Across two Sundays, this lecture series explores how light takes centre-stage in critically acclaimed paintings, sculptures, photographs, films and installations by ground-breaking artists through the centuries.

DAY 1 – HISTORICAL EUROPEANLecture 1: Light of the North: From Vermeer to Hammershøi

Presenter: Dr Sophie Matthiesson

This talk looks at the use of light in Northern European art from the 16th to 20th centuries, with a focus on the strong chiaroscuro characterising Dutch and Flemish art in the middle of the 17th century.

Drawing upon highlights of the exhibition Tate Light: 1700 to Now, this talk explores some of the famous modes and themes of Northern European painting – candlelight pictures, night scenes and serene interiors – which offered early 20th-century artists a rich alternative to Impressionism. It also introduces some outstanding examples of this art that will soon enter the Gallery’s collection.

Lecture 2: Landscape, Light, Liberation: How Outdoor Painting Dismantled Genre Hierarchy

Presenter: Kenneth Brummel

When Claude Monet identified light as the most important subject in his pictures, he might also have been commenting on the history of painting in France during the late modern era. In the early 19th century, academicians and critics viewed landscape as a minor genre less rigorous than history painting and portraiture. By the time Monet exhibited his famous paintings of haystacks in 1891, however, the act of painting outdoors and representing the fleeting effects of light had become major modes of artistic experimentation.

Exploring how 19th-century practitioners of pleinairism progressively dismantled the French Academy's hierarchy of genres, this lecture traces a genealogy that begins with the exhibition of John Constable's pictures at the 1824 Paris Salon and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot's first trip to Italy from 1825 to 1828.

Dr Sophie Matthiesson has more than 20 years’ experience as a curator and educator in England and Australia. Before coming to the Gallery, she was Curator of International Art at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne from 2007 to 2019. In her role as Senior Curator of International Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Sophie develops and manages the Gallery’s historical and modern international collection, including the Mackelvie collection.

Kenneth Brummel is Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki's new Curator of International Art. A specialist of late 19th- and 20th-century international art, he has published on a range of modern artists, including Anthony Caro, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. He holds a Masters in Art History from the University of Chicago and has worked as a curator in the United States of America and Canada.

Book Tickets:

Sunday 21 May, 10.30am–12.30pm

Tickets from $40

Find details for the second lecture in the series HERE

Note: the artwork above will be discussed in this series, but is currently not on display at Auckland Art Gallery.


  • Sunday 21 May, 10:30am - 12:30pm
  • Sunday 28 May, 10.30am–12.30pm


  • From $60


  • Wed 31 May


  • 10:30 am — 12:30 pm


  • Wellesley Street East
  • Auckland CBD, 1010