Bowral & District

ADFAS Bowral welcomes you.

ADFAS Bowral is entering its 35th year run by a committee of volunteers.  We aim to promote an interest in the study of decorative and fine arts by offering nine high quality monthly lectures on a wide range of subjects including social history, landscape gardening and design, architecture, textiles and music.  The presenters are UK and Australian lecturers chosen for their expert knowledge.

Our members greatly appreciate getting together to listen to the lecture; ask questions and enjoy refreshments and camaraderie afterwards, a wonderful way to make friends.  2023 offers eight live hour-long lectures by well-credentialed speakers.  A program pdf is available here.

Our monthly emailed newsletters keep members up to date with what’s happening, information on lectures, speakers and other activities. This includes a link to Trybooking to reserve a place for each lecture.  Current member name badges must be worn.

We support the philosophy of philanthropy to the community and contribute financial support to the Young Arts.  In 2022 the society also donated $2,000 to the Lismore Gallery Flood Appeal. Annually we support the Patricia Robertson Foundation.

There is something for everyone in the Southern Highlands. Come and make a weekend of it!


Lectures are held at in the Theaterette, Moss Vale Civic Centre, Moss Vale. Enter via the side door on Donkin Avenue

Lectures are on a Wednesday at 5:00pm

Find full details of the 2023 program here

Annual membership
$145 single
$270 couple
Click here to join or email:

Guests welcome:
$25 per lecture
Student free

For all enquiries please email:
Postal Address: PO Box 1918 Bowral NSW 2576
ABN: 88 471 347 310

Committee 2023
Chair: Sharon Eskell
Treasurer: Mark de Jager
Secretary / Membership: Pamela Spruce

2023 PROGRAM  

Wednesday 29 March 2023
Presented by Alan Read
Venue & Time: Theaterette, Moss Vale Civic Centre, Moss Vale, 5pm

The architecture of the Royal National Theatre divides opinion so much that it once appeared twice in a poll of the buildings of London – in the top ten best and the top ten worst. Famously, Prince Charles once described it as a nuclear bunker. Was he right? The lecture looks at the life and work of Denys Lasdun, including other buildings he designed, but focuses on the National Theatre and pleads for an appreciation of the austere beauty of this architectural masterpiece.

Alan Read holds a master’s and first-class honours degree in History of Art from Birkbeck College, London. He is a gallery guide at Tate Britain, Tate Modern, National Portrait Gallery and for Frieze Masters and regularly lectures at the NPG, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Plymouth City Art Gallery and other galleries in the UK. He also works as a London Blue Badge Guide and a City of London Guide.


Members information will be in the March newsletter

Bundanon is many things. Set on 1000 hectares. A gift to the Australian people from Arthur Boyd.

This now includes a subterranean Art Museum sits at the heart of the new Bundanon. 

Embedded in the landscape, the Art Museum houses a changing program of contemporary exhibitions and unique cultural experiences, with events and concerts presented across the site.

Wednesday 31 May 2023
Presented by Leslie Primo 
Venue & Time: Theaterette, Moss Vale Civic Centre, Moss Vale, 5pm

Why did the London aristocracy prefer foreign painters to native born English painters? What brought the foreigners to London, what was the impact on English art and art practice. This lecture looks at how these artists influenced the British School of painting, tracing foreign artists from the Tudor period through to the Renaissance and Baroque, looking at their origins, how they came to work in England and what was their legacy

Leslie Primo holds a BA in Art History and MA in Renaissance Studies from Birkbeck College, University of London. He was Visiting Lecturer in Art History at the University of Reading in 2005 and 2007, and gives lectures and guided tours, plus special talks, at London’s National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. He also lectures at the City Literary Institute and has presented a series of talks at the National Maritime Museum and the Courtauld Institute.

Wednesday 28 June 2023
Presented by Michael Pembroke
Venue & Time: Theaterette, Moss Vale Civic Centre, Moss Vale, 5pm

Silk brought the empires of China and Rome together during the Han dynasty.  Silver gilded the Chinese world of the Ming dynasty and helped make China the wheel of the global economy during the 16th to 18th centuries.  Opium introduced by the British, helped bring about the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the end of empire.  This lecture explores how silk, silver and opium were fundamental to Imperial China.

Michael Pembroke was educated at the Universities of Sydney and Cambridge and was a Director’s Visitor in 2017 at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ. A former New South Wales Supreme Court judge (2010-20), he is the author of Korea: Where the American Century Began (2018) and his most recent about The United States of America in Retreat.amongst other publications.

Wednesday 26 July 2023
Presented by Jacqui Ansell
Venue & Time: Theaterette, Moss Vale Civic Centre, Moss Vale, 5pm

Travelling through mainland Europe on an extended ‘Grand Tour’ was the fashion for 18th century aristocrats, lured by the thought of exquisite embroidery from Paris, fine lace from Flanders, velvet from Italy and portraits in Rome painted by Batoni for half the price of Reynolds or Gainsborough.  Gentlemen returning to London with new manners and dress were sometimes scorned as fops or ‘Macaronis’, the dandies of their day.  This phenomenon is explored through contemporary paintings, letters and satirical prints.

Jacqui Ansell is a senior lecturer at Christie’s Education, London.  She has an MA in History of Dress from the Courtauld Institute, was formerly an Education Officer at the National Gallery, London, and a tutor and writer for the Open University. She continues to lecture regularly at the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery in London and to publish on dress as a cultural marker and indicator of class, gender, national and professional identity.

Wednesday 30 August 2023
Presented by Chloë Sayer
Venue & Time: Theaterette, Moss Vale Civic Centre, Moss Vale, 5pm

Before the Spanish Conquest of 1519, numerous civilisations rose and fell. The great cities of the Maya, Aztecs, Zapotec and Mixtec were peopled by muralists, sculptors in stone, ceramic artists, feather and gold workers, jewellers, weavers, and painters of sacred books. In the twentieth century, painters such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo set a new value on popular traditions. Mexican arts and crafts are a living force, the sense of design and dazzling colour are part of a national identity.

Chloë Sayer – Author, lecturer, photographer, and curator, Chloe specialises in the art and culture of Mexico. She has made an ethnographic collection featuring clothing and culture for the British Museums of Mexico, Belize, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. The Mexican Day of the Dead was also a source of inspiration as co-curator of the ‘Exhibition of Mankind’ for the British Museum

Wednesday 27 September
Presented by Dr Kathy McLaughlan
Venue & Time: Theaterette, Moss Vale Civic Centre, Moss Vale, 5pm

This talk examines the contradictory nature of Degas’ work.  We concentrate on quite early portraits and domestic scenes when he was still in search of an artistic identity.  We consider Degas’s tendency to imbue his images with a sense of ambiguity or unease, or in genre scenes where the protagonists appear detached or even hostile in their relationships.  Is there a logical explanation for these unsettling compositions, or is Degas engaged in a game with his viewers?  We consider possible answers through examination of his work and that of his contemporaries.

 Kathy McLaughlan is a course director at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, organising courses, study days and publishing on the history of art and design. She is a graduate of Oxford University and the Courtauld Institute.


Wednesday 11 October 2023
Presented by John Swainston
Venue & Time: Theaterette, Moss Vale Civic Centre, Moss Vale, 5pm

From Saxon times to contemporary Britain, the great Cathedrals of England, Wales and France have dominated those societies through the centuries. This lecture tells the story of these great cathedrals, the people who built them and the origins of structures so beyond the scale of anything seen hitherto. From Augustine’s mission from Rome to Britain in 597, through the Norman invasion, the emergence of Gothic architecture and the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.

John Swainston has been a keynote speaker and presenter in major international conferences in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. He has lectured on both the history of photography and its practice for over three decades, while also being a regular radio broadcaster on the ABC and Radio 2GB. Educated at Winchester College and later studying at Magdalen College, Oxford in the United Kingdom, he has lived in Australia since 1979.

Wednesday 1 November 2023
Presented by Gillian Hovell  BA
Venue & Time: Theaterette, Moss Vale Civic Centre, Moss Vale, 5pm

This extremely popular virtual tour of the Ancient Mediterranean explores the distinctive civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean. Learn how they fitted together into a ‘big picture’. Discover how you can identify the special art or architecture of each culture and why their lives prompted them to create such features. Discover what to expect from each culture’s sites and how to find the special personal details that thrill archaeologists.  You’ll never look at ancient sites in the same way again

 Gillian Hovell  After graduating in Latin and Ancient History from Exeter University, Gillian became an award-winning freelance author, international public speaker & broadcaster, specialising in archaeology, prehistory and the Greek and Roman eras. She lectures at York University and has spoken at the British Museum. Having led and supported community archaeology projects in a hands-on way, Gillian now actively digs at major sites, including Orkney’s prehistoric Ness of Brodgar to Roman Pompeii and Vindolanda.

The Theatrette, Moss Vale Civic Centre

Details to follow

Bowral & District Newsletters

More Information


Bowral was the sixth ADFAS society to form in 1988 after Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Armidale and Newcastle. 110 members attended the inaugural lecture given by Anna Clark in March 1998. The vibrant membership now enjoy lectures at Wingecarribee Council Community Centre Theaterette, Moss Vale.

As well as many interesting lectures, study days and tours which have been enthusiastically received over the years, the Society has been aware that the focus of spreading interest in the decorative and fine arts is not the only objective of ADFAS. Support for an individual or organisation who contributes to our national artistic heritage is willingly given.

Over the years a number of gifts have been made including: a weather vane to Christ Church, Bong Bong (near Moss Vale), antique mirrors for the National Trust property Harper’s Mansion at Berrima, and a bronze statue by Brooke Maurice ‘Girl Reading’ to the Bowral Library. In 2008, as part of the Society’s 20th Anniversary commemoration, a painting by the well-known Southern Highlands artist, Reg Rowe, was presented to the Bowral & District Hospital.

Seven churches have had their architecture and artefacts recorded  by a small ADFAS team and the beautifully bound books sent to the Association and the National Libraryand each church kept a copy.

ADFAS Bowral is twinned with the NADFAS Branch in Sheffield (UK). This allows for more interaction with the parent body from which ADFAS grew, and the source of many of our fine lecturers.

ADFAS members visiting the Southern Highlands might find time to visit the world renowned Bradman Museum and the Sturt Craft Centre.

Sturt is a vibrant centre for the teaching and production of fine craft in a serene garden setting. During its sixty years, Sturt has been home or inspiration for the best in Australian design and craft and continues to be so. Visit the Sturt Gallery, shop, gardens workshops or Cafe.

The Bradman Museum houses one of the finest collections of cricket memorabilia, artefacts and curios in Australia. Comprising a number of galleries, one screens archival films from the 1920s to 1940s.

An important centre for the Arts in the Southern Highlands is the Bowral & District Arts Society (BDAS), based in Bowral. A variety of classes and workshops are held for both adults and children, covering painting in all mediums, drawing including life drawing, printmaking, and many other subjects. The Society also holds a number of open exhibitions each year.

The Wingecarribee Council organises an Arts Trail each year where artists open their homes and studios to members of the public. The Southern Highlands Events is well worth a look providing a convenient source of information for readers to find out what is happening in the local scene. On the music front the annual Bowral Autumn Music Festival is a very popular event.


The Society has a long standing tradition of supporting young arts in the community. As an example historically there has been an annual prize is given to a young (<40) Fine Arts students at the Moss Vale TAFE; a bursary was awarded for several years to a fulltime student at the Sturt School for Wood at Mittagong.  We have taken students from a local primary school to the Art Gallery of NSW; and sponsored performances by the Bell Shakespeare Company for both Primary and Secondary schools and by OzOpera for several primary schools in the district.

For two years we gave a bursary to a young ballerina at The Highland School of Performing Art.

Presently we are intending to support young musicians through the Southern Highland Autumn Music Festival, attending master classes. 

The Society is keen to extend its support to suitable practitioners of the Arts in the Southern Highland and would welcome any suggestions. We continue to find ways in which we can enhance the artistic lives of youth in our area. Please contact any member of the Committee.