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All you can eat

by Lauren Dalla, 1 June 2003

In February 2003 the National Portrait Gallery Circle of Friends brought Sir Robert Strong to Australia to present a series of lectures entitled The Artists & The Banquet- A History of Dining, which focused on the links between gardens and table decoration from the Renaissance to the Victorian Era.

Sir Robert Strong
Sir Robert Strong

Professionally, Strong has led a stellar career, coming to prominence at the age of 32 when he became the youngest Director of the National Portrait Gallery London (1967-73). Strong was also Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum (1974-87) where at the same time he discovered a passion for gardening. This interest was rapidly put to good use through a number of books and exhibitions that also drew upon his unrivalled expertise on sixteenth and early seventeenth-century court culture and early British painting.

Now a noted writer and lecturer, Strong together with his wife, international theatre and ballet designer Dr Julia Trevelyan Oman CBE, has also created The Laskett, the largest formal garden to be created in the UK since 1945. Sir Roy Strong spoke of his lecture: I will show vases of flowers of tea and other tables and ask where the idea came from ... then plunge back to the Renaissance and a revolution in dining which made it legitimate for the first time to embrace aesthetic delights, like scattering rose petals across a cloth. Then to the Rococo period, when dessert tables became complete gardens replete with hedges, statuary and temples and go on to the Victorian age with explosions so large in the middle of the table you couldn't see over...

Well known for his flamboyance and individuality Strong's Australian lecture tour was no exception and provided him with the opportunity to both entertain and inform. The lecture series travelled throughout Australia to Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney, with sell out shows across all the venues. The lecture series was made possible with the generous support and sponsorship of James Fairfax AO, Philip Bacon AM, L Gordon Darling AO CMG and Marilyn Darling.

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