Welcome to the Exe Decorative and Fine Arts Society. We are based in Topsham, and cover the towns and villages on both sides of the Exe estuary south of Exeter. Our purpose is to give our members opportunities to appreciate the arts.

We have a programme of ten lectures on various aspects of the arts, held monthly on Thursday mornings, from September to June. The lectures are illustrated and given by experts in their field. These lectures are supplemented by special interest days where we look in greater detail at a particular topic.

We also have visits to places of interest in the south west, and tours further afield, including abroad. Some of our members take part in activities such as Heritage Volunteering, and Arts Volunteering, where we try to involve young people in the arts through initiatives in local schools and colleges.

In 2017, most decorative and fine art societies changed their names to The Arts Society, following the rebranding of the national body NADFAS. We as a society decided to retain our name ExeDFAS while remaining affiliated to The Arts Society.

We welcome new members at any time, although we currently have a waiting list. We invite anyone who is interested to come along to one of our lectures, to see how informative and entertaining they are. Please let our membership secretary know in advance so that a place can be reserved.


The Picture of the Month at the National Gallery.

Peter Paul Rubens, 'Minerva protects Pax from Mars ('Peace and War')', 1629-30

Peter Paul Rubens, 'Minerva protects Pax from Mars ('Peace and War')', 1629-30



At the centre of this painting is Pax, goddess of peace. Pax breastfeeds her son Plutus, god of wealth. This is symbolic of the notion that wealth is born of peace – that peace is the necessary condition for prosperity to flourish. Around them are many trappings of wealth and harmony. A goddess is draped in the most luxurious, green embroidered silk. She carries treasure – golden goblets, pearls and a ruby brooch. Behind, another goddess sings and dances, shaking her tambourine – a sign of music and the arts. Below Pax, a satyr holds a cornucopia (horn of plenty) with all the fruits of the harvest. Satyrs are associated with greed, but rather than lusting after the fruit and vegetables, he offers it to the children. Likewise, the leopard toys with the food, but is not devouring it. His hunger is satiated, in this time of plenty.

Behind them, something much darker is going on. Minerva, goddess of wisdom – identifiable by her helmet – is in battle with Mars, god of war – identifiable by his red cape, red hair and ruddy complexion (symbolic of bloodshed, anger and, of course, the red planet). 

Who is winning this battle? Minerva or Mars, wisdom or war? Well, Mars appears on the backfoot, his dagger positioned awkwardly behind him. He will soon be pushed back and the storm clouds driven away. Blue skies will reign again.

As a painter (and art dealer) to monarchs, rulers and the elite of Europe, Rubens was well-placed to serve on diplomatic missions. In 1629–30, he was sent to England as an envoy for Philip IV, King of Spain. He was tasked with securing an exchange of ambassadors to negotiate peace between the two countries. ‘Peace and War’ was intended as a gift to Charles I, King of Great Britain. The themes of this allegory, the benefits of peace and the destructiveness of war – reflect the aims of his political mission.


The National Gallery has a very extensive website with access on line to every item in the collection . Each month it publishes a new picture of the month, and this is the image for July 2021

Galleries everywhere are endeavouring to bring their great art treasures to the public who are unable to get to galleries and museums  as once they did. Their curators have prepared short lectures, and the genius of modern technology can give us ‘Virtual Tours’.

Just a ‘taster’ of these facilities is now available on this website starting with lectures provided by our ‘parent body’ – The Arts Society. The section is called The Arts Society plus and has its own drop down menu accessible at the top of this page


The November Lecture

Cathedrals are Safe Places to do Risky Things

An overview of 42 cathedrals, looking at their history and their role over the centuries as well as their role today.


The lecturer on this occasion is Janet Gough

A Cambridge graduate in History and History of Art, she has worked at Sotheby’s. She is the Church of England Director of Church Buildings.

This lecture will be given in the Matthews Hall at 11 02 a.m. on November 11th.

Members will be asked to observe the two minutes silence at 11.00 a.m. to remember Armistice Day, and are asked to assemble at 10.45 to assist with this.

We are planning to have once again a reduction in the number of chairs put out to allow for some social distancing during the lecture. We will have some windows open and provide sanitisers, and we will again ask you please to stay seated once you have decided where to sit.

If you wish to wear a mask you are free to do so. After the lecture, please leave the hall by one of the two doors either side of the stage, and not by the doors to the cafe.
We appreciate that even with these precautions, some of our members may be reluctant to come to a talk at present.

We will therefore be recording the talk and giving you the link to watch it on YouTube for the following two days.

Contact and Queries