The Berlin Painter and His World: Princeton University exhibition

By Alastair Harden, Acting Head of Classics

1On a visit to the British Museum with 6.2 Classical Civilization students in February, after looking at the Parthenon sculptures and the frieze from the Temple of Apollo at Bassae, I brought the class around the Greek Vase galleries. I know these galleries very well, so I confidently strode up to a glass case, ready to wax lyrical on one of the most beautiful pieces on the A-level syllabus: a magnificent volute krater depicting the final duel between Achilles and Hektor. I mentally gathered my notes and got ready to dispense wisdom when – much to my disappointment – the case turned out to be empty. Well, not quite empty: a card read “This vase has been loaned to the Princeton University Art Museum for the exhibition ‘The Berlin Painter and His World’.” This kicked off a very welcome chain of events that led to me trading the Block 3 Parents’ meeting for an aeroplane bound for New Jersey and attending the most important conference and exhibition on Greek Art to be held in a generation.

2I’d heard that Princeton was hosting the first exhibition devoted to a single vase-painter in almost forty years, so I emailed J. Michael Padgett, Princeton’s curator of Classical antiquities, chastising him for ruining my speech about Achilles and Hektor and fondly recalling the afternoon in 2011 when he took me to the store-room under the galleries in the museum at Princeton to examine some fragments for my doctoral dissertation. To my surprise and delight he replied straight away, inviting me to two events: the fizzy ‘gala opening’ of the Berlin Painter exhibition on March 4th, and a star-studded one-day symposium on April 1st. (Well, ‘star-studded’ to Greek Art enthusiasts. Or really to vase-painting enthusiasts. Well, really, to enthusiasts of early Athenian red-figure vase-painting, which thankfully I am.) I expressed my regret that I could go to neither, but after some string-pulling and many apologetic emails to my Block 3 parents I found myself gratefully bound for the symposium.

3‘The Berlin Painter’ is the name given by the Oxford scholar John Davidson Beazley to an otherwise-anonymous painter of the most beautiful painted pottery of the early fifth century B.C.: Beazley grouped together several vases which he judged to have been painted by the same person in a 1911 article entitled ‘The Master of the Berlin Amphora’, and in doing so he effectively initiated the study of Greek vase painting as a major art form. Beazley remained central to the study of Greek vase painting until his death in 1970, and I was working as a researcher at Beazley’s archive in Oxford ( when I left academia to come to Bedales.

The Berlin Painter was one of thousands of painters whom Beazley was to identify on stylistic grounds, but to all scholars of Greek art the Berlin Painter has a special place as the first painter to recognize the aesthetic potential of using the shape of the vase and the framing painted floral and geometric patterns to bring the painted scene to life. Before this, painters usually treated the shape of the vase as a blank field to be filled in, and simply divided the vessel into zones or panels, but the Berlin Painter seems to have had a gifted sense of how the complex shapes of the vases can complement the drawing. He (or she, though we presume the painter was male: that’s another discussion…) also observed anatomy in minute detail, and I hope all of my students share my enthusiasm at how the Berlin Painter renders the complex relationship of the serratus anterior muscles to the ribcage in a level of anatomical detail unprecedented in its accuracy, at a time when sculptors were also looking to complex anatomical accuracy to make bronze and stone resemble real living bodies.

4The exhibition in Princeton brings together a representative selection of pieces from museums all over the world, including the ‘name vase’, the ‘Berlin Amphora’ which Beazley discussed in his 1911 article; sadly the exhibition does not include the beautiful fragment which Beazley saw in Winchester College, pictured, but it was awe-inspiring to be in a gallery with so many pieces of such high quality. The symposium featured a brilliantly stimulating group of lectures, including a wonderful talk by Richard Neer about how Beazley’s sexuality and early Brideshead-like days as an Oxford undergraduate in the 1900s influenced his later scholarship, and a typically poetic paper by the renowned French scholar François Lissarrague on the painter’s astonishingly sensitive use of deep black backgrounds for the figural scenes. Mario Iozzo, director of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence (home of the famous François Vase), revealed that he found what all archaeologists long for: a secret message, barely detectable beneath the black glaze of one vase. His paper will quite literally have every curator of Athenian vases looking again for these tantalizing hidden words, which will occupy scholars for decades: they can only be seen with the naked eye under certain lighting conditions, preferably when the vase is being held in the hand, a nice reminder of the tactility of these objects in an era which is increasingly devoted to digital images and accessing artefacts primarily through the internet.

At the reception following the conference I re-connected with Prof. Lissarrague, who wrote the single most beautiful book on Greek vases (Greek Vases: The Athenians and Their Images) and, much less illustriously, examined my PhD thesis in 2013 (‘Animal-skin garments in archaic Greek art: style and iconography’). I also caught up with several other academics whom I knew through my five years working at the Beazley Archive: I was reminded of the joys of research, and I’ve already since been consulted by a curator at the Metropolitan Museum in New York about an animal skin on an ancient statuette. It has been very rewarding to spend even a brief time among academics and curators, and I plan to re-enter this world by writing a paper this summer on the Berlin Painter’s use of animal-skin garments: this will be one of hundreds of pieces of research inspired and stimulated by the epoch-making conference and exhibition, with its beautiful catalogue, and it was truly a privilege to have attended this monumental event.

On the day of the exhibition’s opening, Michael Padgett gave an excellent introductory lecture on the Berlin Painter which you can see here.


Psychology – what’s it all about?

Periodically, questions are raised about the rigour and value of some A Levels, of which Pyschology is one. Most recently, Barnaby Lenon, Chairman of the Independent Schools’ Council (ISC) was reported in the Daily Mail as saying that girls who should be doing Physics are instead doing Psychology, and urges schools to persuade capable girls to choose the latter. Why? Because he says this will help to get more women into Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) careers and, importantly, onto university courses in subjects such as Engineering and Medicine. It is of note that he at least partly absolves independent schools from his analysis although I am unconvinced by his argument. Psychology was introduced as a subject at least in part to get girls more involved in Science, a task at which it has surely excelled. Although well established in universities, it was not until the 1970s that Psychology A Level was introduced in the classroom. Today more than 50,000 students are entered for the examination each year, making it the fourth most popular A Level nationally – also the case at Bedales. And, yes, it remains popular with girls.

The ongoing mantra is that it simply is not as difficult as Maths and the Physical Sciences, with great play made of its omission by the Russell Group universities from its list of ‘facilitating subjects’ – those identified as having the greatest transferability across university degree subject areas. In fact, the Russell Group identifies Psychology as ‘useful’ in relation to a range of degree subjects, whilst a number of different assessments of the difficulty of A Level subjects place Psychology above some facilitating subjects. Survey findings in 2003 found that the majority of students regarded Psychology as both their most demanding and most interesting subject (McGuinness, 2003). In 2008, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) found that Psychology was comparable in terms of standards with Biology and Sociology (although with a caveat about the difficulty of comparing different subjects).

Psychology employs a research approach and methods – for example, experimental design – that is consistent with those employed in the Natural Sciences. However, Psychology A Level also requires familiarity with the less tightly controlled observational method – also associated with the Social Sciences. Consequently, it is our belief that Psychology provides a unique opportunity to explore different and sometimes conflicting schools of thought with regard to theories of knowledge and scientific method.

That Psychology A Level is a subject that faces usefully both the Natural and Social Sciences is reflected in Psychology provision at university undergraduate level. For example, the University of Cambridge Psychological and Behavioural Sciences Department stresses the ways in which the subject overlaps with and contributes to Anthropology, Archaeology, Computer Science, Linguistics, Philosophy and Sociology.

We think there is great value in a subject that may lead students down so many potentially interesting paths. When students know exactly what they want to do beyond school, it makes sense for them to study those subjects that will get them to where they need to be next. The study of Medicine, for example, calls for a major commitment to the Natural Sciences – as a third of fourth subject Psychology might be interesting and valuable, although not essential.

However, for the significant proportion of students who have not yet decided where their future interest lies, Psychology can be a very useful way in which to ensure that the Sciences are represented in their mix of A levels.

By Sarah Flavell, Head of Psychology, Bedales School

More information about the Bedales Psychology curriculum.


New University Options With UK Liberal Arts Degrees

An important aspect of the work of the Bedales Professional Guidance Department, which I lead, is to be alert to changes and trends within higher education. For example, there has been a trend in recent years for university applicants to be admitted on lower grades than those expressed in offers which, in turn, has seen us advise students on their applications and make them aware of incentives from some universities to those applicants making them their first choice. This is part of our extensive engagement with students over the choices they make concerning their working lives beyond the school, wherever their preferences may lie.

An interesting new development has been the rising enthusiasm in UK universities for more American-style liberal arts degrees which, initially at least, see students pursue a wider range of studies than tends to be the case here.

This comes against a backdrop of increasing interest amongst Bedales students in studying in the US and Canada. They appear to value the additional flexibility that this offers them, and the fees, whilst typically expensive, have not appeared quite so steep subsequent to the increases to those in the UK. European universities are also opening up to English students, who can expect liberal arts programmes to be taught in English, and are extremely well supported by their institutions.

However, over the past few years a number of UK universities have launched modular liberal arts degrees, all of which offer students the opportunity to study a combination of major and minor subjects rather than straight single honours programmes. The most recent of these, offering extensive subject choices and significant flexibility, is from Leicester University. After the first year students can upgrade their minor interest to joint honours, or can even change to single honours should they so wish. It is the most flexible of the liberal arts degrees I’ve seen here, and I think many Bedales students – although not all – will find it attractive.

When I interview Bedales students during the 6:I year as they begin to consider their UCAS applications, some are very sure about what they want to do. Many don’t know, however, and so find it very hard to choose – a significant factor in some electing to study abroad.

Now, it seems, they may be able to find such a programme without leaving these shores. As with everything, there are potential drawbacks as well as advantages to this route. They are not for everybody, and those who are clear about their direction are likely to be better served by the single honours route. We are mindful that some of our students have not enjoyed the American model but, instead, have been frustrated to find themselves unable to study some subjects in as much detail as they would like.

For such courses to work well they require sound planning and management – some Bedales students who have gone on to pursue joint honours programmes have found the workload onerous, exacerbated by poor sequencing of requirements for written work. I suspect that students’ perception of such programmes as manageable will be the making or breaking of them in the long run.

Certainly, I will be alerting many of our students to what Leicester and others offering liberal arts degrees have to offer, and I’d like to see more universities follow this trend and make the programmes work. Industry has been vocal in its requirement for entrants with a rounded education, and there is an increasing numbers of students seeking an education hitherto available only overseas – such programmes can serve both parties well.  Of course, this does not undermine the importance of the more traditional degree programme, which remains the better bet for those wanting to specialise, or to pursue higher academic study, and we will encourage our students to think very carefully about what is right for them.

By Vikki Alderson-Smart, Higher Education Advisor



Touring the Palace of Westminster


Politics is something that affects us all but I wonder how many people, old and young, have a true understanding of how Parliament actually works. It turns out that a trip to the Palace of Westminster is a great way to gain an insight; what’s more, as British citizens we are all entitled to a free tour of the Houses (just contact your local MP). On Wednesday, I accompanied 6.1 Politics students and Alan, the Acting Head of Department, to Westminster.

As always the Bedalians impressed me with their mature behaviour, excellent questioning, humour, knowledge and creativity, the combination of which made me smile, laugh and even at times shed a happy tear or two!

We’ve just finished our tour of Parliament and have moved into the new education centre, opened just this autumn. I’m sat here in front of them, observing their participation in a parliamentary workshop, which they are fully engaged with. Sitting in two teams, red and blue, two primary colours that apparently have nothing to do with the parties. To my left are the reds and to my right the blues.

Starting with a guess the country game, to warm up, the teacher calls out some bizarre laws such as it being illegal to kiss someone with a moustache.

Moving on to the more serious stuff students were taken through the whole law making process via role play, with one student taking centre stage as speaker.

Parliament started with a vote on which bill to debate, each party submitting their own choice to the ballot: the blues choose EU exit whilst the reds choose (in response) to burn the nationalists! Needless to say, the EU exit bill got voted in, under closed eyes to add anonymity.

Had I kept my eyes shut, I might have been forgiven for thinking that the youngsters had been replaced by professional actors. The debate was excellent; well informed and serious despite its humour. George was leading the debate, it was a blue initiative, and he opened with an extremely strong and convincing argument about the freedoms and benefits associated with leaving the EU. The reds, however, were quick to come back with a counter argument based around immigration, asylum and equality for all.

Post debate, more questions were posed to the students, all designed to inform or rather (with these students) test their existing knowledge. After which, we left Westminster and headed back to Waterloo where students shared their thoughts, proving that it was a great and educational day.

‘As someone who has a passion for politics it was certainly a great, eye-opening day, which enabled me to gain a really good insight into the political world’ – George

‘It was good to see how the British government works, now when I see British politics on the news I will know what they are talking about’ – Malik, Putney exchange student.

By Scott Charlesworth, Teacher of Chemistry

Bedales A Level Success

Lizzie Compton A+AB, Chloe Green 3A+ A (1) (Large) (Large)

Bedales students have achieved strong A Level results for 2015 with the school’s highest ever percentage of A* grades at 15.5%. They have secured places at universities including Oxford, Cambridge, London School of Economics, University College London, Edinburgh, Bristol, Durham, Glasgow, Exeter, Warwick and Berklee (US). 43% of all grades were A*-A and 72% at A*-B.

Seven Bedales students have secured places at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge on courses in Medicine, Chemistry, Biochemistry, English, Philosophy, Politics & Economics, French & Religious Studies, and Fine Art; four have done so through this summer’s grades and three students from last year’s cohort received offers based on their A Level results from 2014. Four of these seven students were taught at Bedales Prep, Dunhurst, before progressing to Bedales Senior School and Sixth Form.

Poppy Duncan from Stroud, Petersfield will read Medicine at New College, Oxford having achieved three A*s in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics, and an A in Further Mathematics; Chloe Green from Liss achieved three A*s in History, Mathematics and Further Mathematics, and an A in Chemistry, and will read Chemistry at Worcester College, Oxford; Peter Price from London achieved three A*s in English Literature, History and Religious Studies and will take up his place at Corpus Christi, Cambridge, to read English;Juliette Perry from Petersfield gained an A* in History and three As in Chemistry, English Literature and Mathematics, and will take up a place at Somerville, Oxford to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

Sophia Falkner from London achieved four A*s in Economics, German, History and Mathematics; to study Economics and Economic History at the London School of Economics.Oscar Braun-White from Rowland’s Castle achieved three A*s in Physics, Mathematics and Further Mathematics and an A in Classical Greek; to study Natural Sciences at Durham University. Sophie Mills from Rowland’s Castle achieved three A*s in Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics, and an A in Further Mathematics; to study Chemistry at the University of Warwick. Thomas Higginson from Chilworth, Southampton celebrated his 18th birthday on results day with three A*s in Dance, French and Psychology and an A in Mathematics; to study Dance at The Place, London.

Head boy, Rob Miller, from London achieved two A*s in English Literature and Mathematics, and an A in Latin. Head girl;  Margaret Rice, from Bampton, Oxfordshire achieved an A in Religious Studies and two Bs in Classical Greek and Latin.

Two departing Bedales students have spent the summer working with the prestigious National Youth Theatre:

  • Christi Van Clarke from London achieved two A*s in Drama and Theatre Studies, and Art and Design, and an A in French; to study a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at City and Guilds, London.
  • Deputy head boy, Roly Botha, from the Isle of White achieved three Bs in Drama and Theatre Studies, English Literature and Religious Studies; to study Drama and Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway. Roly was also awarded the school’s Gabriel Bruce Award for outstanding work in Theatre, Art and general contribution to the community.

22 Bedales students have been accepted at British art schools. Many schools find that only a select few of their art students choose to apply to leading art and design colleges and universities. The one-year Foundation Diplomas in Art and Design allows students the experience of further developing practical and conceptual skills in preparation for art and design related degrees.

The three Bedales students progressing to Oxford having taken their A Levels last summer are:

  • Olivia Brett from Petersfield who will read Theology and Religious Studies at Clare College, Cambridge. She is currently performing as Nannetta in The Black Cat Opera Company’s performance of Verdi’s Falstaff at the Camberley Theatre has also been awarded a choral scholarship at Clare College.
  • Rufus Rock, head boy in 2013/14, from East Meon, who will read Fine Art at Brasenose, Oxford. This year he has taken a six month practical filmmaking course in Berlin and also learnt German.
  • Joshua Grubb from Petersfield, who will read Biochemistry at Somerville, Oxford. He has spent this year working for Procter and Gamble in their science research labs at the Newcastle Innovation Centre as part of the ‘Year in Industry’ scheme. He was also awarded a Distinction in his Diploma (Dip.ABRSM) Clarinet examination.

Commenting on the results, Keith Budge, Headmaster of Bedales Schools, said:

“We are delighted that our students achieved Bedales’ highest percentage of top grades with 15.5% of all A Level awards at A*. Congratulations to our students whose results are worthy recognition of their hard work. I wish them well as they now progress to an impressive range of universities and art colleges in the UK and overseas.”

Other Bedales student successes include:

  • Mona Fu from Zhuhai, China achieved two A*s in Mathematics and Art and Design, and an A in Physics; to study Architecture at University College London.
  • Jojo Mosely from Hambledon achieved two A*s in Art and Design and English Literature, and an A in French; to study History of Art and French at the University of Bristol.
  • Sofia Palm from London achieved two A*s in Politics and Religious Studies, and an A in History; to study Social Anthropology at SOAS, University of London.
  • Jack Merrett from London achieved an A* in History, and two As in Politics and Religious Studies.
  • Isabelle Binney from Rogate achieved an A* in Art and Design, an A in Psychology, and a B in English Literature; to study History of Art at the University of Bristol.
  • Lizzie Compton from Rake achieved an A* in History, an A in English Literature, and a B in Mathematics; to study Law at the University of Bristol.
  • Henry McWhirter from Hindhead achieved an A* in History, an A in English Literature, and a B in Religious Studies.
  • Eleanor Soper from Hambledon achieved an A* in Mathematics, an A in Physics, and a B in Chemistry; to study Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh.
  • Alexander Yetman from Froxfield achieved a D2 (equivalent to A*) in Music Pre-U, and two Bs in English Literature and Design and Technology; to study Bespoke Tailoring at University of the Arts London.
  • Sofie Kitts from Swanmore achieved three As in English Literature, History and Spanish; to study Scandinavian Studies and History at The University of Edinburgh.
  • Phoebe Landers from Headley achieved three As in French, History and Spanish; to study History at The University of Edinburgh.
  • Laura Wise from South Harting achieved three As in English Literature, History and Religious Studies; to study Philosophy and English Literature at The University of Edinburgh.
  • Lily Brown from Liss achieved two As in Biology and Classical Civilisation, and a B in Art and Design.
  • Victoria Burnell from Sheet achieved two As in Economics and History, and a B in Classical Civilisation.
  • Saskia Church from Brentford achieved two As in Design and Technology and Psychology, and a B in Economics.
  • Jack Shannon from Steep achieved two As in Biology and Mathematics, and a B in Chemistry; to study Marine Biology at the University of Southampton.
  • Maya Wilson from Rowberrow, Somerset achieved an A in English Literature, a D3 (equivalent to an A) in Music Pre-U, and a B in History.
  • Emily Blackley from Priors Dean achieved an A in Biology, and two Bs in Geography and Mathematics; to study Biological Anthropology at The University of Kent.
  • Gabriel Curry from Steep achieved an M1 (equivalent to an A) in Music Pre-U, and two Bs in Mathematics and History; to study Law at the University of York.
  • Ruan Evans from Wimbledon achieved an A in Dance, and two Bs in Drama and Theatre Studies, and History.
  • Foxey Hardman from Langport, Somerset achieved an A in Psychology, and two Bs in Drama and Theatre Studies, and French.
  • Radheka Kumari from Ruislip achieved an A in English Literature, and two Bs in History and Religious Studies.
  • Enrico Luo from Guangdong, China achieved an A in Mathematics, and two Bs in Physics and Design and Technology; to study a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at City College Brighton and Hove.
  • Robert Murray from London achieved an A in Mathematics, and two Bs in Physics and Computing.
  • Lydia Nethercott-Garabet from Steep Marsh achieved an A in Latin, and two Bs in History and Spanish.
  • Matilda Raphael from Richmond achieved an A in Psychology, and two Bs in English Literature and Drama and Theatre Studies.
  • James Sweet from Henfield, West Sussex achieved an A in Mathematics, and two Bs in Biology and Chemistry.
  • Lily Wetherill from Midhurst achieved an A in Art and Design, and two Bs in Design and Technology and English Literature.

The full A Level statistics were as follows:

  • A* passes: 15.5%
  • A* – A passes: 43.0%
  • A* – B passes: 72.1%
  • A* – E passes: 99.2%

Cambridge Pre-U D1 and D2 grades are equivalent to an A*; a D3 is equivalent to an A; M1 is equivalent to an A grade and M2/M3 merit grades are equivalent to B grade.

Note that this data is provisional and subject to re-marks.

View photos

To infinity and beyond

Bedales 6th Form Maths Society’s first topic of discussion this year was infinity! A rather puzzling matter that opened with a discussion about the paradox of Hilbert’s Hotel: a hypothetical hotel with an infinite amount of rooms, which one day became full, much to the annoyance of the holiday makers waiting outside. Hilbert asked every resident to move to the room with the next room number, leaving room one free. But when a tour company sent whole buses of people at a time this created another problem. Hilbert’s solution was to ask all the residents to move into the room whose number was twice that of the room they were in so that all the odd numbered rooms became free. Well done Hilbert!  We then discussed googol (10100) and its larger relation the googolplex (1010)100.These numbers are so massive yet considered small in terms of infinity. Michael left us all with a problem to solve: the St Petersburg Paradox. This is a game of chance where a coin is flipped until it lands on tails; the prize money one is given by £2number of flips. The question asked was how much a casino should charge so it can break even or make a profit?

By Freddie O’Donald, 6.1


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Dr Martin McCauley discusses Soviet Union and Chinese political history with Bedales Green Ribbon Club

Dr Martin McCauley is a very distinguished Historian. A Senior Lecturer in Soviet and East European History at London University’s School of East European and Slavonic Studies, he is the author of many books, particularly on Russian History ( ‘Stalin and Stalinisim’ and a biography of Khrushchev for the ‘Makers of the Twentieth Century’ series, the editor of OCR ‘s A level book of documents for The Russian Special Subject  to name but a few). He is also a member of the Limehouse group of analysts – a body of experts on foreign policy. Here Martin has expertise on Terrorism and has written a book on Afghanistan. He spoke to the Green Ribbon Club ( The Sixth Form History Society) on Thursday for 45 minutes (without any notes) on the theme “ From Marxism to Communism : The Soviet Union and China. “ He gave a lucid and compelling view of the development of The Soviet Union and its departure from pure Marxism and the parallel development of China, examining why the Soviet Union collapsed and China did not ( the reason : China’s economic reform which Martin McCauley suggested might be a model for reform for the rest of the world.) He thought that whilst America might remain the most powerful nation for the twentieth first century, thereafter the future might lie with China. His talk was illuminated with astonishing statistics and wonderful anecdotes ( who, for instance, knows that when the Berlin Wall came down, the two things that East Berliners were most keen to obtain were bananas and pornography !). This talk was a privilege and a rare treat for the full audience, invaluable for A level Historians and thought provoking and enriching for the non- Historians .

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History, Bedales


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.