Chairman’s Message, January 2024

Dear Members

In my first message as the new Chairman of the Society, may I wish you all a very happy, healthy and art-historically interesting New Year. I hope that 2024 has started well and look forward to meeting many of you in the coming months.

As you are aware, 2023 was not without its problems for the Society – although life seemed to return to something resembling normality, a major legacy of the pandemic has been a change in booking habits. We saw many members choosing not to attend live events as well as a trend for courses and study events to be booked much later than usual. As a result of this and rising venue costs, we made the difficult decision to cancel or transfer to Zoom some in-person events, whilst others were run at a loss.

I am happy to confirm that action taken since last summer to reverse the losses has been successful. It will take time to re-build reserves, but we are on the right track. All our currently advertised live events are full and whilst there are still places available for the courses and study days being delivered via Zoom, bookings are at, or near, acceptable levels.

We remain mindful that we are a Society and that many members prefer the more sociable experience of attending live events but, as with everything, we need to maintain a balance and try to accommodate the needs of all members. Hybrid events would be the perfect solution but, depending on venue, can add considerably to costs. We continue to look for good, affordable venues and to investigate how we might best deliver hybrid events.

 Committee Members

We have had further changes in the Society’s Committee during the past year, all of which were announced at the 2023 AGM.

John Dunlop stepped down as Chairman in November but has kindly agreed to continue as Treasurer until the 2024 AGM while we seek a new long-term Treasurer. Sue Anstruther resigned as Deputy Chairman and Committee member, but we are delighted that she will continue to be active as a Study Events Organiser. Susan Nettle resigned as Lecture Programme Organiser and Committee member to focus on other commitments. I am sure that you will join me in thanking them for all their long-standing and most valuable work on behalf of the Society and for contributing to its success.

Going forward, Gillian Robinson and I will jointly act as Lecture Programme Organisers. The Deputy Chairman role is under review.

Volunteering

There are diverse ways, big and small, in which volunteers can help the Society but our greatest need at present is to find a new Treasurer and a new Web Master to replace John Dunlop when he steps down in November. He has been Treasurer for the past 20 years and deserves a long overdue rest. Ideally, we would like to fill the roles as soon as possible to allow a long-enough handover period.

Given our need to expand and diversify our membership, we would welcome assistance from any members out there who have a marketing background. Assistance with delivering hybrid events would also be appreciated.

If you would like to offer your help or make an enquiry about what might be involved please feel free to contact me via my email address, chairman@londonarthistorysociety.org

Review 2023 and 2024

Barrie MacDonald and his Editorial Panel produced yet another interesting and beautifully illustrated edition of the Review in 2023 with articles ranging from the Normans in Southern Italy to Gwen John. Work on the 2024 Review is well underway and includes articles on Minoan art by Andrew Shapland from the Ashmolean, the Finnish artist Askeli Gallen-Kallela by Birkbeck lecturer Charlotte Ashby, and the National Gallery bicentenary by Justine Hopkins amongst others.

Membership Survey

Many thanks to all members who took the time to complete last year’s Membership Survey. We had an exceptionally high response rate of 64% and it has provided us with very valuable feedback and suggestions. We are now looking at how we might implement some of these, including suggestions for small groups to meet up socially to discuss art and exhibitions.

Our Membership Secretaries, Ethan and Robert Chapman-Ames have kindly provided a summary of the survey results, which can be accessed here.

The London Art History Society Prize for Best Modern Period Masters Dissertation

This joint initiative with Birkbeck was established in 2016 with the first prize being awarded that year. Whilst the prize itself is the modest sum of £50, it brings great prestige in that it helps to signal post-graduates of exceptionally high calibre. All good things come in twos and, for the third time in the history of this prize, it has been jointly won, as follows:

Julian Laurence Samuels: Documents of Backstages in lieu of the artist Mike Nelson’s “I, Impostor”

Jonathan White: Does James Stirling’s Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart (1984) position him as “Modernism’s last great prophet, or Postmodernism’s original poster child”

We wish Julian and Jonathan all the very best for their future research and careers.

Donations

Given the absence of a surplus in 2022-23, we made only one donation of £2000 to the Birkbeck Department of Art Research Fund to support MA and PhD students’ research.

The Year Ahead

We enjoyed a wonderful programme of courses and study events last year and received lots of excellent feedback. Plans for 2024 are equally diverse and will include courses on Byzantine Architecture and 15th Century Printmaking, study days on Vuillard and Les Nabis and Scandinavian Art, City of London walks and study visits to Norwich Cathedral, St Paul’s, Middle Temple and the Crossness Pumping Station. Wherever possible, we recommend early booking, not only to secure your place but also to give us certainty about whether an event will be financially viable.

None of this would be possible without your continuing support, the ongoing efforts of our Organisers, Committee and other volunteers and, last but not least, our Administrative Assistant, Judith Burt. A very big thank you to you all!

Jeanette McCauley
Chairman