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History - Art & Culture
Stella Grace Lyons is a freelance Art History lecturer and speaker represented by Andrew Lownie Literary Agency in London and accredited with The Arts Society (previously NADFAS). Stella Grace Lyons gained her BA in the History of Art with a 1st class in her dissertation from the University of Bristol and her MA in History of Art at the University of Warwick. She spent a year studying Renaissance art in Italy at the British Institute of Florence, and three months studying Venetian art in Venice. In addition, she attended drawing classes at the prestigious Charles H. Cecil studios in Florence.

Stella runs her own Art History courses and she is also a regular lecturer for Saga’s Art Appreciation Holidays in both the UK and Europe. In addition, she lectures to large groups (150+) for various art societies, NADFAS, WEA and for the National Trust.

Stella has experience lecturing for Saga cruises and for the luxury cruise line Hebridean Island Cruises. In 2018 she has been booked as an Art History speaker by Saga, Viking and Fred Olsen. She lectures on a wide range of themes and periods in Western and American art from the medieval period to the 20th century, and has around 40 talks she can offer.

Click here to visit Stella's website >>


'Stella was one of the best speakers I have ever come across. Very well informed, charming and helpful in every way' - Saga guest, 'Art Treasures of Birmingham' tour.

'Stella had a vast comprehensive knowledge of the artists and their work, conveying her enthusiasm and passion for her subject in a manner which was inspiring and informative. She had a very pleasant, friendly manner and was very popular with the whole group. Her talks were well presented, the subject matter was well chosen and covered a good variety of works of art. Stella was inspirational in this my first art appreciation holiday, so much so that I wanted to book a further holiday this year but unfortunately the ones I chose, where I knew she would be the host were all fully booked. I do hope she will be there next year.’ – Saga guest, ‘Artistic Collections of Dorset’

'Stella was very informative and gave excellent talks. She was the best historian I have ever met.’- Saga guest, ‘Art Treasures of Birmingham’ tour

'Stella is a gem. She is extremely knowledgable and her presentations were well prepared. She is very professional.’- Dr Bill Chalmers, ‘Fine Art in Scotland’ tour

'Stella is a fabulous lecturer: very approachable and knowledgeable – 5 star! Fabulous talks that I have travelled from Chepstow for every week to attend’ – Colleen, Penarth Pier Pavilion lecture series ‘How to Look at Paintings’
Talks are separated into general, British, French, Italian, Scandinavian, German, Dutch & Belgian and American topics. All talks can be changed and adapted to suit the specific cruise and region. I am also very happy to write bespoke talks for cruises.

GENERAL ART HISTORY (not specific to a geographical region)

1. Between the Sheets: The Bedroom in Art History
It's the most intimate space there is. The room in which we lay bare our souls. It's where we share our deepest secrets, and where we hide them. For this reason, the bedroom has a long tradition in art history. We will explore the diverse ways in which artists have approached the subject looking at works from the medieval period, through the Renaissance and right up until the present day. Do you feel strongly about Tracey Emin's infamous bed? This talk is for you!

2. From rowdy drinkers to lonely hotel rooms: Everyday Life in Art
From Jan Steen’s images of rowdy drinkers, to Vermeer’s serene kitchen servants, from Courbet’s politically charged Stonebreakers, to Edward Hopper’s lonely hotel rooms – great masters and minor artists have been painting scenes of everyday life since the 15th century.
These works document the most intimate of our activities – how we wash, how we prepare food, how we dress and undress, and how we keep warm, as well as scenes of family discord and harmony. This talk will examine European and American paintings and sculptures from 15th century to the 21st century (including a special look at Tracy Emin’s infamous bed!) and will look at how the works document the evolution of daily life and how our homes, habits and manners have changed over time.

3. The Nude in Art
The human body has long been a subject of artists and art historians. Looking at nude imagery from Classical Greece up until the present day, this lecture explores the roles of female nudes and male nudes in art. Is the female nude always an object of desire? Are male nudes always symbols of power? What has conditioned us to believe these notions? Are there artists who challenge the conventional gender roles? We discuss these topics and how the nude reflects the social attitudes of the time.

4. Painting Winter: Snow Scenes in Art
“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show” – Andrew Wyeth. Magical, festive, beautiful, harsh, cruel and bleak. These are some of the adjectives used to describe winter. This talk will explore the variety of interpretations of this season through the works of Bruegel, Caspar David Friedrich, Munch, Monet and Andrew Wyeth.

5. Cultivating the Land: Gardens, Flora and Agriculture in Art
A cultivated garden or plot of agricultural land symbolises the control that the human race has learned to exercise over its surroundings. Throughout history we’ve been growing plants for nourishment, sanctuary, delight and solace. The creation of a garden is still the natural instinct of men and women who have long ceased to be nomadic. Looking at imagery from diverse centuries and societies, we explore how portrayals of gardens, flora, and agriculture in art, have given us insight into our relationship with the natural world, and helped us to define what it means to be human. We look at a variety of different approaches to the subject, such as the shocking symbolism in Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’, the political imagery in Millet’s ‘The Gleaners’, and the beautiful textile designs of William Morris.

6. Angels in Art
The angel has always been a prominent element in Western Art, from the celestial heralds of medieval art, to the surrealist beings in Marc Chagall’s work. Over the centuries angel imagery has evolved from the ethereal to more naturalistic depictions, paralleling society’s progression from faith in the unseen, to a world dominated by scientific explanation. Angels are usually associated with beauty, but more frightening depictions also exist. This talk will consider a myriad of angels in various guises. We will look at many interpretations including Bernini’s highly erotic ‘Ecstasy of St Teresa’, the classical beauty of William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s angels and Breughel’s frenzied painting ‘The Fall of the Rebel Angels’.

7. Magic, Mystery and Myth in 19th Century Symbolist Art
There is a tendency to think of 19th century European painting in terms of ‘Establishment’ art. Yet a trend for the strange, imaginary and fantastic also pervaded painting at this time. This talk will look at how magical, mysterious and mythical subjects were interpreted in 19th century art.
Images of seductive and dangerous women, dream-like landscapes, apparitions, nightmares, beauty and death will be discussed. Many well-known artists depicted these subjects on canvas – Goya, William Blake, Henry Fuseli, Whistler, Munch, Beardsley and Klimt. We will also look at lesser known artists, for example, Gustave Moreau, Fernand Khnopff and Richard Dadd.

8. Secrets and Symbols in Paintings: Unlocking hidden meanings in Art

9. Extreme Personalities: Does knowledge of an artist's life story affect how we perceive their work?

10. Do women have to be naked to get into museums? Women Artists and their place in Art History

11. Visionary Landscapes: A Poetic Consideration of Nature

12. Facing the World: How to Look at Portrait Painting


1. Charles Rennie Mackintosh – more than just a tea room!
Did you know that when Charles Rennie Mackintosh died, his entire estate was valued at just £88?
Glaswegian-born Mackintosh, a designer, architect and artist, was the foremost Celtic exponent of Art Nouveau, and had a considerable influence on European art. But he is an even more enigmatic figure today than when he was alive. Both Mackintosh's, and his wife Margaret Macdonald’s work has a distinctive character, one that captures the transition between the Victorian era and the Modern age. This talk will consider both Charles and Margaret's life, work and legacy.

2. The Glasgow Boys and their triumph over the Edinburgh 'Glue-Pots'
During the 19th Century, Glasgow was known as the 'Second City of the British Empire'. It was a vibrant place, a city which was growing - both industrially and culturally. It was within this innovative environment that the Glasgow Boys were born. The 'Boys' were a group of around 20 young artists who revolutionised Scottish painting by bringing it into the mainstream of European art. They rebelled against the elitist, Edinburgh dominated art scene, the artists they termed the 'Gluepots' (who would layer their work with a thick varnish!), and carved their own, distinctive paths.The Glasgow Boys were the subject of a successful Royal Academy exhibition, Pioneering Painters, in 2010. This talk will explore their work, which is diverse, modern and inventive.

3. The Eccentric Genius of William Burges
In the heart of Cardiff lies the magical and fantastic work which ‘eccentric genius’ William Burges created for his patron, the Third Marquis of Bute – Cardiff Castle. Cardiff Castle, along with Castell Coch on the outskirts of Cardiff, reflect the perfect blending of Burges’ and Bute’s eclectic interests.
Burges was given free rein to create the opulent and imaginative interiors of both castles. We will look at these and also consider the unique relationship between artist and patron. Expect lavish details, strange beasts and excessive gilding!

4. Victorians in Togas: The Classical Revival in 19th Century British Art

5. The Naked Truth about Victorians: The Nude in 19th Century Art

6. A horse meat scandal and out of touch politicians: Why Ford Madox Brown's painting 'Work' is still as relevant as ever

7. The first modern British artists? The radical and scandalous Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

8. Hogarth's Harlots: Reading symbolism in The Harlot's Progress

9. Science and Beauty: The enigmatic works of Joseph Wright of Derby

10. Scotland’s Favourite Painting: The scandalous story of Dali’s Christ of St. John of the Cross

11. Visions of Wales: A celebration of Welsh artists and artists inspired by Wales


1. Painting Prostitutes: Exploring the dark underbelly of 19th Century Paris

2. Parisians at Leisure: The absinthe fuelled cafe culture of 19th Century Paris
This talk examines how the new Parisian leisure society that developed in the second half of the 19th century, was portrayed in the work of different artists. Although this was an exciting and energetic time, artists also reflected the darker underbelly of life. We look at the way that ‘scenes of modernity’ are depicted through images of the new absinthe-fuelled cafe society, the nascent emancipation of women, or the rise of the bourgeoisie, with particular reference to the works of Manet, Toulouse Lautrec and the Impressionists.

3. Shock of the New: The scandalous and innovative works of Edouard Manet
When Manet's painting Olympia was exhibited in the 1865 Salon of Paris it was greeted with shock and disgust. Instead of painting an idealised view of feminine beauty, he painted a realistic and provocative French courtesan. This lecture will consider Manet's most celebrated works including Olympia, Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe and A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. It will look at how his paintings of 'truth' challenged the accepted function of art in France at this time.


1. The four walls that changed everything: Giotto's Scrovegni Chapel

2. Divine Inspiration: The Poignant Works of Fra Angelico

3. Delicate Beauty: The work of Renaissance masters Filippo Lippi and Sandro Botticelli

4. 19th Century Views of Venice: Turner, Monet, and Whistler's responses to the floating city


1. Painting the Land of the Midnight Sun: Romantic Visions of Norway

2. The Scream of Nature: The imaginative and iconic works of Edvard Munch


1. Jan Van Eyck and the masters of the Northern Renaissance

2. Tortured Genius: Do Van Gogh's works reflect his ever-changing state of mind?

3. Caspar David Friedrich: The lonely contemplation of Nature

4. Pleasure and Sin: The fantastical works of Hieronymus Bosch

5. My Child Could Do That: Looking at Modern Art in the Netherlands

6. The Mother of All Artists: The Artistic Innovations of Antwerp
A concentration of creativity in Antwerp led Karel van Mander, the Vasari of the Low Countries, to claim Antwerp as the “mother of all artists” in 1604. Indeed, the number of artists present in the city during the 16th and 17th centuries was substantial – it was estimated that three hundred artists were active here in the 1560s, roughly twice the number of bakers, and three times the amount of butchers. Antwerp was a major centre for the creation and distribution of art, having a highly commercialised art market. Focusing on the 16th and 17th centuries, the talk will explore the innovative artistic production that took place in Antwerp. We will look at the emergence of a group of artists known as Antwerp Mannerists and explore the reason behind their mass-production of 'Adoration of the Magi' scenes during the 16th century. We will also address the importance of the artist Peter Paul Rubens on the city and analyse why his work 'Descent From the Cross', was described by one contemporary as having 'the power to touch a hardened soul'.


1. 'All the Lonely People': The work of American Realist Edward Hopper

2. The Magic Realism of Andrew Wyeth

3. The Man with the Pitchfork: Iconic paintings from early 19th Century America
Stella has experience lecturing for Saga cruises and for the luxury cruise line Hebridean Island Cruises. In 2018 she has been booked as an Art History speaker by Saga, Viking and Fred Olsen.