A look at some great strivers of the l9th century and their relationship with fame. Hans Christian Andersen enjoys it; Fanny Mendelssohn hankers after it; Benjamin Robert Haydon perishes for lack of it; Edwin Landseer basks in it and overdoes it; Florence Nightingale utterly rejects it.
“A pure delight! Karin’s thespian skills meant that she transported us to the period making us perfect onlookers of those remarkable times. Thanks. A triumph!”
19 Feb 2025 – Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
“I could have been a married woman, a literary woman or a nursing sister” recalls Florence Nightingale, who shunned publicity and hated having her portrait painted. She was highly musical, she kept prints from the Sistine Ceiling on her bedroom walls; and she observed in her NOTES ON NURSING – still in print – that “To make an art of life – that is the finest of all the fine arts.” In this lecture we look at some of Nightingale’s passions and preoccupations before and after the Crimean War.
26 Feb 2025 – Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-47)
Fanny Cecilia Mendelssohn was as talented as her brother Felix, four years younger. He called her his beloved Cantor, his teacher. She received the same musical education and composed prolifically in her early teens. Soon, however, she was persuaded by their father to take a back seat in favour of her brother. He became world-famous, acclaimed as a second Mozart. She remained a Berlin hausfrau, relatively unknown. But she continued to compose and to play the piano; and their mutual affection survived. Of her songs Felix said “They prove that true music exists…that the soul is made of music.”
05 Mar 2025 – Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75)
Andersen was not only a writer of stories for children but a gifted visual artist and an enthusiastic traveller, visiting mainland Europe 29 times, a record for his day. His travel book, A POET’s BAZAAR, is a delightful read. He created over 1,000 papercuts, many elaborate, together with collages and some remarkable landscape sketches. He was thrilled by the scientific discoveries of his day, anticipating the Channel Tunnel in a story THE MILLENIUM in which young Americans visit Europe in an airship, and see over it in a week, directed by their guidebook EUROPE IN SEVEN DAYS. He was a keen observer. “Every character is taken from life I know and I have known them all.”
12 Mar 2025 – E.H. Landseer (1802-73)
“If he were to take a blank piece of paper, and paint on it just one hair of any dog, we would know what dog!” says a critic of Queen Victoria’s favourite animal artist, Edwin Landseer. When asked where he found his profound understanding of dogs, the artist replied “Madam, by peeping into their hearts.” A superb painter and cartoonist, at home in many mediums, he enjoyed great social success due to his charm and accomplishments. Yet he would end up stressed, alcoholic and, some thought, actually mad. “He is hardly fit to be about and looks quite dreadful!” said an appalled Queen Victoria, who would loyally invite him to Balmoral nonetheless.
19 Mar 2025 – Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846), Historical Artist
He inspired sonnets by his friends Keats and Wordsworth; his celebrated portrait of Wordsworth on Mount Helvellyn hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. His Hogarthian rendering of a burlesque “Mock Election” in the King’s Bench Prison was purchased by an enthusiastic King George lV. He worshipped the recently-arrived Elgin Marbles “May they take deep root in my nature, may their spirit be interwoven with my soul”. His large historical paintings did not succeed, partly due to bad eyesight, and he took his own life aged 60. He lived in his splenetic, passionate, hilarious and highly observant diaries.