IF I’m honest, I’ve never noticed the bottles of Bass pale ale in Edouard Manet’s famous 1882 painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergere. And yet there they are with that familiar red triangle, (the UK’s first registered trademark, fact fans), to the left and right of the barmaid Suzon.

It was Sir Simon Schama (the announcers on Radio 4 seemed very adamant about the “Sir”) who pointed them out in the midst of a disquisition on Manet’s gregariousness, Baudelaire’s idea of the “heroism of contemporary life” and the position of women in 19th-century France.

The first episode of new series Simon Schama: the Great Gallery Tours (no Sir in the title) last Monday took Schama to the Courtauld Gallery in London, which is where, the historian and art critic tells us, he became “a hardcore art addict,” and to the impressionist paintings collected by the English industrialist Samuel Courtauld (who, it turns out, used to sell Schama’s dad rayon fabric).

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What followed was a mixture of history, biography and art appreciation; a comforting, and, to be honest, rather old-fashioned amble through the gallery’s history and collection that really only came to life when Schama started talking about the paintings themselves.

But those moments made up for the rest. Even on radio, when you can’t see what he is describing, Schama has an ability to conjure up images. Talking of Cezanne’s Montagne Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine (1887), he described how the “pine needles seem to tremble in this hot Provencal light,” and you could almost feel the sticky air on your face.

Next week it’s Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Now that sounds a treat.

Makar Jackie Kay was Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe’s guest on Sunday morning on 6 Music. In between choosing her favourite music, she told stories of Peggy Seeger popping round to her parents to sing protest songs with them for an afternoon and discussed the double entendres in Bessie Smith’s Kitchen Man.

A joy as always and a reminder that Kay’s laughter should be available on the National Health.

Listen Out For: Things My Mother Never Told Me, Radio 4, Wednesday, 11am

Sindhu Vee (whose own mother is quite the character) talks to fellow comedians about their mums.