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Behind the Scenes at the National Gallery (online only)

Lecture on Monday 10th January 2022 at 1:45PM

Lecturer: Sian Walters

In 2024 the National Gallery celebrates its 200th birthday. In the run up to this special anniversary, join me as I explore some of the nation’s best-loved paintings in a new light, revealing details which cannot be seen with the naked eye and discussing what goes on behind the scenes in the conservation, framing and scientific departments. The lecture will result in a greater understanding of not only the art itself, but also of the work the National Gallery does to care for it, present it and interpret it.

Few of the gallery’s works retain their original frames but an expert team will often source and adapt examples which complement the paintings historically, or indeed hand-carve new ones from scratch. We will also look at the technical challenges involved in hanging, displaying, moving and framing the collection and the various solutions devised by the Art Handling Team. Many of the paintings in the gallery were designed for a very specific function, an altarpiece such as Piero’s Baptism of Christ for example, so how do the curators allow us to interpret and view these within a museum context? Finally, we’ll talk about restoration and conservation, exploring extraordinary details from works such as the Wilton Diptych, which have only been discovered recently thanks to scientific analysis.

Join me on a journey of discovery as we explore the hidden secrets of masterpieces by Bellini, Leonardo, van Eyck and many more.

Siân Walters is an art historian and the director of Art History in Focus. She has been a lecturer at the National Gallery for 20 years and taught their first online course, Stories of Art, in September 2020. She also lectures for The Wallace Collection, The Art Fund and many art societies and colleges throughout Europe, and taught at Surrey University for many years.

Her specialist areas include 15th and 16th century Italian Art, Spanish Art and Architecture, Dutch and Flemish painting and the relationship between Dance and Art (she is an honorary advisor to the Nonsuch Historical Dance Society). Siân studied at Cambridge University where she was awarded a choral exhibition and a 1st for her dissertation on the paintings of Arnold Schoenberg. She has lived in France and Italy where she worked for the eminent Haydn scholar H.C. Robbins Landon and for the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice. She spends much of the year organising and leading specialist art tours abroad, including bespoke trips for The Arts Society.

In recent years Siân has been asked to represent the National Gallery at the international Hay Festival and was named a Highly Commended finalist in the World’s Best Guide Awards. In 2018 she was invited to be the guest lecturer on the inaugural BRAVO Cruise of Performing Arts alongside Katherine Jenkins, Julian Lloyd Webber and Ruthie Henshall. In 2020 Siân presented the first online courses for both The Wallace Collection and The National Gallery, and was one of the first accredited lecturers to provide online Zoom lectures.

In November she launched a series of live, online tours and visits abroad entitled Cultural Travels from Home. These include visits by special arrangement to a number of major European art galleries allowing virtual access to their collections.

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