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, Church Recording and Young Arts, 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.

Rob Forster, Chairman 2018-21

The Picture of the Month

In this small and meticulously observed picture, insects crawl and flutter over forget-me-nots and a sprig of hawthorn berries. A cabbage white butterfly perches on the hawthorn leaf, whilst an earwig and rearing caterpillar crawl up the twig. A common blue butterfly rests on one of the juicy red berries. The light effects and the shadows cast give the objects a remarkably lifelike appearance, as if we are observing wriggling specimens. 

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 lecturer for the December Lecture

Julian Halsby

 Julian Halsby,was born in North London and he won an exhibition to Emmanuel College Cambridge in 1966 to read History and after Part One he changed to the History of Art. During his gap year he taught English at the British Institute of Florence and it was in Florence that he acquired a passion for art history.

After graduating in 1971 he began lecturing at Croydon College of Art eventually becoming Senior Lecturer and Head of the Postgraduate Conservation Department. He also lectured in other London art colleges and was an early lecturer for NADFAS in the 1970’s. He has lectured to Arts Society members for over ten years

He has  written seven books and published many articles and is also a practising artist and an elected member of the Royal Society of British Artists. He exhibits at the Mall Galleries and other galleries around the country.

His special period as an art historian is from about 1850 to 1920, a period rich with amazingly talented artists. He is interested in the private lives of artists, trying to show them as real people. Hence his lecture today.

The December Lecture

The December lecture, scheduled to take place on December 1oth in the Matthews Hall, was to have been  ‘Sir John Betjeman; His Life, Times and Enthusiasms.’ Very regrettably this lecture has been cancelled, because of an accident to the speaker, Andrew Davies, and another lecture has been booked in its stead. To avoid total disappointment, the website now includes several links to material on YouTube that recall the National Treasure that was our poet laureate Sir John Betjeman. Go to The Arts Society Plus and see the drop-down menu.

The  New December lecture is entitled

Two Women who Scandalised the Art World – Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938) and the Marchesa Luisa Casati (1881-1957)

Suzanne Valadon (1865 – 1938) was born into poverty and brought up in the streets of Montmartre. She was very beautiful and soon earned a living as an artists’ model posing for Renoir, Puvis de Chavannes and Toulouse-Lautrec. She had an illegitimate son, the painter Maurice Utrillo, but never identified the father. Despite living a dissolute and Bohemian life she began to draw and came to the attention of Degas who encouraged her and bought her drawings and etchings. After an affair with the eccentric composer Eric Satie, Suzanne married a respectable stockbroker and settled into suburban life with her son. However her wildness triumphed and she returned to Montmartre to live with Andre Utter, a painter 20 years her junior, and Maurice Utrillo. She rowed publicly with Utter and their Bohemian relationship was the gossip of Montmartre as was the outrageous behaviour of her alcoholic son. Nevertheless she embarked upon a series of outstanding and very modern paintings. She soon found success, exhibiting widely and becoming a noted figure in the Paris art scene and a personal friend of the French Prime Minister. It is an extraordinary story – from the back streets of Montmartre to the top galleries of Paris !

The Marchesa Luisa Casati 1881-1957 was born into a enormously wealthy family of textile producers and married into the impoverished Italian aristocracy. She was soon bored with her husband’s aristocratic lifestyle and launched herself into a wild life in which she became herself a work of art. She dressed outrageously and was usually accompanied by cheetahs, snakes and menagerie of animals. She rented the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni (now the Guggenheim Museum) on the Grand Canal and threw extravagant fancy dress parties which were the talk of Europe. She was admired by Gabriel d’Annunzio and the Italian Futurists who dedicated work to her, also admired by Diaghilev and Picasso, and was painted by many of the leading portraits including Giovanni Boldini, Jacob Epstein, Kees van Dongen and Augustus John. After the First World War she moved to Paris where she attended spectacular fancy dress balls in costumes by leading couturiers. The photographic portraits of her taken by Man Ray are considered amongst the finest Surrealist works.


Our December lecture will not take place in the Matthews Hall. Instead we will be using Zoom and the lecture will begin at 11 a.m.

Details of the link and how to access the lecture will be sent to all members by the membership secretary in the first week of December.

Contact and Queries