Inaugurated in 1975 by Alice Pratt Brown (Mrs. George R. Brown), a major benefactor who served 26 terms as a trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, this annual lecture series was established in memory of Ruth K. Shartle, a longtime Museum benefactor. William C. Agee, director of the MFAH from 1974 to 1982, described the lecture series as a commemoration of Ruth K. Shartle’s “unstinting friendship, her intellectual curiosity and generous spirit of sharing her enthusiasm for man’s creative accomplishment, and most of all, her unselfish, fresh spirit and unfailing joy of life.”

The Ruth K. Shartle Lecture Series is made possible by a generous grant from The Brown Foundation, Inc.

2019 Schedule

  • Sunday, March 10, 3 p.m. “Van Gogh’s Enduring Legacy”
  • Saturday, March 16, 4 p.m. “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms: Making and Meaning”
  • Saturday, March 30, 4 p.m. “Van Gogh’s The Rocks in Context”
  • Saturday, April 6, 4 p.m. “Starry Nights, Sunny Days: Van Gogh in Provence”
  • Saturday, April 13, 4 p.m. “Van Gogh and Japan”


Past Events in This Series

Van Gogh and Japan

A look at how Vincent van Gogh came to identify Japanese art as a benchmark for his work, as seen in the 2018 exhibition Van Gogh & Japan at the Van Gogh Museum.

Starry Nights, Sunny Days: Van Gogh in Provence

In the last 30 months of his life, Vincent van Gogh experienced his most intensely creative period and produced some 200 paintings, including his explosive masterpiece, The Starry Night.

Van Gogh’s “The Rocks” in Context

This lecture explores the MFAH painting The Rocks in the context of the other paintings and drawings Vincent van Gogh created during his years in Arles (1888 and 1889).

Van Gogh’s Bedrooms: Making and Meaning

This talk offers an insider’s view of the 2016 exhibition Van Gogh’s Bedrooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. See how these three paintings, reunited for the first time ever in North America, fit into the artist’s life. 

Van Gogh’s Enduring Legacy

Within a decade after his untimely death in 1890, Vincent van Gogh’s reputation as a pioneer of modern art was well established. How did this come about, and what did Van Gogh think of his own achievements? How did he value his own work?


Poetry in Motion: A Literary Dance Performance

Author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and dancer Rathna Kumar present a literary dance performance inspired by the photographs of Raghubir Singh. 

Warriors, Weapons, Honor, and Tigers: The Rajput World of Cultural Obligations

Presented in conjunction with Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India, this lecture explores the history of the Rajputs, a clan of warriors.

Folk Dance Celebrating “Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India”

A dance performance presented in conjunction with the exhibition Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India.

Beyond the Surface: Art and Artists at the Jodhpur Court

A free lecture inspired by Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India explores the connoisseur-kings of Marwar-Jodhpur—rulers who not only protected their kingdom but also pursued remarkable forms of art and culture.

Folk Dance Celebrating “Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India”

A dance performance presented in conjunction with the exhibition Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India.

The Yogi-King of Jodhpur: Paintings, Power, and Politics in the Reign of Maharaja Man Singh

A free lecture inspired by Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India explores the extraordinary story of Maharaja Man Singh, who allied with a religious order of hatha yogis and seized his place on Jodhpur’s throne in the 19th century.

From the Vaults of Gods, the Treasuries of Maharajas, and the Storerooms of Families: The Incredible World of Indian Jewelry

Art historian Usha Balakrishnan discusses the rich histories and meanings of beautiful Indian jewels in a free talk inspired by the exhibition Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India.

A Talk with Baijilal Shivranjani Rajye of Marwar-Jodhpur, India

On opening day of Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India, Baijilal Shivranjani Rajye of Marwar-Jodhpur talks with the exhibition’s co-curators, Karni Singh Jasol and Mahrukh Tarapor, about bridging the distance between tradition and modernity to keep the legacy of Jodhpur’s artistic and cultural traditions alive and meaningful.


Edgar Degas’s Sculptures: An Inside Look

Presented by Shelley Sturman, head of object conservation & Daphne Barbour, senior object conservator, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. In this talk held in conjunction with the exhibition Degas: A New Vision, Sturman and Barbour explore Degas’s sculptures modeled in wax and clay, as well as the story of Degas's posthumously cast bronzes. Free!

Degas and the 20th Century

Presented by independent scholar Richard Kendall. This talk, held in conjunction with the exhibition Degas: A New Vision, explores Edgar Degas’s later creativity, which fascinated and influenced Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and other artists of their generation. Free!

Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty

Presented by Jodi Hauptman, senior curator, department of drawings and prints, the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In this talk held in conjunction with the exhibition Degas: A New Vision, Hauptman shows that Degas is at his most modern in his monotypes, which capture the spirit of urban life, depict the body in daring ways, and boldly engage the possibilities of abstraction. Free!

Degas’s Families

Presented by George Shackelford, deputy director, Kimbell Art Museum. In this talk presented in conjunction with the exhibition Degas: A New Vision, Shackelford traces Degas’s ever-widening embrace of a communal “family,” including childhood friends, artists, writers, musicians, dancers—and even prostitutes—who became the subjects of Degas’s work. Free!

The Private Collection of Edgar Degas

Presented by Gary Tinterow, director of the MFAH and organizing co-curator of “Degas: A New Vision.” This lecture shows how Degas’s artistic thinking was influenced by the artists he admired, and highlights Degas’s “Degases.” Free!