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11 December 2018The Christmas Tree—From Forest Fir to Festive Feature
27 November 2018Crime: Fakes and Forgeries
23 October 2018Medieval Illuminated Books of Hours
25 September 2018A Child of Six could do it: Cartoonists and Modern Art
26 June 2018The Treasures of Far Cathay
22 May 2018Treasures of the Turf
24 April 2018Basingstoke and its contribution to World Culture
27 March 2018Orpheus and Eurydice in Art and Music
27 February 2018Wind in the Willows revisited through its Illustrators
23 January 2018With just a needle and thread
12 December 2017Ghosts!
28 November 2017Saints and Sinners: Women of The Mauritshuis House
24 October 2017Judas: The wickedest man who ever lived?
26 September 2017David Hockney: 'The Old Master of the Modern World'
27 June 2017Les Parisiennes: How women lived and died in Paris 1939 to 1949
23 May 2017Japonisme to Modernism
25 April 2017German Post WW2 Culture of Apology and Atonement
28 March 2017Venice and Vivaldi
28 February 2017Lawrence of Arabia
24 January 2017Paula Rego: Painting Women on the Edge, and telling tales of the unexpected
13 December 2016Mrs Beeton’s Christmas
22 November 2016ESDFAS AGM at 10.00 a.m. followed at 11.00 a.m. by The Kingdom in the Sun: Sicily
25 October 2016Apothecary and Delftware: ‘In paynted pots is hidden the deadliest poysons’
27 September 2016Thomas Heatherwick: a modern Leonardo?
28 June 2016Riviera Paradise: Art, Design and Pleasure in the 1920’s
24 May 2016Bess of Hardwick and Hardwick Hall
26 April 2016Eric Ravilious and the Lure of the Everyday
22 March 2016Great Photographs of the 20th Century
23 February 2016Green and Pleasant Land (Capability Brown Anniversary) History of British Gardening
26 January 2016Mars and Muses: Renaissance of Art and Armout
08 December 2015Unwrapping the Christmas Story -- Paintings, Prose and Poetry
24 November 2015The Art of The Poster, the poor man's art gallery
27 October 2015Facing up to Goya (Special lecture for the National Gallery exhibition in 2015)
22 September 2015Who wrote Shakespeare?
23 June 2015James Gillray: a caterpillar on the green leaf of reputation
26 May 2015Treasures of the Silk Road
28 April 2015The Art of Waterloo
24 March 2015Houses and Gardens of Normandy
24 February 2015Now you see it—Now you don’t. The Art of Optical Illusion
27 January 2015East Anglian Churches
09 December 2014Prelude to Christmas, a Christmas Pie
25 November 2014Bhutan - The Kingdom of The Thunder Dragon
28 October 2014Wilfred Owen:Poetry and Art of the First World War
23 September 2014Michelangelo’s Last Judgement: A Triumph of Faith or a Victory for Heresy?
24 June 2014Stained Glass 1180-1960
27 May 2014William Blake: and was Jerusalem builded here?
22 April 2014Handel, Hogarth and Captain Coram's Foundling Hospital
25 March 2014Gertrude Jeykell: Artist and Gardener
25 February 2014Elisabeth Frink; the expressive power of bronze
28 January 2014Knights in the sky and in the trenches: Medievalism during the Great War
10 December 2013From Yuletide to Nativity: Christmas in Early England
26 November 2013By Endurance We Conquer.
22 October 2013Masks: the history of A Universal Phenomenon.
25 June 2013A view from the Plinth: a review of public sculpture today.
28 May 2013A celebration of Dresden – Art and Architecture.
23 April 2013Imperial Purple to Denim Blue: the colourful history of textiles.
26 March 2013Edvard Munch: The Long Scream.
26 February 2013The Development of the Staircase.
22 January 2013The Cultural Heritage of the Huguenots
11 December 2012Grand Father Frost and Old New Year: Russian Christmas (with recorded music)
27 November 2012A Family Affair: Florence and the House of Medici
23 October 2012'Mr Stubbs the Horse Painter'
25 September 2012The Drama behind the Taj Mahal: The life and times of the Indian Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan
26 June 2012Charles Dickens (1812 - 70) and the Theatre: 'A Circle of Stage Fire'
22 May 2012Libya Uncovered: The magnificence of Leptis Magna, Sabratha and Cyrene
24 April 2012Hilda Carline: The first Mrs Stanley Spencer
27 March 2012The History of the Long Case Clock
28 February 2012The Lindisfarne Gospels
24 January 2012Meet me at the Waldorf: the extraordinary story of two iconic hotels built on Astor feuds, fortunes and art patronage

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The Christmas Tree—From Forest Fir to Festive Feature Claire Walsh Tuesday 11 December 2018

The Christmas Tree presents us with over five centuries of art and meaning. Vital to the imagery of both the pagan world and Christianity, its significance emerges in Norse yuletide, ancient Rome and with the early-medieval saints, before its diverse strands were drawn together to symbolize the modern Christmas. It is wrapped in legend, from the Icelandic sagas to St Boniface, from the Mystery Plays to Martin Luther. In art, the forest fir has made the transition from Viking rock carvings to German Romanticism and Scandinavian naturalism, on its way to finding its place as an icon of our modern     festival. Decorated and shimmering with light, it has brought Christmas from outside the home into the heart of the family, it has drawn soldiers together across No-Man’s Land, and it continues to symbolize its essential, timeless message of Peace on Earth. 

Biographical note: MA , RCA and PhD European University Institute, Florence. Having previously worked at the V&A and lectured there and for the University of Warwick, now lectures for the Open University. Has lectured widely in Britain; at the Courtauld Institute of Art and Museum of London amongst others, and to specialist groups including the Art Fund, the Ceramics Society, the Costume Society and the Ancient Monuments Society. She has also lectured in Europe, the USA  and Canada and has numerous publications.