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.

A Scene on the Ice near a Town by Hendrick Avercamp

In the seventeenth century the Little Ice Age settled over Northern Europe. Rivers and canals in Holland froze over and people took to the ice for work, leisure – and accidents. Hendrik Avercamp, just starting out as an artist, took to it too. His life’s work became the depiction of winter scenes full of incident with the people he knew and had grown up with as his characters. Under the grey light of a winter’s day, they continued their lives almost unchanged – they did business, gossiped, tended children, had fun – but sped up on skates.

Avercamp’s painting is one to explore. Endless stories and character sketches are there for the curious eye to discover: the man pointing up the skirts of a girl who has taken a tumble; people playing kolf, forerunner of golf; an old man on a chair, thought to personify winter. Over all is the flag of the newly independent Dutch Republic, to be regarded by the Dutch owner of the picture with pride.

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 December 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 December Lecture

Celebrate, Rejoice, Rise up

Thus Bach exhorts the listener to greet the Christ child in the opening chorus of the Christmas Oratorio,  Jauchzet, frohlocket, auf, preiset die Tage.

Bach composed the six-part “Christmas Oratorio” (“Weihnachts Oratorium”) in 1734 for two Leipzig churches, St. Thomas and St. Nicholas, for which he served as music director.

Each part is a cantata for one of six feast days within the 12 days of the Christmas season:

The story begins with the birth of Jesus (for Christmas Day). The second and third parts feature the shepherds (for December 26 and 27). The fourth part describes the naming and circumcision of Jesus (for New Year’s Day). The fifth and sixth parts describe the Three Kings, or Magi (for the first Sunday after New Year and for Epiphany).


The lecturer on this occasion is Sandy Burnett.

He explores Christmas in Bach’s Leipzig: the Christmas Oratorio of 1734/5

Music Director for the RSC, he spent a decade as one of the core team of presenters on BBC Radio 3. He is a highly sought after double bassist on the London Jazz Scene.

Sandy Burnett’s close relationship with Bach’s music stretches back for decades; between 1997 and 2010 he directed a complete cycle of Bach’s sacred cantatas in West London. In this illustrated talk he explores how Bach brings the Christmas story alive in his Weihnachtsoratorium or Christmas Oratorio, written for Lutheran congregations in 1730s Leipzig. Starting with an overview of Bach’s life and achievement, Sandy moves on to an examination of this magnificent work which draws on various forms ranging from recitative, arioso, aria, chorale, and instrumental sinfonia through to full-blown choruses which harness the power of music and deploy it in the service of God.


This lecture will be given in the Matthews Hall at 10.45 on December 9th <

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. We hope that this will be the last recording we make and that the rest of this programme of lectures can be given in the Matthews Hall as normal on the second Thursday in the month at 10 45 a.m.

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