Caravaggios in the Attic
The True Stories of Rediscovered Art Treasurers
8th October 2024
Presented by Jacky Klein
This lecture tells the gripping tales of priceless works of art lost or stolen, mislabelled, misfiled or misidentified – and the dramatic stories of their rediscovery. We follow the trail of police officers and curators, conservation experts and forensic scientists, as they painstakingly piece together clues to solve some of the world’s most extraordinary art enigmas.
From a Titian lying hidden under 200 years of grimy varnish, an ancient limestone statue revealing secret hieroglyphs and a lost Hitchcock film to the Van Gogh landscape that spent more than half a century in a Norwegian attic, a ‘lost’ Caravaggio hiding in plain sight, and the recent discovery of a priceless 13th-century religious panel in a kitchen in northern France, these are art mysteries to surprise, inspire and delight at the blunders – and boons – of history.
The first painting that really stopped me in my tracks was Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne at London's National Gallery. I was a teenager – and the dramatic narrative, incredible technique and sheer energy just bowled me over. Ever since then it's been a non-stop love affair with art, old and new.
All of my work – across writing, lecturing, curating, broadcasting and publishing – has been about communicating my knowledge and passion about the arts to the widest possible audiences. And having come to art relatively late, I know that an enthusiastic, open-minded, well-informed guide can be the key to opening up the world of art to all of us – not just those few already ‘in the know’.
After gaining a First in History at Oxford University, I studied European modernism at London’s Courtauld Institute, going on to work at the Tate and Barbican galleries. I then became a curator at the Courtauld and Hayward galleries before jumping sideways into the world of publishing,
as Commissioning Editor for art books at Thames & Hudson, where I produced contemporary art monographs, survey and art history books. I subsequently worked at Phaidon Press, at Tate Publishing and at the small independent art publisher HENI Books.
I have also spent the last 15 years or so writing books myself, including a major monograph on Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry and a guide for children to the joys of contemporary art, published by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and now available in 11 editions from Catalan to Korean. I’ve written articles, profiles and thought pieces for ArtAsiaPacific, The Art Newspaper and Gagosian Quarterly, among others. And in recent years I've loved contributing to, and presenting, a range of programmes and livestreams for BBC TV and radio, Channel 5, Christie's, Bloomberg TV, the Art Fund, the Travel Channel and more – communicating my love of art to even wider audiences.
I’m a passionate advocate for art history in all its forms and was a Trustee of the UK Association for Art History from 2013-23, as well as working as Associate Lecturer at the Courtauld Institute on their MA in Curating the Art Museum.
Outside work and beyond my love of art and books, I enjoy poetry and cinema (all sorts), country walks and wild swimming (all weathers), baking, needlework and gardening (all entirely 'experimental').