, and to spread propaganda, but others used art to expose the horrors of modern warfare.
 Art in the Third Reich   Nazis encourage artists to create art to celebrate the strength and beauty of Aryans and Germany but they also used the art they denigrated to promote their ideology. We'll explore how they used both kinds of art as propaganda.

Devotion, Detail and Discovery:
The Mesmerizing Art of Northern Europe

(individual talk or 3-part series)

Masters of the 1400s   Artists who painted with microscopic details to encourage viewers to lose themselves in contemplation of an image as if they were present at the scene able to touch the objects and share the emotions of the people depicted.

German art of the 1500s  Albrecht Durer brought the Italian Renaissance to Germany with a northern European twist.  We'll focus on his work but also explore paintings by his contemporaries. 

The Art of the Netherlands, France and Spain  Netherlandish artists like Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder brought imagination to the northern tradition of meticulous detail, while artists in France and Spain (like El Greco) began to adopt the distortions of Italian mannerism.

The Sensational Seventeenth Century
(single talk or three part series)

Art in the 1600s moved from the classical calm of the Renaissance to high drama. I challenge you to look with me at paintings and sculpture by great masters then tell me whether you agree that this is art at its most exciting, accomplished and exuberant.

1. The excitement of Caravaggio and his followers.

2. The wizardry of Bernini in sculpture and architecture.

3. Dramatic art of Rubens in Flanders and the quieter brilliance of masters like Rembrandt, Vermeer and Ter Borch in the Dutch Republic.

Stars of the Seventeenth Century
Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Bernini
(single talk or 3-part series)

This series looks in depth at the life and work of three European geniuses, the Dutch master painter and printmaker Rembrandt van Rijn plus two of his Italian contemporaries, the painter Caravaggio and sculptor-architect Gianlorenzo Bernini.  

All three were immensely skillful and innovative artists whose lives, like their artworks, were full of drama and powerful emotions.

The Golden Age of Dutch Art
(single talk or 3-part series)

Visitors to the Netherlands in the 1600s were amazed at the number of paintings in Dutch homes and businesses. As a wealthy maritime power the Dutch had the highest per capita income in Europe. Painting served as a way to fashion Dutch identity. With artists like Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Rachel Ruysch, Gerhard ter Borch, Judith Leyster and Jan Vermeer, this class or classes will be rich in visual delights. 

The French Revolution:
Art and Ideas
(single talk or 3-part series)

Changes in ideas and in society are always reflected in art, but during this period of intellectual ferment as well as revolution, art and discussion about art impacted history.  

We'll see how the seeds of revolution sown in the courts of Louis XIV and Louis XV and watered by the ideas of Voltaire, the writings of Diderot, and the paintings of Jacques-Louis David.  Our story continues through the 1789 revolution, the rise of Napoleon, to the final triumph of republicanism in France.

Century of Change:
The Art
and Ideas of 18th Century France

The century began with the Sun King, Louis XIV, ruling as the richest and strongest monarch in Europe.  It ended with France engulfed in the Reign of Terror. 

This talk traces the amazing journey from the art of the French aristocracy at the start of the century, to the art created at the end of the century in the wake of the French Revolution.    


Vive la France!  Vive la Revolution!

A fully illustrated look at the revolution in art that took place in France in the second half of the 19th century.  This features artists like Gustave Courbet and Edouard Manet who were the first to challenge academic traditions, then the younger revolutionaries like Claude Monet and the Impressionists, and on through rebels, like Vincent Van Gogh, who followed them.

Impressionism:  The Art of Seeing
(single talk or 2- or 3-part series)

The Impressionist paintings so loved today derive from the rebellion of a few young artists in Paris against the formalism and sentimentality of academic art in the late 1800s.  

This presentation or series explores the roots of this transformation, looks at works by artists like Claude Monet who are most closely identified as Impressionist, and continues to  artists who fell under the Impressionist spell.


French Art 1886-1905
(single talk or 2- or 3-part series)

Impressionists introduced a new way of painting in bright colors to try to capture the brilliance of outdoor light.  Artists after them tended to retain the vivid colors but reject the idea that art should quickly and spontaneously just depict the world as it is.  Some, like Gauguin and Van Gogh, wanted a more emotional approach; others, like Cezanne and Seurat, wanted more structure.  This series of three classes will explore the work and ideas of these and other Post Impressionist artists.

Session 1:  The Break with Impressionism 
  (focus on Toulouse-Lautrec and Seurat)

Session 2: Structure or Passion?  
  (Cézanne and Van Gogh)

Session 3: From Natural to Subjective
  (Gauguin and the Symbolists)

The 3 Ms who Changed French Art:
Manet, Monet and Matisse
(1 talk, separate talks or 3-part series)

This course offers an in-depth look at three great French artists.  Despite harsh criticism by their contemporaries, their rebellions against the strictures of academic painting succeeded in changing the course of Western art. 

Session 1:    Edouard Manet who sought to update the Old Masters with contemporary realism, never understanding why his revolutionary works were so shocking to his contemporaries.

Session 2:     Claude Monet who tried to capture the transitory nature of vision, becoming the father of Impressionism.

Session 3:      Henri Matisse who wanted to create a world of harmony and color, an art of balance, purity, and serenity.  His experiments with color pushed the boundaries of art so far that even his patron called one of his paintings "the nastiest smear of paint I have ever seen."

American Impressionism

American artists studying academic art in Paris in the late 19th century were exposed to Impressionism. At first most excoriated it as their teachers did - "It was worse than a chamber of horrors" wrote J. Alden Weir after visiting the 3rd Impressionist show.

Mary Cassatt was the only American to exhibit with the French Impressionists.  By the late 1880s other Americans were experimenting with the style and bringing it back to America. 

The Ten American Painters made it the most loved style in America in the first decades of the 20th century.  Find out why it was so pleasing. 

Expressionism: The Assertive Art
(single talk or 3-part series)

This talk or in-depth series delves into the roots of Expressionism, its flowering in the early 20th century especially in Germany, and its legacy in Europe and America.

Expressionist artists often rebelled against contemporary social values and conventions.  They rejected traditional art forms, colors, and refinement in order to communicate ideas and emotions in intense paintings, sculpture, prints and architecture.

Session 1:     Roots and Beginnings (in ancient, medieval and late 19th century art)
Session 2:     Flowering and Forbidden (early 20th  century German Expressionists)

Session 3:     Later and Legacy (after 1914)

Weird and Wonderful: Surrealism

In the 1920, a number of artists aimed at using art to explore the irrational, go beyond surface appearances to access the unconscious. They were known as Surrealists. Many chose to do this by placing together things that would never be together for real in order to jolt the mind. We'll explore works by Andre Breton, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Rene Magritte and more. 

Opening Doors, Opening Eyes:
 American Art, 1875-1955

(single talk or 3-part series)

This series explores American art from the critical period when it adapts to the contemporary world and forges modern ideas about art.  Images shown will range from the realism of Thomas Eakins to the abstraction of Jackson Pollock and from the urban life scenes of John Sloan and the Ashcan School to the regionalism of Grant Wood.  Discussion will range from the changes wrought by the Armory Show and the World Wars to the impact of the New Deal and the Cold War. 

Picturing America
(single talk or 3-part series)

America's art tells America's story - the optimism, struggles, humor and pain.  We'll explore how people from the earliest inhabitants to today have pictured the history and landscape of the country reflecting its ideas and ideals.

Images will range from realistic paintings of John Singleton Copley to modern abstractions by Jackson Pollock, from the innocent America captured by Norman Rockwell in his early work to the struggles of black Americans seen in his late paintings and those of black artists like Jacob Lawrence, and from inspiring views of unspoiled country by Thomas Cole to the lonely cities of Edward Hopper.

These artists, and others whose work we'll see, help  build our picture of America.


Unhealed Wounds:
and the First World War

WWI was welcomed by artists and intellectuals as the heroic war that would cleanse society - but it wasn't. 

It was the war to end all wars - but it didn't.  

However it was a war that still impacts us. Part of that impact comes from its art. That is the story this talk will tell by looking at paintings, posters, photographs, sculpture and cartoons from the period.

How could the Holocaust happen?

(single talk or 3 part series)

Adolph Hitler understood the power of art. Nazi cultural policies were inextricably linked to their other goals. This presentation looks at Nazi approved art as well as art the Nazis denigrated to explore how the National Socialists used art during the Third Reich to promote their ideology and further their racial, social, and military objectives. 

Beauty and Brutality: Art from the Holocaust
(single talk or 3 part series)

Pablo Picasso declared "We all know that art is not truth. Art is the lie that makes us realize the truth."
We explore art created during and after te Holocaust that establishes and preserves the truth. Art remains a reminder of the bravery and determination of those who documented the suffering and the atrocities. It tells poignant stories of escape and expresses reactions to the horrors.
Their moving images help  ensure the truth is never forgotten.


Monet to Dali: Birth of the Modern

This richly illustrated talk presents artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who changed the course of western art.   Looking at works by artists such as Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Vincent Van Gogh, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, we'll explore the major art movements around the turn of the last century. 

New No Longer: Art of the 20th Century
(single talk or 3-part series)

It was a time of change, a time when art shocked.

We'll look at the founding of modern art in Europe early in the century by artists like Matisse and Picasso in France and the Expressionists in Germany.  

Then we'll move to New York for the flowering of an abstract approach to art, and end by examining the satirical, often politically- charged art made later in the century by artists who rejected the formalist modern approach to art-making.

Special Artists

Titans of the Italian Renaissance
(single talk or 3-part series)

The High Renaissance was a brief - 30 year - tranquil period at the end of the 15th and start of the 16th centuries when the technical mastery to produce illusionistic art and the desire to make classically-inspired art came together in the hands of profound thinkers.  

We'll look at a rich variety of images by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael while exploring their personal stories and the times in which they lived as well as their contributions to art.  

Celebrities, courted by princes and popes, these men produced some of the most influential works of western art.

Revisiting Rembrandt

In this tribute, we'll explore the rich art world of 17th century Holland from which Rembrandt emerged, and look not only at his uniquely sensitive paintings but also at revolutionary prints and drawings created by this master draftsman.  Along the way we'll tell the story of Rembrandt's life, his eclipse and the rediscovery of this very human artist.  


The Passionate art of Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh put an intensity that was new into his art. In his short 10 year career he made an impact that continues to resonate. This talk will increase your enjoyment of the DIA special exhibition Van Gogh in America on October 2, 2022 through January 22, 2023. We'll look at the art while exploring his life and discussing what makes Van Gogh's art so beloved today .  

Paul Gauguin: Dreaming amid Nature

Art is abstraction when you dream amid nature

We can tell many stories about the Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin:

*  How he turned from banker to impoverished artist.

*  How he escaped from the "artificial and conventional" Paris to seek the primitive.

*  How he fought with Vincent van Gogh over what art should be.

*  How he went from husband and father of five to seek love on tropical islands.

We'll touch on all these but focus on Gauguin's emergence from a mediocre impressionist to a strong original artist who left a legacy that influenced 20th century artists.

Marc Chagall and the Jewish School of Paris

Early in the 1900s several Jewish artists, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe, lived and worked in the Montparnasse district of Paris. They came to be known as the Jewish School of Paris. 

This presentation looks at art by Marc Chagall and by other key figures in the group, among them Sonia Delaunay, Amedeo Modigliani, Fernand Léger and Chaim Soutine.

(The Chagall talks can be adapted as a two part series)

Marc Chagall: Fairy Tales, Passion, and Wonder

Pablo Picasso said Marc Chagall must have an angel in his head. Chagall traveled far from the log cabin of his youth in Russia to make a name for himself in Paris, the art center of the world. He carried his early experiences with him. They helped shape his art.

This illustrated presentation explores Chagall's early life, the peak of his career, and his later life and work in many different media.

(The Chagall talks can be adapted as a two part series)

Constantin Brancusi: Painter of Pure Joy

Brancusi  said about his sculptures, "Don't look for obscure formulas or mysteries. I am giving you pure joy. He walked from Romania to Paris to pursue his art studies. Yet US customs officials decided his works were not art so assessed import duty on them. This presentation explores the influences shaping Brancusi's ideas, his pioneering way of working, and how he came to be considered one of the most influential modern sculptors.

Eva Hesse: Unconventional and Eccentric

Despite her untimely death at age 34, Eva Hess managed to make her mark. Her abstract sculptures were innovative and influential. She subverted the prevailing rigid geometry of Minimalism by introducing new materials, new methoss, a sense of the absurd, and a whiff of eroticism.

Betye and Alison Saar: Transforming Outrage into Art

This presentation is about a mother-daughter pair of contemporary artists who manage in different ways to create art that is both strong and tender. Betye Saar assembles vintage, collected, and found objects to make sculptures that address the denigration of Blacks in American culture and other issues resulting ffrom slavery. Over a long and continuing career, her goal as an artist was "to create works that expose injustice and reveal beauty. Alison Saar is one of the strongest sculptors working today. She mostly carves life size figures that are pwoerful and poignant. Like her mother, Alison likes to use scavenged materials and deals with issues that are personal as well as political.

Henri Matisse: The Art of Harmony

Henri Matisse wanted to create a world of harmony and color, an art of balance, purity, and serenity. His experiments with color pushed the boundaries of art so far that even his patron called one of his works "the nastiest smear of paint I have ever seen."

Painters of Urban Life: The Ashcan School

In the early 20th century the cities of America were expanding rapidly with immigrants from rural areas and overseas creating a lively mix of rich and poor, parks and tenements.  Artists flocked to New York to teach and to study. This talk focuses on those artists, such as John Sloan, George Bellows, and Maurice Prendergast, who depicted scenes of life in city streets, parks, and bars.

Diego Rivera and his murals
(single talk or 2-part series)

The greatest of the Mexican muralists called the fresco cycle he painted in the Detroit Institute of Arts his "finest work."  

We'll look in depth at the Detroit Industry murals but also at other work by Diego Rivera as we explore his style, his life, and his ideas using detailed illustrations.

Artist Couples:  Life, Art, and Passion
(separate talks or 3-part series)

We'll explore the intense passions and stormy relationships of these couples while looking at and discussing the magnificent art they created.  

There are also individual talks available on each of these artists separately.

  Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin

Camille Claudel was a 19-year-old sculptor when she met the great master Rodin.  He was captivated by her talent and strong will to become recognized as an artist.  Claudel became Rodin's muse and his mistress.  They sculpted together for the next 10 years.   The richly illustrated lecture examines how each artist's work was influenced by the passion of their relationship.

  Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz

Georgia O'Keeffe was a young art student when she met the already internationally-famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Their love affair and later marriage led to a major series of photos of her by Stieglitz which in turn impacted how her art was viewed. His darkroom techniques influenced her art.

  Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

Theirs is a story of strong passions and incredible art. This presentation explores their stormy relationship while looking at the art they created throughout their careers.  Diego Rivera was famous for large public political murals. Frida Kahlo is celebrated for small intimate personal works. But we'll find common characteristics in their art. 

An Introduction to Jewish Artists

This richly illustrated talk will cover works by a variety of Jewish artists. The title includes the Jewish toast "To Life!" as, although some of the artists we will be celebrating had lives that ended tragically, they live on in their works. 

We'll discuss many artists who are internationally famous, like Marc Chagall, Frank Gehry, Mark Rothko and Maurice Sendak but will also explore less well-known artists whose work is well worth discovering. The Jewish women artists have their own talk.

Above Rubies:
Jewish Women Artists

This talk will range from artists like Rachel Olivetti who embroidered a Torah Ark curtain in 1620 to women like Eva Hesse and Helen Frankenthalerwho helped push the boundaries of art in the later 20th century. Many talented women artists, like Judy Chicago, were moved more by feminism than Judaism, but that should not prevent celebration of their unique achievements. Others like Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner worked in the shadow of more famous husbands but deserve to be better known. (Frida Kahlo gets her own talk.)

Triumph and Tragedy:
The Art and Relationship of Auguste Rodin
and Camille Claudel

Claudel was a young sculptor when she met the great master Rodin.  He recognized her ability.  She became his muse and his mistress and they sculpted together for the next 10 years.  This talk will examine her influence on Rodin and his on her by looking at works inspired by the passion of their relationship.  

Ben Shahn: Artist and Activist

Ben Shahn was a socially aware artist famous for mixing politics with his paint.  This presentation looks at a variety of his work in a range of media including photographs taken during the Great Depression, paintings in the DIA, frescoes he painted or proposed for public buildings, and images for magazines or books like the Saga of the Lucky Dragon. Along the way we'll explore how his art reflects the ideals forged from his experiences as a child in Russia, as an immigrant on Manhattan's Lower East Side, and traveling round the US south during the Depression.

Georgia O'Keeffe

O'Keeffe was one of the first artists to experiment with abstraction in America.  Her large paintings of flowers were designed to make even busy New Yorkers want to stop and examine them.  We'll follow her long career from her early drawings to the paintings of her beloved New Mexico.  Her obituary in the New York Times declared "Her colors dazzled, her erotic implications provoked and stimulated, her subjects astonished and amused." 

Norman Rockwell:  America's Storyteller

No one has captured American life more vividly than Norman Rockwell. This illustrated presentation explores several of his memorable covers for the Saturday Evening Post as well a a selection of other work from his long and productive career.

Annie Leibovitz:  Capturing Celebrity

Photographer Annie Leibovitz has produced some of the most iconic and memorable images of the last 40 years.  We'll explore a rich variety of images from the career of this celebrated artist including her most famous covers for Rolling Stone and several photos from her book Women.

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words:
Jewish Photographers

Photography began in the 1800s without a tradition or any establishment controlling entry. Many Jews became photographers.They influenced this new art. This single or 4 week presentation explores a variety of talented Jewish photographers, both famous and lesser known. Some were instrumental in getting photography accepted as an art form, some were photojournalists and street photographers, others used photography to explore social issues like poverty, racism, and sexual stereotypes.

Jewish Architects

3 week series or single talk on one architect

Some of the most celebrated contemporary architects are Jewish. This series explores the life and work of three of them, Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, and Moshe Saftie. All three have designed a variety of types of buildings in many countries, including acclaimed museums - Moshe Saftie's Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas; Daniel Libenskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany; and Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

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General Topics

Art Topics by Time Period

Talks Focusing on Special Artists


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The arts are essential to any complete national life. The state owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them.


Winston Churchill