Art & Coffee at The Beaumont (14th April) – Amadeo Modigliani & Anna Akhmatova, Paris 1911

Join our Art & Coffee discussion group

on Friday 14th April, 11.30am (for about an hour)

at The Beaumont, Barchester Southgate Community Care

15, Cannon Hill, N14 7DJ

for “Amadeo Modigliani & Anna Akhmatova, Paris 1910”

Amadeo Modigliani (1884-1920), the Italian sculptor and painter, had moved to Paris in 1906.

Anna Akhmatova, Russian poet of the Silver Age, first met Modigliani in Paris in 1910 (with her new husband who thought the artist a “monster”).

Modigliani (1884–1920) in his studio rue de la Grande-Chaumière, at Montparnasse; unknown photographer, c.1918.

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) photographed by Moisei Nappelbaum, 1926.

A year later Akhmatova returned to Paris (alone) and together with Modigliani wandered the Luxembourg Gardens, talking and reciting poetry. Their “affair” lasted no more than three months, yet as Richard Nathanson (a curator for the Estorick’s Modigliani exhibition in 2015) put it in an interview with Lucy Davies [Telegraph]:

“Meeting her changed his art profoundly… Beyond the beauty of the individual works themselves, the particular fascination of this exhibition lies in the way it gradually reveals the emergence of Modigliani’s characteristically concise and elegant vocabulary, and how much that vocabulary had to do with Anna Akhmatova.”


Today we’ll explore the art and poetry of Modigliani and Akhmatova’s Paris.

All welcome!


“British Art, the Artists’ International Association and The Spanish Civil War” – references and resources (for Orpington WEA)


After our wonderful Orpington WEA meeting on Saturday 4th March, 2023 all about British art, the AIA and the Spanish Civil War, I’ve put together some resources for further research – a combination of books and online sites. It’s far from complete but I hope will be useful as a starting point!

The most immediate reference is “Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War” by Simon Martin and Paul Preston. It’s the catalogue to an exhibition at Pallant House Gallery back in 2014 but remains in print and available. There is also information on the Pallant House website.

The Artists’ International Association book seems sadly to be out of print, but the artists we looked at briefly included:

Pearl Binder

There’s a fabulous article on her at Spitalfields Life

James Boswell

The Tate has a number of his images

Clive Branson


Gilbert Daykin

For his extraordinary depiction of miners, see the Science Museum

Cliff Rowe

Over 100 works by him are on the Art UK

and for Albert Turpin (as well as the rest of the East London Group): “Bow to Biennale” by David Buckman

and the footage I mentioned of various artists (including Nan Youngman and Priscilla Thornycroft) painting hoardings for the Send Aid to Spain campaigns can be seen via Pathe News.

Nancy Cunard‘s “Authors Take Sides” pamphlet has been digitised and is on the British Library website.

Other books of interest might include Charlotte Philby’s novel “Edith and Kim” which brings the photographer Edith Tudor Hart’s biography to life; also Sarah Watling’s new book “Tomorrow, Perhaps the Future” which is a group biography of a number of writers and activists who went to Spain. [Both are absolutely brilliant!]

For Felicia Browne‘s tragic story, there’s a great article by Fisun Guner in the Guardian;

Browne’s sketchbooks are at the Tate Archive.

We also mentioned paintings and sculptures of John Armstrong (Pro Patria, Revelations, Encounter in the Plain), Barbara Hepworth (Monument to the Spanish Civil War), Henry Moore (Spanish Prisoner), F.E. McWilliam (Spanish Head) and the teenage artist Ursula McCannell (Spanish Mother and Child).

Dora Maar‘s photographs documenting Picasso working on Guernica can be see c/o the Reina Sofia Museum and there’s an article by Fiona MacDonald on the BBC website: “The Story of a Painting that Fought Fascism”.

For a history of the Spanish Civil War, I would suggest anything by Paul Preston.

The International Brigades Memorial Trust website is definitely worth visiting too.

We also mentioned

And, finally, two documents, the first is the brochure of the Basque Children’s Aid meeting at the Royal Albert Hall:

and secondly the remarkable photograph (from the Working Class Movement Collection) of Republican soldiers looking at paintings that had been rescued from the Madrid galleries and put on show in Valencia:


The Words and Pictures Book Club (24th March, 2023): “Hidden Hands” by Mary Wellesley

Join us for the Words & Pictures book club

on Friday 24th March, 2pm (for an hour or so)

at the Pebbles Community Cafe (the old Havens, Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff)

when we’ll be discussing Mary Wellesley’s non-fiction book

“Hidden Hands – The Lives of Manuscripts and Their Makers” [2022 paperback, published by riverrun]

The publisher describes:

Manuscripts teem with life. They are not only the stuff of history and literature, but they offer some of the only tangible evidence we have of entire lives, long receded.

Hidden Hands tells the stories of the artisans, artists, scribes and readers, patrons and collectors who made and kept the beautiful, fragile objects that have survived the ravages of fire, water and deliberate destruction to form a picture of both English culture and the wider European culture of which it is part. Without manuscripts, she shows, many historical figures would be lost to us, as well as those of lower social status, women and people of colour, their stories erased, and the remnants of their labours destroyed. From the Cuthbert Bible, to works including those by the Beowulf poet, Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, Sir Thomas Malory, Chaucer, the Paston Letters and Shakespeare, Mary Wellesley describes the production and preservation of these priceless objects.

With an insistent emphasis on the early role of women as authors and artists and illustrated with over fifty colour plates, Hidden Hands is an important contribution to our understanding of literature and history.


Join us if you can – it’s a very informal discussion over coffee & cake – all welcome!


Art, Books and Culture Group at The Beecroft (18th March, 2023): Painting the Walls – the Modern Mural

Join us for our Art, Books and Culture Group

on Saturday 18th March, 11.15am (for about an hour or so)

at The Beecroft Art Gallery

Victoria Avenue, Southend SS2 6EX

when we’ll be discussing the revival of mural painting during the inter-war years.

Picking up where we left our discussion of Vanessa Bell’s art last month, we’ll begin by looking at the decorative wall-paintings at Charleston Farmhouse (above, left) and Berwick Church that Bell undertook alongside Duncan Grant (and others).

This will lead us back to earlier Bloomsbury murals and into the ‘revival’ of decorative wall painting during the inter-war years including work

by Evelyn Dunbar, such as The Brockley School Murals [detail here of The Country Girl and the Pail of Milk, 1933-6]:

and by Phyllis Bray, such as her re-discovered People’s Palace mural at Queen Mary’s University, mid-1930s:

and we will also mention, especially given our location, the works made by local artist Alan Sorrell for Southend Library in the 1930s, such as The Founding of Prittlewell Priory:

As ever, there will be plenty to look at & discuss – all welcome!

Admission is £10 on the door, and there will be coffee & biscuits to follow.


Art and Coffee at The Beaumont (17th March, 2023): “The Memoir Club” by Vanessa Bell

Join us for our Art & Coffee discussion group on

Friday 17th March, 11.30am (for about an hour)

at The Beaumont,

Barchester Southgate Community Care Home

15 Cannon Hill, London N14 7DJ

when we’ll be looking at Vanessa Bell (1879-1961)’s painting “The Memoir Club” (1943; National Portrait Gallery)

as our starting point for exploring Bell’s portraits of friends and family and how her style changed over the years. Along the way we’ll get a taste of Bloomsbury life and ideas, and pop in to Charleston Farmhouse.

Do join us if you can!


Words and Pictures Book Group, 24th Feb 2023: To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Our next Words and Pictures book group discussion will be

on Friday 24th February, 2pm (for about an hour or so)

at “Pebbles Community Cafe” (ground floor, the old Havens building on Hamlet Court Road).

This month’s book is

A captivating fusion of elegy, autobiography, socio-political critique and visionary thrust, it is the most accomplished of all Woolf’s novels. [Oxford University Press]

The front cover image here is of Laura Knight’s “At the Edge of the Cliff” [1917;].

These meetings are free and all are welcome!


Art, Books and Culture at The Beecroft, 18th Feb 2023: The Art of Vanessa Bell

Our next Art, Books and Culture discussion will be on

Saturday 18th February, 11.15am (for about an hour and a half)

at The Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend

when we will be discussing the art, life and times of

Vanessa Bell (1879-1961).

Bell, Vanessa; Conversation; The Courtauld Gallery;

These sessions are gentle research discussion groups and open to everyone.

£10 to be paid on the door.

Coffee and biscuits available afterwards.

For further reading:

The Charleston House website:

Tate website:

and Frances Spalding’s glorious biography:


Art and Coffee at The Beaumont, 17th Feb 2023: The Village Wedding by Luke Fildes


Our next Art & Coffee morning will be

on Friday 17th February, 11.30am (for about an hour)

at The Southgate Beaumont, 15 Cannon Hill, N14 7DJ

when our Take One Picture starting point,

“The Village Wedding” by Sir Samuel Luke Fildes (1843-1927) [1883; private collection],

will lead us into a discussion of British Victorian ‘social realism’ paintings.

Looking forward to seeing you there!


Art, Books and Culture at The Beecroft, Saturday 21st January 2023: Painters and Portraits in the (first) Elizabethan Age

Join us at The Beecroft Gallery

on Saturday 21st January, 11.15am to explore

Painting in England at the time of Elizabeth I

We will explore portraits of Queen Elizabeth I such as this, by an unknown English artist, created to commemorate victory over the Spanish Armada [c.1588; National Portrait Gallery @NPGLondon;] along with work by known artists including Nicholas Hilliard, Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder and Levina Teerlinc.

From Sir Walter Ralegh (by an unknown English artist; 1588; NPG) to William Shakespeare (attributed to John Taylor; c.1600; NPG), and from ‘propaganda’ portraits to ‘intimate’ miniatures for lovers and the visual records of state events, we will enter into the extraordinary realm of Elizabethan England!

As ever, all are welcome to join the discussion – an open forum for ideas. Tickets cost £10 on the door. We will start at 11.15am and finish around 12.30pm with coffee & biscuits. The meeting will be held in the Lecture Theatre at The Beecroft Art Gallery.

Books of interest include:


Words and Pictures Book Group, 13th Jan. 2023: “National Treasures” by Caroline Shenton

Join us for the first Words & Pictures book club of 2023

on Friday 13th January, 2pm (for an hour or so)

at Pebbles Cafe (the old Haven’s Building, Hamlet Court Road)

to discuss:

“National Treasures: Saving the Nation’s Art in World War II” by Caroline Shenton

Published in paperback by John Murray Press in October 2022, the publishers describe:

National Treasures highlights a moment from our history when an unlikely coalition of mild-mannered civil servants, social oddballs and metropolitan aesthetes became the front line in the heritage war against Hitler. Caroline Shenton shares the interwoven lives of ordinary people who kept calm and carried on in the most extraordinary of circumstances in their efforts to save the Nation’s historic identity.


With the National Gallery walls all but empty of paintings, Myra Hess filled Room 36 with glorious piano playing

(photo: National Portrait Gallery)


The Words & Pictures book club meetings are informal gatherings over coffee and cake where the conversation is gently booky, arty and definitely friendly; free to join, and there’s no need to register in advance – hopefully see you there!