Exclusive online talk for Members

Via Zoom

Booking required

With Alice Foster, art historian & James Cahill, novelist, art historian and critic

Why do we look at art? What stories does art hold, where do these meanings come from, and why do we search for them?

For centuries, myths and allegorical stories were the mainstay of classical and ‘high art’ in European culture. But from the turn of the 20th century, Modernisms rejected and offset tradition. Yet we still strive to interpret meanings from such works; as we still attempt to celebrate and relate to past civilisations’ allegorical scenes. Why? What is the meaning of our search for art’s meaning?

Join Alice Foster and James Cahill for a fascinating analysis of the history of narrative art. Taking two different approaches to viewership, and focusing upon various works of the Ashmolean’s Collections, Cahill and Foster explore the narratives within and around artworks, raising questions about how – and why – we look at art.

Portrait of Prince Rupert, Colonel William Legge and Colonel John Russel by William Dobson

How does art draw us in? Composition, colours, subject... our expert speakers discuss

The talk will be available to watch live on Zoom. A recording of the event will be shared with ticketholders on request following the event.


Booking is essential, and tickets are available to Members only.
Tickets are £10


These two lectures at 1pm are running as part of an onsite workshop Members' event. More details here

If you have any questions before the event, please email us at

Find out more about Ashmolean Membership: Become a Member