Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Children's half-term activities

Please ring 01234 353323 to book on the following sessions:

26th Oct Poster power! Poster design with Jonny Hannah. 2-3.30pm. Booking essential. 8+ yrs. £5 Bedford Museum

27th Oct Every picture tells a story. 11.15 – 12.30 and 2 – 3.30. Booking essential. £2.50 Bedford Museum

29th Linocut landscape. 2pm – 3.30pm, 8+yrs. Booking essential. £5 Bedford Museum

30th Oct Japanese Fan-tasy 11am – 1pm and 2pm – 4pm. Drop-in, £2 Bedford Museum

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Development Plan - The Galleries

The proposed overarching narrative structure for the Art Gallery and Museum is journeys’, understood in the widest possible sense of the word.

The Art Gallery will explore the journeys or lives of the objects that make up its exceptional collections of fine and decorative art. This will involve interpreting these objects in terms of: how they were designed and made; the stylistic movements and influences they represent; how they were used, and; how they became part of the Art Gallery’s collections.

The Museum will explore the journeys of people, ideas and things into, within and out of Bedford, as well as the area’s relationship with the wider world. In the broadest sense, the Museum will tell the story of Bedford from prehistory right through to the culturally diverse town we see today. It will focus on the people and places that are unique or special to the story of Bedford and the surrounding area.

The Art Gallery

This area will feature changing displays from the Art Gallery’s nationally-significant watercolour and print collections.

A flexible walling system will be combined with showcases specifically designed for works on paper. Moveable sculpture plinths and mobile activity benches will increase the flexibility of the space.

The gallery will be able to be divided into two separate areas, used as one space or combined with Bedford Gallery, depending on the size of each exhibition.

Arranged broadly chronologically, this gallery will explore stylistic developments in the applied arts from the 17th century to the 20th century. This will include Classicism, Rococo and Baroque, Neo-Classicism, early and high-Victorian style, the Aesthetic Movement, Arts & Crafts, and 20th century movements such as Art Nouveux, Art Deco and Modernism.

The design will combine objects on open display, large cases with objects grouped together in context, and shallow cases enabling smaller objects to be investigated in more detail. Touch-screens linked to the Art Gallery’s collections database will provide more depth to the interpretation.

A key theme will be design and manufacturing techniques, supported by craft technique interactive areas focussing on glass, ceramics, enamel, glazes, and plastic. A second key theme will be what influences designers – in particular the influence of other cultures on British and European design.

This gallery will house the Edward Bawden archive, which at around 3,000 items is the largest of its kind in the world. Between 1981 and 1989 Edward Bawden (1903-1989) donated the contents of his studio to the Art Gallery; the collection includes work from his college days through to 1980 and covers every medium he used, from watercolours and prints to examples of his commercial designs.

Pull-out display drawers will allow rotating, thematic displays of Bawden’s work, while a central display case will house ceramics designed by Bawden and Eric Ravilious. Other display cases and an audio visual presentation will explore linocut printing techniques.
A flexible hanging system on the gallery walls will allow rotating displays of framed prints and watercolours by Bawden.

This gallery will continue the themes introduced in the Design Gallery but will look specifically at the Victorian revival of interest in medieval art and design. Influence – of the past, of religion and of nature – will be a key theme.

An introductory area will use the Museum’s medieval collections to explore the themes and motifs that influenced the Gothic Revival. There will also be display cases dedicated to Pugin, religious iconography, architecture, and domestic Gothic, which will explore how commercial manufacturers embraced the style.

The design will focus on display cases with objects grouped together by context and striking, backlit graphic panels.

The William Burges Gallery, housed in the Hexagon, will be the showpiece of the redevelopment.
An introductory area will explore Burges’ influences and his personal life. Graphic panels will illustrate his elaborate architectural and decorative schemes, including those from his own home. Cases will display examples of his smaller-scale work, such as the zodiac tiles and the Angell & Mendelson decanter.

The main, hexagonal gallery space will feature the Art Gallery’s world-renowned collection of painted furniture designed by Burges, including the Sleeping Beauty bed and the Narcissus washstand. The objects will be beautifully lit to highlight their architectural qualities and reveal the depth of detail in their decoration.

Following on from the themes of style, craft techniques and influence introduced in the Design Gallery, this section of the Art Gallery will focus on the idea of objects in use. The objects on display, taken from the Art Gallery’s decorative arts collection, will be interpreted in the context of how they were used and by whom. A further topic will be how use changes over time.

Each room will be divided into: an area that will group objects to illustrate how they were used in a typical mid-Victorian house; a more interpretive area featuring a mixture of objects from different periods, designed to illustrate two particular topics in more depth. These topics will be changed periodically in order to increase public access to the collections. This area will use a large plinth housing a mixture of objects from different periods to introduce the concept of ‘objects in use’. Two cased displays will explore particular topics; initially, these will be ‘the gentleman’s realm’ and ‘ornamentation’.

This central area will feature computer interactives giving visitors the chance to ‘design their own room’ virtually, using the collections around them. There will also be a number of low-tech interactives based on the theme of objects in use.

The space will be divided into an area based on a mid-Victorian woman’s bedroom, and display cases and graphics focussing on two topics that illustrate how the use of objects associated with bedrooms has changed over time.

Flexibility is important – the design will allow for these topics to be changed, ensuring more of the collection is displayed. Initially, they will be ‘the woman’s realm’ and ‘dressing and toilette’.

The Nursery will be primarily an education space for school groups. Toys from different periods will be housed in accessible display cases, there will be large-format graphics, while furniture and other objects will be on open display with appropriate access and protection.

Key interpretation themes will be how nurseries changed through time and Victorian and Edwardian ideas of children being ‘seen and not heard’.

Part of the space will act as an introductory area to visitors entering Objects in Use from the Watercolour and Print Gallery. This will feature a striking, tiered display of furniture and a rotating display of smaller objects.
The space will be divided into an area based on a mid-Victorian sitting room, and display cases and graphics focussing on two topics that illustrate how the use of objects associated with sitting rooms has changed over time.
Flexibility is important – the design will allow for these topics to be changed, ensuring more of the collection is displayed. Initially, they will be ‘setting the fire’ and ‘taking tea’.

The space will be divided into an area based on a mid-Victorian dining room, and display cases and graphics focussing on two topics that illustrate how the use of objects associated with dining rooms has changed over time.
Flexibility is important – the design will allow for these topics to be changed, ensuring more of the collection is displayed. Initially, they will be ‘eating and drinking’ and ‘ostentation’.

This area will use the collections to interpret the social hierarchies surrounding the use of different entrances to houses, ideas of ‘meeting and greeting’, and why objects such as barometers and clocks were placed in hallways.

The Museum

This introductory gallery will tell the story of Bedford through a series of display ‘pods’ arranged as a timeline, together with a central touch-table computer interactive.

Each area of the timeline will focus on a part of the collection that represents a specific period of history and its association with a particular local area.

Key ideas explored within this gallery will be:
• Migration and the emergence of new communities
• People’s interactions with the landscape
• The legacies that people have left behind
• Bedford’s place in the wider world.
The central computer interactive will be a showcase feature of the development. Presented as a series of layered maps, it will enable visitors to explore interactive ‘hotspots’ that provide historical information on particular areas in the local landscape.

This space will support the interpretation of Bedford Castle with two sizeable low- tech interactives. They will include a large cut-out illustration of the castle with lift flaps, each revealing a different aspect of life in a castle, and an interactive siege machine model supporting interpretation of the 1224 siege of Bedford Castle.

This gallery will explore Bedford’s growth from a market town serving farming communities to an internationally recognised centre of brewing and engineering.
The key topics will be:
• Early trade and industry
• Bedford as a market town
• Agricultural engineering
• Manufacturing and heavy engineering
• Brewing
• Brick-making
• Airships
• Modern industry.

Interpretation will relate Bedford’s industry to its cultural history, in particular the growth of new communities as migrant workers came to Bedford. The personal journeys of Bedford’s great industrialists and manufacturing companies will be featured, alongside the journeys across the world of goods and products made in Bedford and the way the landscape has been affected by local industry.

The design of this gallery will be characterised by a mixture of showcases and open display areas, with striking, sculptural displays of industrial equipment. As in other areas, there will be a mixture of audio visual presentations and high and low-tech interactives.

The ‘Treasury’ will feature a display of some of the unique, precious, high-status and sacred objects in the Museum’s collections. Related interpretation will explore ideas of power and authority attached to these significant objects.

Also on display will be items from the Mayor’s Parlour, including civic regalia such as the Mayoral mace, ceremonial robes, and gifts received or presented to Bedford to celebrate its history.

This gallery will explore:

• The personal journeys of some of Bedford’s most influential progressive thinkers, radicals, reformists and philanthropists
• The journey of the Museum’s ethnographic collection, from the creation of these fascinating objects collected by students and staff at Bedford Modern School, to them being given to the Museum.

The gallery will feature a series of displays on influential individuals. Some of these will be permanent, dealing with prominent people like John Howard and John Bunyan, while some will rotate to introduce a range of lesser-known personalities, including Joanna Southcott and James Wyatt.

A stunning display of the Museum’s ethnography collection will be a standout feature of the Museum. Interpretation will look at collecting as an example of the Victorian desire to ‘understand the world’, as well as what these objects can tell us about Bedford’s place in the British Empire.

This gallery will explore the ‘life journeys’ of local people, celebrating the historical and cultural diversity of life in Bedford. The key topics will be:

• Home life, including stories of migration and settlement
• Working life, including some of Bedford’s current industries
• Community life, including volunteering and citizenship
• Leisure and recreation
• Religion and belief, including traditions, festivals and celebrations.

The gallery will have a strong graphic and pictorial approach. Another key design feature will be flexibility – displays will be rotated to illustrate other aspects of life in the local area. Part of the ‘religion and belief’ section will house a changing programme of community-led displays highlighting cultural and religious traditions, celebrations and festivals.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Audience Development Project

Exciting new cultural opportunities for local communities

Local people of all ages are invited by Bedford Museum and the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery to engage with their heritage. We want to help communities and groups explore and be inspired by their heritage through working together.

Do you have an idea in mind for an activity or project? We can help you to work with professional artists and other local partners to develop your ideas. Possible activities we could explore with you include:

Recording your memories
Creating your own community or group exhibition
Creative activities inspired by museum objects and artwork
Creating family albums
Developing stories from museum and everyday objects
Storytelling from where you come from
Celebrating your own organisation, working life, family
Food, music, art and crafts inspired by your heritage
Drama, music and dance inspired by objects and places
The magic carpet: learning about other places
Advising us on new displays and testing ideas for us

A team of people at the Art Gallery and Museum will work with you to expand your project and celebrate your community. Everyone’s heritage is important wherever you come from. This is your chance to participate, especially if you have never taken part in a project in your community or with a museum before.

Call Carmela Semeraro, Community Historian and Vina Harvey, Audience Development Officer on 01234 217418 or email to find out more.

Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum Education Service, Castle Lane, Bedford, MK40 3RP

The Audience Development Project is supported by The Heritage Lottery Fund, The Bedford Charity, and Bedford Borough Council.


Since 2002, the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery has been focused on producing high-quality catalogues of it's collections. Each catalogue has been produced in hardback and has a full colour image for every entry.

Edward Bawden
Caroline Bacon, James McGregor

Edward Bawden donated the contents of his studio to the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery between 1981 and 1989. The collection, consisting of over 3,000 items illustrates works from his student days in 1919, through to the 1980s and covers every medium he used from watercolours and prints to examples of his commercial designs. Featuring previously unpublished material, this book will prove an invaluable guide to the work of one of the most important artists of his generation.
Price : £25.00 + £6 p&p

Cecil Higgins Watercolour Catalogue
Evelyn Joll

The Gallery has been collecting British watercolours since 1951. In the past fifty years it has acquired some six hundred of the best known images and examples by leading artists from the late 16th century to the present. Fully illustrated in colour and produced in hardback, this superb catalogue is a indispensable guide to the gallery's collection.
Price £39.95 + £6 p&p

Cecil Higgins Print Catalogue
Caroline Bacon, James McGregor, Julia Nurse

Published as a companion to Cecil Higgins Watercolour Catalogue, this sumptuous and comprehensive catalogue details the print collection held in the Gallery. With over three hundred works fully illustrated, by artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Hockney and Freud, this volume is an indispensable guide to the history of printmaking from the mid-nineteenth century to the end of the 20th century and includes a full glossary of printmaking terms.
Price £35.00 + £6 p&p
To order contact or ring 01234 211222

Some comments on the Edward Bawden Exhibition

We thought it might be nice to share some of the lovely responses we have had to the exhibition in its first week, which has been a fantastic success in terms of numbers of visitors and how much everyone has enjoyed the show - people are already coming back for second visits and the comprehensive catalogue of the archive seems to be on everyone's Christmas lists.

“What a gorgeous exhibition! Inspiring and beautifully displayed – I’m off to buy the lino and cutting tools…”

“Thoroughly enjoyed both this and the Abram Games [exhibition].”

“Excellent! Loved the cats!”

“What a fantastic exhibition. Worth travelling here [from Manchester] especially to see. A remarkable archive & it would be good to see more in years to come. Thanks to Bawden himself for such a generous gift!”

“Superb exhibition, well worth seeing. I’ve always been a fan of his work, and this does it full justice. Thank you.”

“Bawden – Amazing! Such nice type, really crisp, great colours, just incredible. All of the staff are very friendly as well, enjoyed my Bedford Gallery experience.”

“Bawden is so, so good. Such a good designer, amazing commercial stuff. Best exhibition I’ve seen in a very long time.”

“Wonderful collection – will return.”

“A very fine exhibition beautifully curated in very pleasant surroundings.”

Find us on Facebook

There is now a Facebook fan page for Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum here, a fan page for the new exhibiton space at Bedford Gallery here, and a group for Bedford Gallery and all your views on the Gallery and redevlopment here. Join up, keep in touch with all the latest including pictures from the much loved Victorian Mansion, and share your views.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bedford Museum

Bedford Museum was formed in the 1960s from the collections of Bedford Modern School and Bedford Borough Council. It's social history, archaeology, natural history and ethnography collections tell the unique stories of the people and places that have shaped Bedford and its relationship with the wider world, from prehistory to the present day. Here, we tell the story of how those collections came together:

In 1884 a solicitor called Charles Prichard, donated his private collection of fossils and minerals to Bedford Modern School, where he had formerly been a pupil. In addition he provided funds for the creation of a school museum to house the collections with an annual grant of £10 for its upkeep. Although additions were made to the original collections, oddities from all over the world began to feature as fathers and Old Boys travelled and took up positions in foreign lands. As a result the Museum became somewhat disrespectfully known as the ‘Old Curiosity Shop’. As you enter the first part of the current Social History Gallery, you will find a flavour of that 'curiosity shop' has been retained.

The 1920s saw sweeping changes with the appointment of P.G. Langdon as Honorary Curator. Langdon’s aim was to reorganise the collections and establish them as a nucleus of a county museum. He acquired archaeological material including Roman and Saxon pottery and jewellery from Kempston, replaced the worst of the natural history with the J. Steele Elliot collection of Bedfordshire birds, mammals, nests and eggs and, in 1929, developed two new refurbished galleries. For the first time the displays were opened to the public on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, for an admission price of 6d. With this new high profile status the museum became recognised as one of the best school museums in England.

The next major figure to influence the Museum’s future was F.W. Kuhlicke, a local historian and heraldry specialist who was appointed Honorary Curator in 1933. He continued to develop the collections but by the 1950s the school needed more space for the expanding numbers and discussions took place with the Borough of Bedford to see whether the Borough could take on the public museum role. The opportunity arose to combine the school museum with the smaller collections held by the Borough of Bedford and in 1962 the newly established town museum opened in a former garage and showroom on the Embankment, with Kuhlicke as the first Honorary Curator.

This, however, was only a temporary arrangement while more substantial premises were sought. In the 1970s the former Higgins and Sons Castle Brewery buildings became available. Built in 1837, this red brick industrial building offered greater potential for public service, temporary exhibitions and storage for the ever increasing collections of north Bedfordshire. The first professional Curator, John Turner, was appointed in 1974 and he led the extensive refurbishment and transformation of the brewery buildings into the new town museum, which opened its doors to the public in 1981.

See also plans for redevlopement and the history of Bedford Gallery and Cecil Higgins Art Gallery.

Bedford Gallery

The gallery during the 'Treasures' exhibiton.

Bedford Gallery is the new, state-of-the art exhibiton space for Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and Bedford Museum. It was officially opened on 1st April 2009 by Stephen Deuchar, Director of Tate Britain, and the late Frank Branston, Mayor of Bedford.

In 1837, Charles Higgins bought the lease for Castle Lane from the Duke of Bedford. The lease required Higgins to build a house on the site; between 1840 and 1841 the building we now
call Bedford Gallery was constructed. Bedford Gallery was originally designed to be used as a
clubhouse known as ‘Castle Rooms’, for supporters and members of the Whig party. Rate books from the time show that it was divided into 3 sections: a house, club rooms and a

Bedford Gallery as it is today, over 150 years since it was first built as 'The Castle Rooms'.

From 1848, the building was used by the Bunyan Meeting as a Sunday School, for Church gatherings and for teas. This lasted until the 1880s; listings show that it was then used by the
Plymouth Brethren, a non-denominational Christian movement. In the early part of the 20th century it became a billiard hall.

For some time during World War Two, the British Broadcasting Corporation music department is believed to have used Bedford Gallery as a rehearsal and recording studio. In August 1941 the
BBC had evacuated several departments from London to Bedford; other local buildings used included the Corn Exchange and the Great Hall of Bedford School.

After the war, the building returned to use as a billiard hall and table tennis saloon, and some of our older visitors recall spending many youthful days here. In 1960, it was given over to the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and renamed Bedford Gallery; from then until 1973 it was a venue for exhibitions and events.

After being closed for over 30 years, Bedford Gallery was earmarked for a £2.5m refurbishment. The project, funded by Government and Bedford Borough Council, has created a
state-of-the-art venue that will house a varied and exciting programme of temporary exhibitions, including touring exhibitions from national museums and galleries.

The versatile display methods transform the gallery for the 'Edward Bawden' exhibiton.

Forthcoming exhibitions include:
October 2009 Edward Bawden
Autumn 2010 Airship R101
January 2011 Toulouse-Lautrec

The refurbishment of Bedford Gallery forms Phase 1 of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum Development Project, which will see the creation of a flagship heritage attraction at the heart of Bedford’s Cultural Quarter.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Events for children

Sat 3rd October The Big Bawden Draw
11 am – 4pm FREE
Come and celebrate the opening of our Edward Bawden exhibition at Bedford Gallery with a Big Draw event inspired by the creativity of this original artist.

Mon 26th Oct Poster Power!
2pm – 3.30pm, 8+yrs
£5, booking essential. Call 01234 353323
Poster design and illustration at Bedford Gallery with artist Jonny Hannah

Thur 29th Oct Linocut Landscapes
2pm – 3.30pm, 8+yrs.
£5, booking essential. Call 01234 353323
Held at Bedford Museum, come along to cut and print your own lino design (involves sharp tools!)

Film screenings

Bedford Gallery will be open from 5pm ‘til late, with films starting at 7pm, no need to book. Free event.

See Edward Bawden’s posters for these classic films upstairs then watch the films downstairs.

Thur 3rd Dec The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953)
Ealing comedy, starring Stanley Holloway and George Relph

Thur 21st Jan Hue & Cry (1947)
Ealing comedy starring Alastair Sim

Artists’ talks and workshops at Bedford Gallery

Sat 10th Oct
Linocut Workshop with artist Christopher Brown

11.30am – 3.30pm
FREE event, booking essential. Call 01234 353323
Talk and linocut demonstration from printmaker Chris Brown followed by a chance to make your own linocut print.
Christopher Brown studied at the Royal College of Art where he was introduced to, and eventually assisted, Edward Bawden. Bawden encouraged him to explore linocut as a medium; since then, Christopher has exhibited at the Royal Academy and the V&A.

Sat 14th November
Curwen Studio Taster Days

Booking essential. Call 01234 353323 to book your place.
Printmaking ‘taster’ day at the Curwen Studio. £25 per person (price includes a light lunch) The Curwen Studio, Chilford Hall Linton, Cambridge, CB21 4LE

Many of Edward Bawden’s best known works were printed at the Curwen Press and later the Curwen Studio. Today the Curwen Studio continues to offer facilities for artists’ original printmaking. Taster days offer an opportunity to visit the studio, view the archives, discover how lithography works, and make an original print working alongside experience printmakers.

Thur 22nd Oct Edward Bawden

7pm, booking essential. Call 01234 353323
£10 (price includes refreshments)
An evening lecture at Bedford Gallery, from Peyton Skipwith, Bawden’s Literary Executor and a former director of the Fine Art Society, Bawden’s main London dealer.

Fri 6th November & Fri 20th November
Edward Bawden Archive Afternoon

FREE event. 2pm – 4pm
The archive afternoons are free to attend. Come along to Bedford Gallery between 2 and 4pm to explore works by Edward Bawden that are not included in the exhibition. Art Gallery and Museum staff will be on hand to guide you through the archive – the largest of its kind in the world.

Sat 7th Nov
Illustration and typography workshop with designer Jonny Hannah

FREE event, 2pm – 4pm. Booking essential. Call 01234 353323
Jonny Hannah studied illustration at Liverpool Art School and the Royal College of Art. He works as a commercial illustrator for clients including The Daily Telegraph and produces prints, posters and books through his own Cake & Ale Press.

Sat 23rd Jan
Collage workshop with artist Mark Hearld

FREE event, 2pm – 4pm. Booking essential. Call 01234 353323
Mark Hearld studied illustration at Glasgow School of Art followed by an MA in Natural History Illustration at the Royal College of Art. Working across a number of mediums, he takes inspiration from the flora and fauna of Britain and is influenced by Bawden.


Here are a list of articles in the national press that cover the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery Collections and the opening of Bedford Gallery.

Peyton Skipworth has written an article that appears on page 20 of the Royal Academy Magazine, browsable online

Click on the image to the left to read Martin Gayford's article about Bawden in the Telegraph of Saturday 26th September.

Articles appeared in The New Statesman, May 2009 and

Culture 24, April 2009 about the Cecil Higgins collection when the Treasures exhibiton opened in April.

The Tate website still features information on the colelction from the Treasures show that featured at Tate Britain from 15th September 2008 until 15th February 2009.

Exhibitions at Bedford Museum

pARTicipate 22nd Sept – 18th Oct
An exhibition celebrating artistic talent, diversity, culture and good work young people do in the community, contributing to Bedford’s heritage.

Winds of Change 24th Oct – 3rd Jan
Exploring the varied and surprising links between Bedfordshire and Japan. Part of Japan-UK 150, celebrating 150 years of official reading links between Japan and the UK.

Free Lectures

There are a number of lunchtime talks to accompany the exhibitons on Edward Bawden at Bedford Gallery and the Winds of Change exhibiton at Bedford Museum. These talks are free to attend, and are held at Bedford Gallery on the dates stated below. All talks are by gallery staff unless stated.

7th Oct Lunchtime talk: The Edward Bawden archive 1pm – 1.30pm

21st Oct Lunchtime talk: Edward Bawden: Master of the linocut 1pm – 1.30pm

4th Nov Lunchtime talk: Bedfordshire & Japan Part 1 (Marion Maule) 1pm – 1.30pm

11th Nov Lunchtime talk: Printmaking at The Curwen with Tom Martin, Studio Manager 1pm – 1.30pm

12th Nov Evening lecture: Winds of Exchange (Marion Maule) 7pm

18th Nov Lunchtime talk: Bedfordshire & Japan Part 2 (Marion Maule) 1pm – 1.30pm

2nd Dec Lunchtime talk: Bawden and his Circle 1pm – 1.30pm

8th Dec Evening lecture: Admiral Smyth and astronomy in Bedford 7pm

6th Jan Lunchtime talk: Eric Ravilious 1pm – 1.30pm

20th Jan Lunchtime talk: Edward Bawden: Art vs. Design 1pm – 1.30pm

Edward Bawden

3rd October 2009 – 31st January 2010 at Bedford Gallery

From 1981 – 1989 Edward Bawden (1903 – 1989) donated the contents of his studio to the Art Gallery. Edward Bawden was one of Britain’s most original and versatile artists, known for his inventive and often humorous illustrations. This major exhibition sees much of this work on show for the very first time. It covers every medium Bawden used, from watercolours and prints to examples of his commercial design.

The exhibition is accompanied by Edward Bawden by Caroline Bacon and James MacGregor. An illustrated catalogue of the wonderful collection at Cecil Higgins Art Gallery. The book is available at both the museum and gallery shops, or you can order a copy over the phone on 01234 211222 or 01234 353323.
Illustrated in colour throughout, and featuring previously unpublished material.
Edition limited to 2,000 copies
RRP £25
ISBN 0-9512657-5-8

In celebration of the Edward Bawden exhibition, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and Bedford Museum have also commissioned a limited edition print from the artist Mark Hearld who is inspired by Bawden’s work. ‘Rooster and Railway Carriage’ is a lithographic print in a limited edition of 75. The print costs £225 (plus postage and packing) and measures approximately 485mm by 670mm. It is available by contacting the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum on 01234 353323 and will also be on sale from the Bedford Gallery shop during the Edward Bawden exhibition.

Mark Hearld, ‘Rooster and Railway Carriage’ 2009

Cecil Higgins Art Gallery

The Cecil Higgins Museum, as it was formerly known, opened its doors to the public on 25th July 1949. It had been created by the philanthropic brewer, Cecil Higgins (1856-1941) to house his collection of ceramics, glass and objets d’art ‘for the benefit, interest and education of the inhabitants of, and visitors to, Bedford’. As a shrewd businessman he realised that public museums were vulnerable, and to protect his collection he left a very complex will, which stipulated how the museum was to be organised. He also left a considerable trust fund, to be used for museum purposes, but principally for acquiring works of art (which included Decorative and Applied). While the collection of ceramics and glass was of the finest quality (each had been selected by James Kiddell of Sotheby’s), the collection lacked any notable paintings, save a few 18th century oils and a small collection of miniatures. The Art Gallery Board made the important decision to collect English watercolours in 1951. By the terms of Cecil Higgins’ will, all acquisitions have to be approved by a ‘recognised artistic authority such as ….the Victoria and Albert Museum’ and in 1951, the then Director of the V&A, Sir Leigh Ashton, nominated Graham Reynolds, then Deputy Keeper of the Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design, to approve all watercolours and drawings for acquisition. Graham Reynolds remained an advisor until 1955 when he was succeeded by two leading authorities in their respective fields who were to shape and expand the collection significantly; Edward Croft-Murray (1907-1980) of the British Museum and Ronald Alley (1926-99) of the Tate Gallery, from 1957.

The period between 1952 and 1964 were the most productive in terms of collecting watercolours. Over 500 were acquired in twelve years. The Gallery was able to achieve this by the availability of watercolours from private collections in the post-war years and the generosity of Cecil Higgins. Edward Croft-Murray and Ronald Alley each brought their knowledge, vision and taste to the growing collection. Their collecting was divided - Croft-Murray to works made pre-1850 and Alley to post-1850. The Gallery owes a great deal to their dedication and skill, for they were to develop one of the finest post-war collections outside London. That the collection is strong in the greatest painters of every generation is one thing, but that it is also representative of artists who were once popular and influential in their own day and less so at the time of acquisition, is due to their expert scholarship.

Edward Burne-Jones, Cupid Delivering Psyche, 1867.
(c) Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery

In 1971, the collecting policy switched to the decorative arts, with the purchase of a large number of pieces from the Handley-Read Collection. The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery now holds over 200 pieces from the collection of Charles and his wife Lavinia, Handley-Read. Charles applied, in 1950, for a post at the Tate, after being rejected he reacted by ‘making a small museum of my own’. They began to form a collection of Victorian work at a time when few scholars and collectors took the period seriously, sometimes tracing the descendants of the architects and designers and buying directly from them. After initially making modest additions to his collection, a number of inheritances in 1964-5 meant that he could accelerate his buying. The Royal academy exhibition Victorian and Edwardian Decorative Art The Handley-Read Collection in 1972 displayed their entire collection, sadly Charles and Lavinia did not live to see it, dying tragically in October and December 1972 consecutively.

From 1988, the focus returned to collecting prints, this time concentrating on the 20th century.
The print collection now numbers over 400 pieces, including work by some of the finest British artists as well as internationally renowned figures such as Picasso, Lichtenstein and Dürer. The collection charts styles as well as print processes, from Whistler’s delicate etchings to Edward Bawden’s magnificent linocuts.

Albrecht Dürer, Adoration of the Kings, 1511
(c) Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery

Cecil Higgins Art Gallery is currently closed for major redevelopment, to provide more space in which to exhibit and interpret the works in this important collection. Exhibitons from the Cecil Higgins Collection and touring shows are cureently being held in Bedford Gallery.

The layout of the site

Where to find us

Click on the above map for a larger image