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    Our Latest lecture for the Festive Season! 


  A Cornucopia of Curious Christmas Customs

Everyone is familiar with Santa Claus but most, perhaps, don't recognise him as a 19th Century American usurper. 

In England we had our own, traditional 'Father Christmas' and the Dutch have their 'Sinta Claas', but not all Christmas customs are jolly or cosy!

Have you heard of the thirteen trolls who descend from the hills before Christmas to raid farmstead and village; with names such as Pottaskefill, Hurdthaskellir, Bjugnakraekir - Potscraper, Doorslammer and Sausagestealer?

Their mother Gryla eats naughty children, oh... and the occasional husband too! 

A terrifying demon with horns, fur, fangs, and a long red tongue accompanies St. Nicolas, carrying chains and a whip, to chastise naughty children, and then carries them off in a basket.

A more homely figure oversees many Jul celebrations, in his red cap, grey beard and homespun clothes; the Tomte is the guardian spirit of farm and field. 

Many of our Christmas traditions involve the giving of gifts, but many also involve the measuring of good and bad behavior and the punishment of naughtiness!

In this lecture we will explore the Festive customs of Iceland, Austria, The Netherlands, Sweden and more. 

Lecture Series


Tim Stimson has worked alongside many organisations both in the UK and abroad, He has delivered lectures for the University of Cambridge, The Art Society and ADFAS. Below is a selection of his popular lectures, many more titles are available on request.

Punch Magazine: Halcyon Days

Mr Punch's reign as premier puncturer of pomposity spanned five monarchs; his blend of cartoons, jokes and satire holding up a mirror to society, with a wry grin, pointing out questionable politicians, unimaginative beaurocrats, rude shop assistants, striking workers, rich foreigners, rising prices and ... the British railways - recognising that to laugh rather than cry is a good tonic.

Punch Magazine described itself as: 

"a guffawgraph"

"a refuge for destitute wit"

"an asylum for the thousands of drawings, orphan jokes and perishing puns which otherwise wander about without so much as a shelf to rest on"

So many of us have fond memories of Punch, and this lecture commemorates the husband of a Sandwich Arts Society member, who donated 36 bound volumes towards its creation

Mr Punch raven-hill portrait.jpg

Cartoonery - English Attitudes

Many artists have discovered that humour is the key to winning the hearts of the English!

Caricature, satire and the cartoon have given pleasure, satisfaction, amusement and relief, whilst drawing down censure and puncturing pomposity across class divides since the Eighteenth Century.

From the witty and genteel to the vicious and scurrilous, these pithy encapsulations of the recognisable, continue to have relevance today. They are miniature masterpieces, ephemeral yet enduring through time.

From the Georgians; Gillray & Rowlandson, to Punch and Strand cartoonists, Tenniel, Sambourne, Leach and Dickie Doyle and from Thelwell to Scarfe these visual drolleries have lost none of their appeal.

This lecture will trace the history of cartoonery in British public life, as a means of observing and commenting upon society and the politics of the day.

Astrup's Norway


At last, Britain has realised that Edvard Munch is not the only Nordic artist; and Nikolai Astrup could not be more different.

His paintings are colour saturated celebrations of family life, in a magnificent landscape.

The warmth, humour and humanity of these pictures are a rebuke to those who think Nordic means Noir!

This lecture is one of a series on Nordic Artists that I have been researching for many years and Astrup's work was on show at the Dulwich Gallery, London in 2016  

"How pleasant to know Edward Lear"


Edward Lear’s “Book of Nonsense” has never been out of print, but he made his living from topographical watercolours.

“A man of original and versatile genius”, ornithologist, diarist, musician, traveller – this warm and delightful human being expressed his philosophy through timeless humour.

This lecture will focus mainly on the lesser known work of Lear – the exquisite watercolour landscapes, enlivened with his whimsical cartoons and verse

"Jan Steen's Hilarious Households"

Jan Steen (1626-1679) is the comic genius of the Dutch Golden Age, with his depictions of prodigal families so well known in the Netherlands that to this day disorderly households are still called ‘Jan Steen Households’ ‘As the old sing; so pipe the young’ says an old Dutch proverb, which is true of both good and bad role models. Steen specialised in scenes of households out of control but obviously having a great time; with himself at the centre of the fun!

Steen painted biblical scenes, portraits and town views -  however in this lecture we focus on the domestic scenes for which he is famous. Were these pictures intended as moral admonitions?  See if you can tell…..!.

“Who do you think you are kidding                                      Mr Hitler?”

           Punch Magazine 1940
   1940 is arguably the pivotal year in British 20th century history - the battle of France, Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and the Blitz.

Mr Punch’s cartoons reflected the cheerful resolve of the British people to carry on a way of life threatened by invasion.  

Regular features such as ‘From the Home Front’ and ‘At the Pictures’   dealt with topical issues in an informed but humorous way.

 “A fig for Nazidom. Prunes to HawHaw” as Mr Punch said!


This lecture is based on a complete edition of Punch Magazine 1940 discovered at a car boot sale ….. for £4.




"William Blake . . .
and was Jerusalem builded here"

Simply the greatest poet/pictorial artist Britain has ever seen! His themes are universal and his demand that society recognise the folly and inhumanity that prevailed, unfortunately is still relevant. Moulded by the radical tradition of the English Civil War, his words and images are a call to arms to all free-spirits to stand up for the utopia that Britain could be if the shackles of convention were broken.
A revolutionary Christian whose complex beliefs are difficult to fathom, but whose ethos – “All that lives is holy” - was deeply compassionate and expressed in deceptively simple verse and powerful images: his “Jerusalem” awaits its building….. still.


In this lecture Blake’s vision, expressed uniquely in words and imagery, is contextualised within his world view and that of his contemporaries.

"Every Picture Tells a Story"
Victorian Narrative Painting

Victorian narrative pictures are legible, entertaining, thought- provoking, stimulating, and moving; the visual equivalent of chapters from Dickens, Eliot or Thackeray. They provide a fascinating insight into the attitudes, values and morals of this crucial period of British cultural history.

In this illustrated lecture we will be turning Sherlock Holmes’ deductive reasoning on the visual legacy of the 19th century, to find out what fun it is to retrieve the lost art of ‘reading’ pictures.

Atkinson Grimshaw
- "More than just Moonlight"

John Atkinson Grimshaw was one of the very few genuinely self-taught, working class artists, to emerge during the most productive period of British art, the reign of Queen Victoria 1837-1901. Overcoming the discouragement of having his paints and brushes burned by his mother, and inspired by the success of Pre-Raphaelitism, his own meticulous rendering of landscapes led to the development of his main subject- moonlight views. However his range is much wider than is generally known, and the story of his life in Leeds, Scarborough and briefly, London, charts the relationship between an artist and his public: a patron once demanding assurance that he “never painted on the Sabbath!”

In this lecture we will explore the range of Grimshaw’s work. Only recently autobiographical pictures have emerged, giving a fascinating insight into his life and art.

Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), the leader of the Vienna Secession learned his skills adorning the new buildings of the Ringstrasse with majestic murals, yet at the height of his fame he found that he was pushing too far into the avant garde for most of his bourgeois patrons. His images of the femme fatale are definitive encapsulations of turn of the 19th century decadence and sensuality, and have retained an enduring fascination.

Above all, his works are gloriously decorative, exuberantly anticipating Art Deco. This lecture seeks to locate Klimt within the social milieu of Vienna and investigate his charming personality and idiosyncratic art.

"Spirit of the North"
Nordic Romantic Painting

In Northern Europe landscape painting has a powerful hold on our visual culture, especially in Scandinavia where far northerly folk have found a kinship with nature to be indispensable. This relationship is powerfully expressed in paintings of snow and sun, rock and forest, mountain and fjord and helped confirm their difference from Mediterranean culture and to shape national identity.

This lecture is an introductory survey of Scandinavian art; a little known treasure trove of stunning images of the Northern landscape and the country people of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

And for the coming Festive Season -
A Dickens of a Christmas"

In this lecture we will invoke the authentic Spirit of Christmas! Still for most people the best way to celebrate this grand old institution is the traditional way; turkey dinner, presents under the Tree… yet this tradition is historically recent – for the Christmas we celebrate is largely Victorian. The one person most responsible for its new popularity was Charles Dickens, of whom on his death in 1870, a little cockney girl was said to have asked – “then will Father Christmas die too?”


This lecture is largely illustrated using engravings taken directly from an archive collection of the Illustrated London News bound volumes from 1842 onwards.



        Here is a selection of the many other titles available - 



         Gustave Caillebotte: The Neglected Impressionist

·       Courage & Compassion; Lady Butler – Britain’s Greatest Military Painter

·       Dark, Dangerous & Sexual – Victorian Fairy Painting

·       James Tissot – the Art, Life & Love of a Victorian Painter

·       Laura Knight & the Wild North Sea (Staithes Painters)

·       The Pre-Raphaelite Rebels

·       John Millais; Pre-Raphaelite Rebel to President

·       Samuel Palmer - “Visions of Little Dells & Corners of Paradise”

·       David Wilkie – the Art of Storytelling

         For more information on these and other available lectures, please contact me.

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