Join us in the Painted Hall for our final Autumn lecture on Baroque murals in Britain.

James Thornhill’s artistic success brought fame and fortune in his lifetime, but his professional career began in the relatively humble surroundings of the Painter-Stainers’ hall in the City of London, in the company of other English tradesmen who typically specialised in heraldry, leather gilding, or everyday “house painting”. Fortuitously, as a young apprentice to the house painter Thomas Highmore, Thornhill was taken to work first at Chatsworth, then at Hampton Court (where he probably helped to paint the railings of the King’s staircase). It was here that he first encountered the Continental tradition of grand-scale decorative painting, exemplified by Antonio Verrio and Louis Laguerre. In making the move from house painter to history painter, Thornhill proved his ability to reconcile two very different ideas of what it meant to be a painter at the turn of the eighteenth century.

Speaker biography:

Richard Johns is a Lecturer in the History of Art at the University of York. His research centres on art and visual culture in Britain during the long eighteenth century, with a special interest in decorative history painting. He joined the department at York in 2013, having previously worked as a curator of art at the National Maritime Museum, London.

Doors open at 6.30pm, with an opportunity to view Thornhill’s masterpiece up close on the observation deck before the talk begins at 7pm.


Cost: £15, £12 concessions (students, seniors (60+), unemployed)

Ticket price includes a glass of wine.


Lift access is available but must be pre-booked. Please call or email Matilde Martinetti to reserve or discuss any other access requirements: [email protected] or 020 8269 4723.