U3A members familiar with Dr Graham Witham’s art presentations were anticipating something both educational and amusing and were not disappointed.
The title Immorality, Intemperance and Industry was enough to ensure a large audience. The audience was clearly entertained as Graham encouraged the members to link the drunkenness, prostitution and work ethic of the Netherlands in the 17th century to the state of affairs in our own society.
As the Netherlands was Protestant from 1648, there was little need for the Church to commission art for the bare church interiors the religion expected, so the art buyers came from the burgher or middle class, coming in particular from the mercantile class. There was also a rise in art dealers at this time.
Artist Jan Steen pointed to the breakdown of family life as a result of drunkenness and intemperance. Graham highlighted the significance of foot warmers, music, in particular lutes and oysters, as things which made the women more responsive to amorous advances. Beds and procuresses often featured significantly, as did cards which underlined the gamble of life.
Set against the immorality was art which stressed the importance of cleanliness and industry. Art showed its citizens engaged in various industries especially those linked to cloth and brooms were emblematic of the importance of cleanliness. Pieter de Hooch’s painting The Linen Closet, shows the importance of order, At this time, as a result of their industry, the Dutch were one of the wealthiest nations. In an attempt to force all to become industrious, there were houses of correction for both men and women in Amsterdam where they were forced to work.
The next talk will be on Monday (March 23) at Azur, St Leonards, downstairs in the Round Room when Henry Lampit will be talking about Pier History, Current Situation and Future Plans. The meeting starts at 10.15am and coffee is served from 9.45am.
Visitors are welcome to attend two sessions before deciding whether to join. On arrival you will be met by branch greeters. It costs £17 to join for the year and then all the talks are free. You can find out further details about how to join by ringing Sian Trevellion on 07970 727180 or email email@example.com.