Candidate Profile

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Art Instructing
Destinations & Ports
History - Art & Culture
Brian is a graduate in French and German with subsidiaries History and Astronomy from the University of Keele. He also holds diplomas in History of Art from the University of Vienna, and Interior Design from Blackburn University College.

Parallel to his career as a senior languages teacher at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School Blackburn, Brian has enjoyed much success as a professional artist, and his work is now in private collections in many parts of the world. After a spell running his own gallery in the Dordogne, and his own interior design company, he now works from his purpose built studio and is in regular demand from art groups, museums and societies. He has received consistently high scores, both as artist, lecturer on art history and as destination speaker, on more than forty cruises for numerous cruise lines including Crystal cruises, Viking,Saga, Voyages of Discovery, Swann Hellenic, Hurtigruten and Fred Olsen. He has also successfully completed a number of river cruises as art historian for Swann Hellenic and Botanica World Travel.

Since November 2016 he is an accredited NADFAS speaker on art and architecture.

With many years of escorting more than 50 groups to the cultural honey pots of Europe and world-wide travel he brings unique insight and experience to both his lectures on art appreciation and his destination talks, which are often personally illustrated.

As a talented singer, he was for many years Chairman of Blackburn Music Society and he is also a passionate skier and gardener, this last an interest he is able to bring to bear in a number of his lectures, particularly those pertaining to Claude Monet and Dutch painting of the Golden age.

In addition to the accompanying sample photos, a comprehensive view of his wide-ranging topics styles and cruise ship exhibitions can be viewed at

Below is a selection of some of his work:

(Click image for full size)

1. From Peasants to Czars: a Portrait of Russian society in the 19th century.
Up until the early 19th century Russian painting consisted almost entirely of academic styles and subject matter dominated by the west, Paris in particular. Artists such as Alexey Venetsianov, encouraged by Czar Nicholas 1’s promotion of ‘national trends’ began to change the focus towards more home grown themes, such as the status of the Russian peasant. Already by mid century the class system and village structure, dominated by landowner and the orthodox church was under more critical scrutiny, led by artists such as Vasily Perov, but it wasn’t until the pioneering work of the group known as “the Wanderers” that Russian society was put more fully under the microscope. By then the serfs had been liberated, in many cases ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of their new found freedom, as were their masters who suddenly found themselves with vast estates and a much reduced workforce. This lecture reveals the fascinating insight into this moving story afforded by the paintings of more than a dozen superb artists, yet whose work is still relatively unknown in the West.

2. The Lyrical Landscapes of Isaak Levitan.
Of all the Russian artists that emerged in the latter half of the 19th century, Isaak Levitan is considered the one who most captured the character of the Russian landscape. No-one put it better than his great friend Anton Chekhov , who wrote: “He rendered like no other the inexplicable charm of our humble poverty, the shoreless breadth of our virginal expanses, the festal sadness of the Russian autumn, and the enigmatic call of the Russian spring.” Able to find visual poetry in the simplest yet most characteristic features of the landscape, Levitan’s paintings enchant with their many moods, depicted in a style which is sometimes reminsiscent of French impressionism, an influence he flatly denied. The lecture also reveals the tensions caused by Levitan’s own Jewishness, a faith which precluded him from ever becoming truly accepted by the land he loved so much, and which is key to the poignancy of such seminal works as “Above Eternal Rest” and “Bells at Eventide”.

3. Russia in Revolt.
Parallel almost to the impressionist movement in France, the Russian artistic movement “the Wanderers” or “ Peredvizhniki” caused an equally dramatic and controversial sensation in the final decades of Czarist Russia. Initially comprising a group of 13 young artists and one sculptor who broke away from the Imperial Academy of Arts in protest against its rigid approach to style and subject matter, their membership expanded rapidly, taking their travelling exhibitions all over Russia, celebrating not just the beauty and character of their own native land but also exposing its many injustices in a style which has come to be known as “critical realism”. By the early years of the 20th century however, the movement was overtaken by Mir iskusstva or “World of Art” movement, which championed the art of earlier epochs in protest against the anti-aesthetic nature of modern industrial society.

4. From Russia with Love:
Following the changes that came about through the auspices of the “Peredvizhniki” movement, the focus of Russian painting changed from academic rigour to the many moods and characteristics of the Russian landscape itself. No longer would this merely provide a background to lofty themes, but would itself take centre stage, capable of telling its own story as powerful and as moving as any historical or mythological drama. Artists such as Savrasov and Levitan, Shishkin and Kuindzhi to name but a few, found a haunting and elegiac beauty in this hitherto neglected but vast subject matter. From her majestic forests and moonlit marshlands, her snowbound villages, gigantic skies, endless horizons and unstoppable rivers, artists such as these from the latter half of the 19th century distilled the very essence of the Russian landscape and gave it a voice we have only just begun to appreciate.

5. All about Icons
Why is it that so many icons appear so similar, so dark, so primitive even? It takes a trained eye to reveal the fascinating language of icons, the symbolism of colour and line, the meaning of reverse perspective, elongated fingers and faces and desexualised features. Combine this with an understanding of the process of creating or “writing” an icon and the many variations of a particular theme, and suddenly it all makes sense. Through a close look at their construction, common themes and characteristics of Russian icons in particular, this lecture will help de-mysticise these intriguing artworks and help explain why they are so central to Orthodox belief.


6. The forgotten genius of Anders Zorn:
Of all the artists to come out of Sweden, only Anders Zorn achieved enduring international acclaim. His talent was evident from early childhood, and it was prodigious. Equally at home with watercolour and oil, he was a master of both landscape and portraiture, a characteristic he shared with his contemporary rival and friend, John Singer Sargent. Like him, he was the darling of the belle époque, and he went on to make his fortune painting America’s great and good, not least three American presidents. Stylistically similar, to Sargent, he also had the knack of conveying character with a few broad brushstrokes. This lecture examines some of his most iconic works, from his dazzlingly competent watercolours of his native Sweden to his gloriously confident portraits of American high society figures such as Isabella Stewart Gardner.

7. Masters of the North: the golden age of Nordic painting.
Dazzled by the impact of Impressionism it is easy to overlook the stunning achievements of Nordic painters during the 19th century. From the national romanticism of Norways’s Adolph Tidermand and Hans Gude, to the mythical landscapes of Finland’s Pekka Halonen and the impressionistic, moody interiors of Norway’s best known female painter, Harriet Backer, this lecture showcases the range of visual creations that helped shape a unique cultural identity, forged in part from a battle against the elements and social deprivation as much as political power and provincialism during the turbulent years of the 19th century.

8. Helsinki: a Jewel of Art Nouveau.
Strangers arriving in Helsinki are often surprised by the belle époque architecture, which is at once familiar yet strange; familiar in that it seems to recall the elegant lines of Renee Mackintosh perhaps, yet strangely populated by unusual faces and creatures, mythical characters from Finland’s legends and her national epic, the Kalevala. This 19thcentury work of literature full of heroic tales dating back to the mists of time greatly inspired Jean Sibelius to compose some of his finest music, and artists such as Akseli Gallen-Kallela to paint some remarkable works. The lecture shows how art, architecture, music and literature came together in Finland’s quest for nationhood in the latter years of the 19th century and at the same time helped turn its capital city into a jewel of art nouveau, but with a distinctly Finnish flavour.

9. Midsummer magic: an introduction to some of the glorious paintings of the Nordic impressionists of the late 19th century.
Cloaked for months of the year in snow or mist, it is only in summer that the more benign character of Norway, Denmark and Sweden is revealed, providing the inspiration behind the ravishing paintings of artists such as Kitty Kieland, Anders Zorn, Elif Petersson and Peder Krøyer to name just a few. Often working in small communes, such as at the north Danish coastal village of Skagen these artists adapted the style of impressionism to the limpid light of the Nordic climate, a light which is hauntingly beautiful in the long hours of summer and especially at twilight. Midnight bonfires, moonlit promenades and the midsummer dance are all favourite subjects of these artists who depicted a world of summer stillness and tradition just as it was about to be shattered by the firestorm of World War 1.

10. Edvard Munch: the Man behind the Madness.
Although known worldwide for his legendary painting “the Scream”, few people know its long and tortuous prelude, nor its surprising aftermath. Haunted by disease and death and fuelled by alcohol and raging romantic obsession that only ever ended in catastrophe, it is understandable why he produced such tortured images, images whose provocative and scandalous impact he nonetheless learnt to exploit financially to great effect. Through an examination of seminal, often autobiographical paintings from earliest youth through to his final years, this lecture helps shed light on just what made this Norwegian artist tick, and just why his work became so central to the European expressionism and symbolist movements.


11. Monet and his Gardens.
Everyone knows about Giverny, but few about the gardens that preceded them and the personal circumstances that were their motivation. Late in life Monet admitted that he may have owed his love of painting to his love of flowers and gardening, which he had developed in early youth as an antidote to his unhappiness. This lecture unfolds the detail behind that statement, which is both moving and beautiful, as Monet struggles with his family, his love and his art. So many of his iconic works have their subject matter located in and around his garden, from his teenage home at Saint-Adresse, his rented homes at Argenteuil and Vétheuil to his great creation at Giverny, which became his only subject in his final years. Through diary entries and letters as well as paintings, the lecture reveals with specific horticultural and painterly detail the development of this life-long passion which climaxed in his monumental waterlily series, and which he shared with his other great gardening friend and colleague, Gustave Caillebotte.

12. Promenade Parisienne, a Walk with the Impressionists through 19th Century Paris
The landscape of Paris changed dramatically with the arrival of Louis Napoléon and his prefect, the Baron Haussmann. Ramshackle medieval streets were replaced by elegant apartment blocks and broad boulevards. Vast structures of cast iron and steel from the Gare du Nord to the Eiffel tower vied with Notre Dame for attention, and what were once sleepy villages like Montmartre quickly became as popular with pleasure seekers as they were with artists seeking cheap studios…Windmills that once ground corn were turned into dance halls and quiet spots by the river invaded by day trippers who now had access to the whole of Paris via its burgeoning railway network. All this and more besides is recorded in fascinating detail by artists such as Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Monet and Caillebotte to name but a few, so why not take a walk with the impressionists through the changing streets of this iconic city?

13. Out to Shock, the work of Edouart Manet.
Manet is so often labelled an impressionist when in fact his style and colouring had less in common than one might imagine. Yet even though he was middle class and something of an elegant man about town, he was undoubtedly a rule breaker, a man who caused a sensation by his provocative updating of traditional subjects. Often referred to as a reluctant rebel, in paintings such as “Luncheon on the Grass” and “Olympia”, Manet showed a flouting of convention and a healthy disregard for techniques and tradition. All this foreshadowed the mood of liberalisation of both subject matter and style that were to be the hallmark of the impressionists themselves, and with whom Manet maintained a lively relationship. This lecture shows just why his paintings caused such a stir as well as affording a unique insight into the changing face of Paris and its society during the later years of the third Empire and the decade that followed.

14. The art of Provence: from Cézanne to Picasso
French painting has always been dominated by Paris, but with the coming of the railways in the 19th century, the South of France became a draw for many young artists from Vincent van Gogh and his ill fated studio of the South, to Cezanne and Picasso, both of whom laid the foundations for cubism inspired by the rugged shapes of Provence. Where Cezanne wrestled with the geometry and harmony of nature, Monet struggled with its light and ferocious winds, yet all of them produced masterpieces that captured its spirit precisely. Others such as Matisse and Dufy depicted it in wild untamed primary colour that also spoke convincingly of the elemental power of this dramatic landscape and very different climate.

15. Vincent in Arles
The eighteen months that Vincent Van Gogh spent in Provence are amongst the most turbulent and written about in the whole of art history, yet only recently have some of the most fascinating details surrounding his time there come to light. The lecture examines the background to Vincent’s fascination with the South where he hoped to find the light of Japan, and establish a studio of the South led by Paul Gaugin. Through close examination of the Arles paintings the lecture shows how over the course of just 18 months his own unique style finally emerged, but only after an appalling act of self-mutilation. The build up to the crisis is a fascinating story, rendered all the more poignant by its tragic aftermath and about which much controversy still remains.

16. Artists of the Seine
Enjoy a boat ride through art history as we see how impressionism emerged from the love affair with this iconic river. From the village of Barbazon in the East, and Le Havre and its environs to the West, the Seine had been providing inspiration for artists many years before Monet and Renoir vied with each other to capture its glittering reflections and fugitive light. Even Constable and Turner were captivated by it. This lecture looks however at the early influences on impressionism provided by the likes of Camille Corot and Eugène Boudin, and how with the arrival of the railways villages such as Pontoise and Auvers sur Oise became magnets for the likes of Pissarro, Cézanne and Van Gogh and how social life migrated downstream to the islands and the banks of the Seine, inspiring such monumental paintings as Seurat’s “la Grande Jatte”.

17. Gaugin, Van Gogh and Emile Bernard: the terrible triangle
Most people are aware of the fight between Gaugin and Van Gogh, and of their time together in Arles, but few are aware of the background to that episode, that began on the coast of Brittany at Pont-Aven. It was here that Gaugin came to work alongside other artists attracted to the light and the looser style of artists such as Eugène Boudin who so influenced Monet. One of these young artists, Émile Bernard, stood out from the rest however. Confident and original, he adopted a unique style and approach that was much admired by Van Gogh and Gaugin, causing Gaugin to develop it into what became his own hallmark “cloisonniste” style. In addition, colour and emotions were associated in a revolutionary new way, leading ultimately to a new branch of art called synthetism, a source of considerable discussion between the three and a cause of dispute between Gaugin and Vincent when he later moved to Arles.

18. Dutch painting in the Golden Age: from still life to interiors, what stories do they tell?
With the breaking away of the Protestant Dutch Republic from the Catholic South, Dutch painting in the 16th century changed to reflect its new aspirations. In place of Catholic, religious painting came a focus on interiors that reflected the wealth, aspirations and interests of their owners and through some remarkable Vanitas paintings reminded them of their own mortality. Banquet and flower painting also served this purpose , with no better representation of transiency than the tulip, the craze for which reached incredible heights in the 1630’s. The lecture introduces some seminal works that characterise this most important period.

19. A Taste of Dutch
Discover the coded messages that hide behind the wondrously depicted banquet paintings from 16th century Holland. What looks like the left overs from a well-to-do Dutch breakfast is on closer examination a more far reaching statement about the perils of luxury and the precariousness and transiency of life. None of which stops us from marvelling at the incredible level of detail and exquisite mastery of technique and structure that even inspired Matisse and Dali to produce their own 20th century versions.

20. Just a Tulip.
This lecture tells the fascinating tale of how how the simple tulip came to dominate Dutch flower painting during the first half of the 16th century, a genre which had already come into its own as a form of Vanitas painting. It looks in detail at the depictions of its cultivation and display by artists such as Ambrosius Bosschaert and Balthasar van der Ast and examines the circumstances behind the bubble that by the 1830’s had inflated the price to a preposterous and unsustainable level.

21. Johannes Vermeer. The Magic and the Mystery
Very few paintings survive by this remarkable artist, and very little documentation survives to cast light on his background, yet each painting is an Aladdin’s cave of fabulous detail, exquisitely painted and full of enigmatic mystery. This lecture helps explain the enduring fascination of paintings such as “the View of Delft”, “the Milk Maid”, “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and “the Little Street”. Through examination of the techniques used in their construction, the allegorical significance of repeated motifs such as the musical instruments and an exposé of some of the contemporary political and social background to the paintings, the mysteries are, partially, at least, revealed.


22. The extraordinary talent of John Singer Sargent.
Few artists can match the achievements of this American artist who trained in Paris and spent much of his life depicting the world of the belle époque, from leisurely days on the Grand canal, to the society women of New York. His style is uniquely his own, impressionistic and realistic at once, flamboyant and spontaneous with a bravura and exactitude reminiscent of Velasquez and Van Dyck. Few can fail to be inspired by his exquisite handling of colour, tone and light, whether in oils or watercolour, landscape or portrait, his genius is universal.

23. Paintings from across the Pond.
This lecture covers the development of the modern USA as tracked by the painters of the romantic Hudson River School through to the gritty realism of the “Ashcan” movement. The dramatic landscapes of Francis Edwin Church and Thomas Cole were based partly on reality, partly on imagination, designed in part to portray the vast scale and infinite potential of these barely charted territories. Yet by the turn of the twentieth century, the focus had turned from the natural to the urban landscape and its populace as it faced up to the challenge of matching immigrant aspirations to reality.

24. Winslow Homer and the Art of New England.
Homer Trained originally as a newspaper illustrator, imbuing his style with a distinctive, graphic clarity designed to make an immediate impact. His approach to watercolour, distinguished by its glowing colours and faultless technique, combined with his interest in both natural and social subject matter, makes his work especially attractive; best known for his dramatic and moody seascapes, through his careful and moving studies of individuals such as farmworkers and teachers in his homelands of New England he also presents us with a fascinating and at times nostalgic portrait of the heart of America at a time of rapid expansion and change.

25. American Impressionism.
Many are familiar with the work of American artist and friend of Degas, Mary Cassatt, but rather fewer with such worthies as John Twachtman, Childe Hassam, William Merritt chase and Theodor Robinson. Although many of the American impressionists were indeed inspired by what they had seen first had see in Paris, they were no slavish copyists, and each developed his or her own distinctive style. From the intimate interiors and Long island landscapes of William Merritt Chase to the atmospheric cityscapes and delicate gardens of Childe Hassam, this lecture shows how American followers of impressionism adapted this style to record the many moods and changing face of America in the latter years of the 19th century.

27. Finding an all Canadian identity: Canadian Painting in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
Prior to the advent of distinctively Canadian modernists like Tom Thomson, members of the Group of Seven, Emily Carr and David Milne in the 20th century, Canadian painting closely followed conventional, academic European models and tastes. While this did not change after the 1840s, as the century progressed, artists in Canada increasingly began to address specifically Canadian themes. From the romantically inspired paintings of the St Lawrence Seaway by Thomas Krieghoff to the heroic images of artists such as William Brymner and Robert Harris, this lecture presents a beautiful picture of the Canadian landscape and its pioneering inhabitants as seen through the eyes of native artists.


28. The Golden Age of the Transatlantic Liner.
The Battle for the Blue Riband dominated Atlantic travel for many decades and the rivalry between the major shipping lines to build the the biggest and best leviathons of ocean travel was intense. Ships such as French Line’s Ile de France and Hapag Lloyd’s Imperator rapidly became not just floating works of art but ships of state with stunning décor to match. The lecture shows how they were adapted to match changing tastes; from the elegance of the French chateau and the heaviness of the Dutch renaissance to the dazzling sophistication of what became known as “streamline moderne”, the lecture presents rare archive photographs of interiors from iconic ships such as the original Mauretania to the magnificent, but short lived Normandie.

29. Hans Holbein and the Ambassador’s Secret.
The double portrait identified only in the last century as two ambassadors to the court of Henry Vlll at the time of his “Great Matter” – his divorce from Katherine of Aragon - and which hangs in the National gallery, is a painting that has been subect to much interpretation and research not least by Mary Hervey and the more recent, if controversial efforts of John North. Through a careful study of the intriguing objects and structural elements of the painting, combined with an exposé of the background political events that were threatening to destabilize the then known world, the audience will be asked to evaluate the validity of some quite remarkable and intriguing theories and draw its own conclusions as to the painting’s overall significance.

30. When Cotton was King: the architectural legacy of 19th century Manchester
19th century Manchester, or “Cottonopolis’ as it became known, was the world’s first industrialized city that enjoyed unstoppable growth for much of the last century. With that growth came grand commercial and civic buildings on a scale and of a quality never witnessed in the city before. This lecture examines the extraordinary variety of such buildings and shows how their architects and stonemasons brought directly into the streets of Manchester the golden age of Pericles, the architecture of Renaissance Italy and the gothic of the Grand Canal. It goes into a detailed study of the allegorical sculpture and decoration of many of these buildings, many of which have fascinating stories to tell and which were designed by eminent architects such as Charles Barry and Alfred Waterhouse even before they went on to make names for themselves in the capital itself.


All classes are stand-alone and do not rely on previous knowledge or attendance. They are designed to be achievable within the time constraints, destination or cruise theme based, and to offer a fun and enjoyable experience whether beginner or expert.

The following is just a sample of the classes devised for previous cruises:

1. Paintbox playtime: a fun abstract encouraging exploration of colour mixing, brushstrokes and basic wash techniques.

2. Sailaway Cocktail: uses the shapes and colours of cocktail cherries and parasols to teach the basics of the colour wheel and shading in a very topical way!

3. Just Pebbles: explores the colours and textures of simple pebbles and introduces some fun techniques such as spatter, wax and salt.

4. Fun with flowers: may use some mixed media, including metal foil collage.

5. Just Poppies (or other simple flower associated with the destination). We give the usual flower painting a special twist by making it the subject of a glowing stained glass window.

6. Blue Moon: An atmospheric depiction of moonlight on rippling ocean waves

7. Hello Summer! A simple beach or deck scene depicting a straw hat, sunglasses and beach towel on sand or deck

8. A Splash of Red! A fun take on the old fashioned still life, involving bottles, glasses, the local plonk and lots of splashing!

9. Rust bucket. Watercolour is ideal for capturing the effects of time on a rusting hulk! We focus on a small section - porthole, doorway, funnel etc. plus some old ropes and their interesting shadows

10. Stormy Lighthouse: how to create a really dramatic seascape using light, shade and salt.

11. Sea Stacks. Uses cling film, salt and wax resist to create effective craggy rock textures in a stormy sea

12. Twilight Harbour: a moody twilight scene of simple gable ends, a lighthouse and smoke curling from the chimneys

13. Summer cottage.Uses this perennial favourite for teaching a host of interesting techniques.

12. Pretty window: asks passengers to take a photo of a simple local window, enhanced by intersting reflections, surrounding woodwork or foliage.

13. All about Mood: uses morning light and mists as a subject for teaching exciting wash techniques

14. Midnight in Manhattan: a bright lights city scape that uses watercolour and plasterboard tape to dramatic effect!

15. Minarets by Moonlight: A gorgeous night time reflections scene of mosques and minarets.

16. Baltic Birches . Several versions that examine the interest textures of the birch bark to create a striking but simple modern watercolour.

17. Desert tracks: A dune scene with silhouettes of camels and bedouins

18. Surf's Up! A study of a breaking wave and palm trees.

19. Tropical island: a study of a simple but colourful boat on a beach with palm trees.

20. Sailscape: A modern abstract design based on colourful sails and simple boat shapes.

21. Shooting the rapids! How to paint running water from gentle streams to foaming waterfalls

22. Shanty Town: inspired by the slums of Mumbai (or anywhere) it uses the elements of washing lines, corrugated roofs and dimly lit windows to create a modern abstract. It also allows for the use of collage and glitter glue to create the effect of a monsoon downpour.

23. Russian Fantasy: Takes the iconic shapes and colours of Russia to create a wonderful design.

24. A corner of Copenhagen: A simple Danish window with parked bicycle.

25. Northern Lights. Immensely popular topic for teaching dramatic washes

26. Balcony in Buenos: a shady goucho on a balcony in Buenos Aires

27. Baobab sunset

28. Out of Africa: a design based on the tribal patterns of South Africa

29. Shapes of Bergen: a design based on the Hanseatic warehouses of Bergen

30. Fjord sunset.

31. Down on the Bazaar: a fun topic for indulging in full colour

32. Icons of India : a sunset scene of the Taj Mahal or similar
The following recent Cruise History has been recorded for this candidate.
Viking Sky SK180818 Viking Homelands 14 Bergen Saturday, August 18, 2018
Viking Sea SE170820 Viking Homelands 14 Bergen Sunday, August 20, 2017
Voyager VGR161009 Tales of Turkey & A Grecian Escapade 13 Piraeus (Athens) Sunday, October 9, 2016
Voyager VGR160926 Greek & Turkish Delight 14 Piraeus (Athens) Monday, September 26, 2016
Viking Star ST160626 Viking Homelands 14 Bergen Sunday, June 26, 2016
Voyager VGR160214 Mexico's Pacific Shores 13 Acapulco Sunday, February 14, 2016
Voyager VGR160103 Rythms of the Caribbean & Cuba 14 Montego Bay Sunday, January 3, 2016
Crystal Serenity V5329 Renaissance Rendezvous 7 Monte Carlo Sunday, November 22, 2015
Crystal Serenity V5320 Grand Canal to Grand Bazaar 7 Venice Sunday, September 6, 2015
Crystal Serenity V5319 Ionian Inspiration 7 Civitavecchia (for Rome) Sunday, August 30, 2015