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When Rhian Addison compiled the line up for the first evening of talks from graduating MA History of Art students, it is unlikely that she was aware how topical an event containing one discussion on a Queen Katherine and another on the revealing of breasts would be.

 

However, even without this added angle of contemporary relevance, the evening’s discussions would have been engaging enough in themselves.  One of the reasons why successive art history students choose to kill their calf muscles hiking up park street each day is thanks to the refreshingly wide ranging syllabus offered on the MA programme at Bristol.  This meant that alongside the Renaissance breasts and Shakespeare, Hatty Davidson and Jess Hoare also provided information on, respectively, windows in the works of Henri Matisse and the changing interiors of public houses.  Perhaps fearing that there would still not be enough variation to the proceedings, Luke Litynski-Readings then added Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club and an inaccurate prediction regarding the winner of this year’s Booker prize to the mix.

 

All four speakers were paradigms of Britishness: lucid, over-educated and self-effacing.  As often happens with academic events, the lecture which, by its title, promised the least popular appeal turned out to be the most fascinating.  Thus, Hatty Davidson’s exploration of ‘The Evolving Function of the Window in the Modern Period’ was both erudite and accessible, making moronic puns about windows and ‘insight’ unnecessary.

 

What, contrastingly, were not unnecessary were Luke Litynski-Readings’s oft-included humorous remarks.   The opening anecdote about Gibraltar airport and the Beatles could have descended into a marvelously irreverent ramble; instead it was genuinely successful in illustrating his parallel point on the reception of Shakespeare.  If Hatty Davidson would succeed well as a television historian in the line of Lucy Worsley, then Luke L-R could find his home on Radio 4 on a Sunday afternoon, slightly before Poetry Please.  This isn’t just because Hatty is better looking than Luke, but because he possesses the kind of learned chortling humor that causes one to become engrossed in, and learn from, radio programmes on subjects you never previously cared about.

 

On the 3rd October, the next three speakers will present their papers, this time on John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, the head of Medussa and the Herber Mardon Collection.  If the first evening was a precursor to this one, I would guess it to be a better was to pass a few hours than, say, sticking your nose in Hilary Mantel.

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