John-Paul Stonard ‘The Creation Art Talks’

DR JOHN-PAUL STONARD is an art historian, author, artist, curator and lecturer. He trained as a painter, before studying art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, completing a doctoral degree in 2005. His book Creation. Art Since the Beginning was published by Bloomsbury in 2021, and was selected as a Sunday Times Art Book of the Year. In the same year his acclaimed history of the art collection at Chatsworth House, Chatsworth, Arcadia, Now was published by Penguin Books. Stonard’s previous books include (as editor and contributor) The Books that Shaped Art History, and the catalogues to the exhibitions Kenneth Clark: Looking for Civilisation (Tate, 2014), and Germany Divided: Baselitz and his Generation (British Museum 2014). His first book Fault Lines: Art in Germany 1945-55 was published by Ridinghouse Press in 2007. He lives and works in London and Suffolk.



Dr John-Paul Stonard


The Creation Art Talks 2024, THE LIFE AND AFTERLIFE OF ART, offer a captivating voyage through the history of art, reaching back to the earliest images made by our ancestors, tracing the story through to the present day. Each lecture will take as its starting point a single work of art, using this image as the key to unlock a different era of human image-making. From ancient Egypt to Song Dynasty China, and from prehistoric Africa to modern-day Mexico City, the the CAT talks will trace connections between works of art made all around the world, by different cultures at different stages in human history. Together these works will help us to understand why for forty thousand years humans have made images — why we make works of art.

Underlying the lecture series is the idea of the ‘lives’ and ‘afterlives’ of works of art. Artworks live in the moment in which they are made and first appreciated, but also change over time, and are subject to history, and also natural degradation, which can often change their meanings. The story told in these lectures is one of the life and afterlife of works of art: the creation of works of art in the minds and hand of artists, and their recreation in the minds and memories of those who encounter them in their time after their first creation. This story is told through four major themes, Animals, Gods, Nature and Ideas, each of which roughly shapes the subject of two lectures.

Each lecture will last around 60 minutes and will be followed by a Q&A.

1 (Wednesday 10th April) THE HUNTER IN THE STARS

IMAGE: The Swimming Reindeer, mammoth ivory, 13,000 years ago. British Museum.

We begin with the origins of art in the images projected into the night sky by our earliest ancestors. How and why did we first images patterns of stars as the forms of animals, and how did we arrive at the idea of the Zodiac? And why was it only with the first great migration out of Africa that humans begin carving and painting images, creating the earliest surviving works of art? And what does it mean that for the first thirty thousand years of image making, there was only one subject — animals? We take the story up to around 10,000 years ago, setting the scene for the story of art to come.

  1. (Wednesday 17th April) ANIMAL IMAGINATION

IMAGE: Scythian golden stag, gold. Seventh century AD, State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

We continue with the theme of animals, as we look at the images that arose from the first settled human societies, of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt and China. With settled agricultural and pastoral forms of human life, the long tradition of animal imagery was pushed to the peripheries. We look at the afterlife of animals in the art of the plain and islands, from ancient Scythia to the ‘barbarian’ art of Celtic and pre-Christian Europe, to the art of the Northwest Pacific Coast of America. How did images of animals fare in the new era of civilisation — and what has been the legacy of animal imagery in our own times?

  1. (Wednesday 24th April) IMAGES OF THE DIVINE

IMAGE: Buddhapada. Amaravati, 2nd century AD. British Museum

How do you make in image of something you have never seen? How do you make images of invisible things? This was the dilemma facing the first religious artists, those charged with the task of making images that would become the focus for worship of the gods. What role did the images of art and architecture play in the rise of world religions? This lecture will look at the different forms of imagery and visual experience in the polytheism of the first city states, and in the religious images of ancient Greece, India and ancient Mesopotamia.

  1. (Wednesday 1st May) SPIRIT OF THE MOUNTAINS

IMAGE: Fan Kuan, Travellers Among Mountains and Streams, early 11th century. National Palace Museum, Taipei.

In this lecture we look at how in different parts of the world the task of representing the otherworldly, the invisible forces of divinity, were represented, in terms of nature in China and Japan, and in the words and images of Islamic decoration. How did invisible forces, not only a feeling for the natural world, but sound and light themselves, come to shape the images and architecture that provided the setting and backdrop for religion? And what has been the legacy of these forces in our own age? If the origins of the images of art were in religious experience, has art itself become a religion?

  1. (Wednesday 8th May) THE HUMAN MEASURE

Image: Giotto, The Lamentation, c.1303-1306. Arena Chapel, Padua.

The idea of a ‘Renaissance’, of the ‘rebirth’ of the art and literature of the Greek and Roman age, has dominated our thinking of the art of the 1400s and 1500s in Italy and Northern Europe, as part of a wider ‘rediscovery’ of natural appearances in the work of artists from Giotto in the south to Dürer in the north. But how much was it a break with the past, and how much was the work of artists during this period in Europe in fact an innovation?

  1. (Wednesday 15th May) THE ART OF REAL LIFE

Image: Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas, 1656. Prado Museum, Madrid.

This lecture examines the currents of realism in painting during the seventh-century in Europe, contrasting two great works, both in their own way summaries of the art of painting: Johannes Vermeer’s The Art of Painting, c.1666 and Las Meninas, c.1656 by Velázquez. What made this new great realism of painting, in the works of artists from Caravaggio to Rembrandt, possible? And what was the legacy of this realism in the art of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? We will look at works by Constable, Adolf Menzel, and finish with Edouard Manet’s great painting Un bar aux Folies-Bergère, 1882.

  1. (Wednesday 22nd May) AN IMAGE OF THE MIND

IMAGE: Cézanne, Les Grandes Baigneuses, 1898-1905. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

In this lecture we launch into the art of modern times, and the simple idea that art became a form of philosophy — a representation of the human mind, and the processes of seeing and thinking. We look at the origins of this revolution in the work of Paul Cézanne, and trace the story through the work of four major artists: Picasso, Matisse, and Mondrian. But what were the alternatives to this story of Modernism, and how has it been revised in the ‘Afterlife’ of modern art?

  1. (Wednesday 29th May) TIME REGAINED

IMAGE: Rachel Whiteread, House, 1993. Destroyed.

The history of art is full of rediscoveries of the past — memory plays an important role in the creation and interpretation of works of art. The ‘Renaissance’ has traditionally been seen as the great moment of rediscovery, but we might also say that the rediscovery of prehistory during the nineteenth century was more far-reaching, and had a deeper impact on human life, that we are still witnessing unfold. This lecture examines the theme of memory in contemporary art, and draws many of the themes explored throughout the lectures together. We return to some of the fundamental questions asked along the way — has art become a substitute religion? Why have humans everywhere, always made images? And what might we imagine to be the future of art?










Suzanne Cooper press coverage, Suffolk Magazine, Daily Telegraph and Country Life

Great article below in the current Suffolk Magazine , all credit to EADT Suffolk with thanks

Suzanne Cooper EADT Suffolk mag 6-18

Daily Telegraph

The fascinatingly strange paintings of forgotten artist Suzanne Cooper

Vigour and vitality: detail of Still Life (1938) by Suzanne Cooper

As with many women of her generation, Suzanne Cooper put her family before her art, says Lucy Hughes-Hallett

In 2014, I was in New Zealand to speak at a literary festival. With a couple of hours to spare, I went into the Auckland Art Gallery, admired the splendid Maori canoes, and then wandered upstairs to the collection of European art. I was standing in a room full of 18th-century portraits, when I saw – visible three rooms away through an enfilade of archways – a painting that I knew at once, even at that distance, must be by my mother-in-law, Suzanne Cooper. Her style is unmistakable. It was like bumping into a dear friend, unexpectedly, thousands of miles from home.

The painting, Royal Albion, was hanging alongside others by better-known British artists Christopher Wood and Alfred Wallis. I’m partial, but it seemed to me the best of the three. The label had Sue’s name right, but her date of birth was out by more than 20 years, and there was no further information.

I went back to London thinking that if, on the other side of the world, her art was considered to be museum quality, then it was time we in her family did something to tell the world about her. So we did: tomorrow marks the opening of her first ever solo exhibition. I’d known and loved Sue’s work since I started going out with her son, the publisher Dan Franklin, in the Eighties. Her eerily surreal The Cat Girl, with its touch of Balthus-like unease, hung in the sitting room of his London flat.

When we went down to Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, for the first, awkward, meet-the-parents Sunday lunch, I saw more of her pictures. There were modernist street scenes full of vigorous lines, flat planes of singing colour and dynamic movement; still lives in which flowers and sea shells were made fascinatingly strange; wood engravings where the inventiveness of the composition is matched by the variety and exuberance of the marks.

In her 20s, Sue had been a rising star. She studied at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London, where she was taught by the master printmakers Iain Macnab and Cyril Power. Over her four years there she exhibited oil paintings and wood engravings in group shows at respected London galleries: the Redfern, the Zwemmer and the Stafford.

Macnab recognised her skill as a wood engraver, and treated her as both a favoured protégée and as a peer, affectionately inscribing a book to her, “From one Woodpecker to another”. The influential collector Lucy Carrington Wertheim bought two of her oil paintings and showed others in her gallery.

But then came the war. In 1939, the Grosvenor School closed down and Sue’s career came to an abrupt halt. She married Michael Franklin in 1940. While he was away, fighting in Italy, she worked as a volunteer nurse. On his return at the war’s end she apparently felt, like so many women of her generation, that her first priority was to be a good wife to him. They settled in Hertfordshire and had three children.

She continued to make small pictures in pastels and crayon, but she did no more oil painting, no more engraving. When people asked her why she didn’t carry on painting, she would act as though it was a foolish question. That part of her life was over. Why that had to be, she couldn’t explain.

Her story relates to two larger narratives. One is about the young artists of the Thirties whose potential was never realised – in many cases because they were killed fighting; in others, because their artistic development, interrupted by the war, lost momentum. The second story is about the many women of her generation who felt unable to say, “I am an artist. This is what I do.” Almost any male artist of her calibre would, I believe, have found a way of getting back to work once the war was over. Not Sue. She laid aside her ambitions, settling for the role of wife and mother, and – always reserved, and dismissive of her own remarkable talent – hid half her canvases under the spare-room bed until her death in 1992.

Although it’s sad that she is not here to see the new exhibition, I suspect it would have been hard to organise it in her lifetime, in the face of her self-deprecating insistence that her art was nothing worth bothering about, that she didn’t want anyone making a fuss. I’m glad though, that her beautiful pictures – so formally innovative, so full of vitality and complex charm – have finally reached the public.

Unmistakable: detail of Royal Albion (1936) by Suzanne Cooper






Country Life

‘From one woodpecker to another’

Ariane Bankes is delighted that a little–known contemporary of Bawden and Ravilious has been brought out of the shadows

Royal Albion (1936) , above, was bought by the collector Lucy Carrington Wertheim and later given by her to the Auckland Art Gallery, where it hangs alongside works by Christopher Wood and Alfred Wallis

The rediscovery of an artist whose talent has long been lost to the world is a rare and exciting event. Suzanne Cooper is one such artist. Despite her startling early promise, we have only a modest number of works to remember her by, but these have now been brought together to receive their due in a revelatory show.

Brought up in Frinton on the Essex coast, in 1935 Cooper enrolled at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in Pimlico, London, aged 19. This appealing-sounding institution had been established in 1925 by the Scottish wood-engraver and painter Iain Macnab, in his house in Warwick Square. Its students were allowed a remarkable degree of freedom, choosing between life drawing, the study of modern art (the critic Frank Rutter taught a course ‘From Cézanne to Picasso’), classes in composition and design, or dancing, taught by Macnab’s wife Helen Wingrave. The 1920s were a golden age for wood engraving, with initiatives such as St Dominic’s and the Golden Cockerell Presses, and Iain Macnab was one of the pioneers. his own incisive and dynamic linear style was taken up by students including Sybil Andrews and Cyril Power, and adapted to lino-cut with well-known results.

It was woodblock engraving, however, that Cooper mastered with such dexterity under Macnab’s and Power’s tutelage. eleven exquisite and sophisticated prints survive this brief period of the late 1930s, when her powers as an artist were at their height. Macnab was plainly entranced by his talented protégée’s work, inscribing a copy of his book on engraving to her with the words ‘From one woodpecker to another’. There is no record that her path crossed with those of contemporaries Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden, although stylistically her work shares much with theirs. Nor is there any mention of her in the public record among the luminaries of the Grosvenor School.

Cooper was also painting in oils at this time, drawing on her vivid imagination as much as on memories of travel and childhood to produce animated street and harbour scenes. Undoubtedly influenced by the Modernism of Christopher Wood, she combines simplified blocks of colour with dynamic brushwork and her naive figures going about their daily lives bring a storybook charm and humour to her work. Royal Albion conjures the frontage of a quintessential British seaside town, with a maid shaking a cloth out of the hotel window and a dog walker and horse riders on the beach below. The blustery weather is evident from the scudding clouds and flapping flags, waves swell on the shingle and it is plainly too rough for the fragile boats to go out on the tide. Brixham Harbour is full of delightful details. A moustachioed old tar’s dog snoozes on the quayside; an earnest artist with his palette and an incongruous public sculpture frame the composition, which is articulated by the decorative verticals and diagonals of masts and rigging.

Such paintings were exhibited at prominent London galleries, among them the Redfern, Zwemmer and Wertheim Galleries, the latter established by the patron Lucy Carrington Wertheim, who recognised Cooper’s potential and gave Royal Albion to the Auckland Art Gallery in New Zealand in 1948. Three years ago, Cooper’s daughter-in-law, Lucy Hughes Hallett, was amazed to stumble upon it still hanging there, alongside works by Wood and Alfred Wallis.

Amazed, because, like her wood-engravings, Cooper’s paintings have largely disappeared from public view in the years since the Second World War. She married Michael Franklin in 1940 and settled down to family life. With three children, she abruptly gave up painting and engraving, barely mentioning her former passion and confining herself to a little work in chalk and pastel.

Her children inherited 14 paintings on her death in 1992 and they know that there must be more works out there, sold in the 1930s and now lost to view. They have, however, discovered 11 woodblock matrices for her engravings, which are in such good condition that they have been able to re-edition all the prints.

Cooper’s evident modesty about her achievements was entirely misplaced, as we can now judge for ourselves. For all her debts to her contemporaries, she possessed a poetic and playful eye, a sure sense of composition and colour and, for one so young, a remarkable skill in handling her materials. She was only 24 when she laid down her brush and burin and so forsook what could have been a remarkable career. ‘


The new printroom studio in Suffolk

So we have finally finished building! Having arrived here in September 2014 and thinking we needed to do nothing we embarked on two years of work to the land and the buildings.
First we worked on our 14 acres of land, digging out all the ditches and removed a vast number of trees from them, so that the land which is prone to flooding can drain effectively. We pruned and treated a lot of trees including the two orchards.
We started work after Christmas 2014 on the Granary our small cottage which is now an Air B and B, we re vamped this completely so we could move in whilst the work was done on the main house. Then in April 2015 we took out all the oil tanks and boilers, transformed the old oil, wood and coal store and put in a bio mass heating system which serves all four buildings, digging trenches everywhere and cabling in new water, electricity and wi-fi. This meant there were no services to the main house so it was good that we were out of it.

From June till three days before Christmas, the farmhouse was virtually pulled apart, whilst it was re-plumbed and  new electrics put it, all connected to the biomass, the main staircase removed and replaced with a beautiful iron staircase, every wall replastered and a new kitchen and bathrooms etc.In fact we did virtually everything we could within the terms of the listing, helped by our great architect James Grayley  and the very helpful conservation office who saw that aspects of what we were living with verged on dangerous! Old doorways that were blocked up were re-opened, veluxes replaced with conservation roof lights, terraces and new vistas created, making a wonderfully comfortable and intimate set of spaces.

The in January 2016 we started on the ‘shed’ or studio which involved virtually starting again but keeping the old trusses and the grain hopper. Our building team were formidable, reliable and cheerful throughout, everything had a low cost , low tech solution. My off set lithe press arrived by crane on a wet day in March, we had to create a road for the lorry to come in and deliver it, How do you make a road, its simple, get a load a hard core delivered and compress it. Anyway we are delighted with the results. We have project managed all these works on a daily basis, so if you are wondering what we have been doing for two years, this is a short version of the story.

Somewhere in-between we have built a fabulous greenhouse with a set of reclaimed Crittall windows, done a vast amount of gardening and replanting of the flower beds, mended the bird hide, planted more trees and thousands of bulbs and learnt a vast amount. The learning curve has been steep, I am still useless at identifying birds and trees but improved at many other things. Like if you have a glut of courgettes you learn to make courgette cake…… no one wants that much chutney.

Printroom closing and moving to Suffolk

On the 24th September we are closing the printroom in Highgate as we have sold our house and are moving to near Saxmundham in Suffolk.

We have plans to rise again like the phoenix in the old diary on our new property, but we are talking 2016…meanwhile we will be online and open to visitors and appointments both in Suffolk and London.