Monday, December 20, 2010

Out and About

Since the museum closed for redevelopment in October 2010, our education team haven’t been able to have schools come and spend the day at the museum. However, this hasn’t stopped them keeping busy. They have taken their programme on the road, visiting schools within a 1 hour radius, bringing artefacts, costume and lots of fun along with them. Here is some of the feedback we’ve received from children and teachers.

You can find out more about our education team, and the services they offer at

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What's On - new leaflet out soon.

With less then 2 weeks left of our popular R100 & R101: Airships at Cardington Exhibition, it's high time we let you know what's coming up in the new year. Here is a preview of our new leaflet, which will be out soon.

High Kicks & Low Life: Toulouse-Lautrec prints - A British Museum Tour is our final exhibition before the gallery closes for a major redvelopment project. Read more about the redevelopment here. The exhibition runs from 15th January - 10th April 2011.

Bedford Gallery will be closed from 19th December - 15th January whilst we changeover the exhibition. The curatorial staff will all be working hard over the Christmas holidays installing the works from the British Museum alongside some pieces from the Cecil Higgins Collection by contemporaries of Toulouse-Lautrec. We'll be sure to keep you updated with our progress and we hope that you're as excited as we are about the imminent arrival of so many Toulouse-Lautrec prints here in Bedford.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Update: We need your help to save the Burges Settle for the Nation

We need your help to save the Burges Settle for the Nation!

We have secured £400,000 from the NHMF, £150,000 from the Art Fund and £100,000 from The Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery. We are nearly there but we still need to raise £100,000 from other sources.

Every penny counts!

If you would like to donate to the Burges Settle Campaign, please make cheques payable to The Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and send them to
Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum, Castle Lane, Bedford, MK40 3XD

You can Gift Aid your donation. Simply email to request a Gift Aid form.
The export bar on the settle only lasts until 20th December. Please do help us to acquire this wonderful, unique artwork for Bedford.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Great films, inspired by our collections and made by young people from Bedford Foyer

Over 2010 the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum has been working with Bedford Foyer, Elizabeth Thomas and Orphan Pixel Company on an exciting Foyer film project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The 3 films shown here were devised by residents of Bedford Foyer who were involved throughout the whole process, from editing and sound to acting in front of the camera! The films are aimed at getting young people interested in history and their heritage by telling a gripping personal story about the past. Each script was inspired by an object chosen from the museum’s collections by the young people involved.

The photographs show the young people during the process of making the films.
Richard Fuller, MP for Bedford, has described the films as demonstrating “a remarkable combination of simplicity of execution, clarity and precision of dialogue and first class acting.”

Below are some of the objects that inspired the project.

Viking Sword - Iron sword blade from 10-11th centuries, found at Russell Park, Bedford

Crossbow bolt - good quality iron bolt from the 14th century, found in Bedfordshire.The bolt would have fitted on to a wooden shaft and been fired from a large crossbow. It was strong enough to pierce armour.

This project is part of our Audience Development Project. This is a four-year project which aims to engage a wide range of communities and groups in Bedford Borough with the Museum and Gallery collections and their own heritage through creative activities, events, consultation and involvement in new exhibitions. The project has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Bedford Borough Council, The Bedford Charity (The Harpur Trust) and Lousada Plc.

Friday, November 5, 2010

We aim to raise £800,000 to save a unique zodiac settle designed by William Burges for the nation - with your help!

A unique zodiac settle designed by William Burges is currently subject to a temporary export bar put in place by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, following a recommendation from the Reviewing Committee on the Sale of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest. The export bar expires on 20 December 2010.
Following the decision, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum has been identified as the most appropriate UK institution to mount a fundraising campaign to raise the £800,000 necessary to acquire the settle and save it for the nation.

The settle (1869-70) is an ornate seat or bench that combines the form of an Italian Renaissance day-bed with a castellated canopy inspired by the English Gothic. It is made from painted, stencilled and gilded wood, decorated with rock crystal and slips of vellum. The central panel, painted by Burges’ collaborator Henry Stacey Marks, features the sun on a throne, surrounded by the dancing signs of the zodiac, while other panels show the Planets as musicians and female figures.

Designed by Burges for his own use, the settle was firstly in his rooms on Buckingham Street off the Strand in London, and later moved to Tower House, the gothic residence Burges built for himself in Holland Park. Tower House has been described as one of the most important architect’s houses of the 19th century. Burges left hundreds of drawings of Tower House showing his plans for the interior design schemes. These show that the zodiac settle was placed in the Drawing Room, decorated on the theme of love, from which Burges intended to completely remove chairs. Unlike other pieces of his painted furniture, such as cabinets and bookcases, the settle was an experiment in form and design that was never repeated in any of his later furniture commissions.

If we were succesful in acquiring the settle, it would be the perfect addition to the collection of work by Burges already held here. The collection includes the Sleeping Beauty Bed, the Narcissus Washstand and a dressing table, all from Burges’ own bedroom, as well as a pair of cabinet doors, a wardrobe and a zodiac-themed bookcase. The collection also includes a tulip vase, a decorative silver decanter, a set of knives and forks, an enamelled silver bracelet, and a set of 30 zodiac-themed tiles. The settle would form a central piece of the new Gothic Revival Gallery proposed in our redevelopment plans.

You can support or campaign to save the settle for the nation by sharing this online booklet on your website, facebook or blog page.

Just follow this link and then copy and paste the embed code into your page.

You can also add our twibbon to your Twitter, Facebook or Blog.

If you would like to pledge your financial support, contact us on 01234 211222 or at

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Extra Film Event Planned

Thank you to all those who attended the one-off screening of British Pathe newsreel on Sunday 31st October at Bedford Gallery. Record visitor numbers were reached!

Happily another film event has been scheduled. On Wednesday 24th November at 1pm we will be showing  'R100’s construction at Howden with commentary from its designer Barnes Wallis'

Not only that, Peter Rix, Chairman of the Barnes Wallis Memorial Trust will be here to give an introduction to the film, and to answer your questions afterwards.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Boost for Bedford

There is a lovely article in this weeks Country Life Magazine about the upcoming auction at Bloomsbury Auction House. The unique sale will raise funds for the Edward Bawden Gallery which will be fitted with purpose-built secure drawers and cabinets allowing improved access to this remarkable resource. The Edward Bawden Gallery is part of the planned redevelopment of the Art Gallery & Museum.

In order to raise funds for equipping the gallery, Bawden's Executor Peyton Skipwith in conjunction with Bloomsbury Auctions, has organised a sale of drawings, watercolours, prints and illustrated books, including donated works by Bawden and his friends such as Eric Ravilious, Douglas Percy Bliss and Charles Mahoney - as well as many younger admirers including David Gentleman, Peter Blake, Bernard Dunstan and Michael Foreman. Most of the pieces offered are fresh to the market. The sale will be held at Bloomsbury Auctions in central London on Thursday 28th October 2010.

See details of works to be auctioned at

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bedford Museum closes for major redevelopment

On Sunday evening Bedford Museum closed it's doors to the public for the last time in it's current layout. Now the big job of packing the precious collections commences so that it can all be moved out and the builders can get started. Bedford Gallery will still be open as usual but will have to close it's doors after the British Museum's touring Toulouse Lautrec exhibition has finished there in April.

We'll continue to blog and tweet about all the work that's going on behind the scenes - and believe me, a closed museum is still a very busy place to work! The curatorial team are already busy with the plans, as  Tom Perret, Head of Collections and Exhibitons tweeted last week - "Starting the hard work of detailed design for the redevelopment of @chagandbm - difficult but very exciting" @tjperrett

The refurbished Art Gallery & Museum will be very much worth the wait and will open as one institution (which staff wise it has been since 2004) in late 2012-early 2013.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Unseen Works by Major British Artists to be Sold at Fund Raising Auction

Richard Bawden 'A Splash in the Pant'.

During the last decade of his life, Edward Bawden CBE (1903-1989) carefully put together an archive of some three thousand items which he donated to the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford. Now Bawden's friend and Executor Peyton Skipwith has instigated and curated a unique sale to be held at Bloomsbury Auctions in central London (28th October 2010), to raise funds for equipping the Edward Bawden Gallery in the new redevelopment of the Art Gallery and Museum.

The sale offers a unique opportunity to buy wonderful, quintessentially English pieces, most of which have never been on the market before. The items offered include drawings, watercolours, prints and illustrated books by Bawden, his associates and friends such as Eric Ravilious, Douglas Percy Bliss and Charles Mahoney - as well as many younger admirers from Peter Blake and David Gentleman to Bernard Dunstan and Michael Foreman. The sale will be held at Bloomsbury Auctions, 24 Maddox Street, London W1S 1PP on Thursday 28th October 2010. A taster exhibition, showing a sample of the works will be held in Bedford Museum from 12th-17th October.

‘As Bawden’s Executor I felt that helping the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery to raise the funds was probably one of the last concrete acts that I could do for his memory,’ says Peyton Skipwith. ‘By approaching many artists and dealers who admire his work and enrolling the help of Bloomsbury Auctions, we have been able to assemble the sixty works to be offered at auction. These range from original pieces by Bawden himself, including his initial design for the Bunyan Tapestry (est. £2500-3500), commissioned by the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery in the early 1970s, to works specially created for the sale.’ The former curator of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Lady Halina Graham, has  very kindly donated 'Campions and Columbine’ by Bawden, who had given and inscribed the lithograph to her.

Amongst the many highlights are drawings by Charles Mahoney and a wood-engraving by Eric Ravilious (est. £300-400), both contemporaries of Bawden’s at the Royal College of Art in the early 1920s, as well as an illustrated letter from Bawden to another fellow-student, Douglas Percy Bliss, written in Florence in 1926 while on a travelling scholarship (est. £300-400). Ronald Maddox and Chris Brown (pictured left) have both given images of Bawden’s home, Brick House, Great Bardfield, Essex (est. £100-150 and £80-120 respectively), while Bawden’s son, Richard, has donated a lino-cut entitled A Splash in the Pant, recalling an amusing incident when the local policeman surprised Bawden and his wife and the Raviliouses, bathing naked in the River Pant that ran close to the bottom of their garden(est. £350-500). Another highlight to whet the appetite, is Tourist Attraction (est. £2000-2500) a tiny gem of a collage(pictured right) by one of Bawden’s star students Peter Blake, who remarked of this work,‘It’s more than a print but less than a watercolour.'

Book illustrators and print-makers have also responded generously and thoughtfully to the request for work. Angie Lewin has donated a lithograph depicting Eric Ravilious’s 1953 Coronation Mug (est. £350-500) and Michael Foreman, Helen Oxenbury and John Burningham (each estimated £80-120) have given copies of their books specially embellished with extra drawings on the title page, making them unique collectors’ pieces. Former students of Bawden’s have been more than happy to contribute to this fund-raising auction for the Bawden Gallery; David Gentleman has given a beautiful Suffolk watercolour landscape (est. £2000-2500) and Chris Brown a range of lino-cuts, including E is for Edward which incorporates a delightful image of Bawden himself (est. £150-200).

Edward Bawden was an award winning painter, printmaker, draughtsman and graphic designer. His unique vision of the world spanned over 60 years, during which he produced some of the most influential designs of the 20th century. The sale at Bloomsbury Auctions is a tribute by the art world - artists, dealers and auctioneers - to the memory of one of Britain’s much-loved artists, and to the perpetuating of his memory; it will ensure that the Edward Bawden Gallery will provide a fitting and lasting home for a major body of work by one of Britain’s most original artists.

For further information and illustrations please contact:

Vanessa Clewes Salmon Tel: 020 8458 3288 email:

or Richard Caton Tel: 020 7495 9494 Ext 207 email:

Bloomsbury Auctions 24 Maddox Street London W1S 1PP Tel: 0207 495 9494

Monday, October 4, 2010

Picture of the Week No.35 - Cotman & Holland

Over the weekend I caught a fascinating programme on the BBC iPlayer called  'Churches: How to Read Them'. As someone whose university days featured several illuminating and entertaining architecture walks where we were prompted to name various features of buildings, or to try and work out the various ages of different parts of churches, this took me back and gave me a big of hit of those Gothic and Early English styles, which I have come to admire. They remind me also of William Burges, who was such a imaginative yet scholarly applier of 11th and 12th century Gothic details in his Revivalist designs, and who our own VP has been studying for future displays here at the Cecil Higgins.

For Picture of the Week this week I've selected two detailed views of eclesiastical architecture that show different periods of church design. The first, by John Sell Cotman depicts a Romanesque archway in Norwich Cathedral, which was built between 1096-c.1140, when Bishop Herbertwanted to move the centre of religious power in East Anglia from Thetford to Norwich. The subject of James Holland's study is the Edward the Confessor Chapel at Westminster Abbey. The Abbey has been substantially altered since Edward the Confessor started the current building (although not the first abbey on the site) in 1065, with Henry III rebuilding much including the Chapel to the Confessor in the "French Style" - later named Gothic in the Reanissance. The iconic Great West Towers we built betwee1722 and 1745 by Nicholas Hawksmoor in an early example of a Gothic Revival design. KP

JOHN SELL COTMAN (1782-1842)
The Interior of the Nave, Norwich Cathedral, c.1807

watercolour and black lead on paper, 33.1 x 22.1 cm
Acession No. P.695

This is one of a series of about ten drawings Cotman made of the interior of Norwich Cathedral.

Painted c.1807, this shows the pillars on the northern side immediately west of the organ screen, seen from the centre of the nave. The tomb is that of Sir James Hobart, now almost hidden by pews.

The 1982-3 catalogue (see below) comments: ‘Nothing shows more clearly Cotman’s artistic power at this time than the way this rather ungainly corner of the Cathedral became the vehicle for one of the most poetic interior pieces he ever did’.EJ

PROVENANCE: Acquired from the artist by Rev. James Bulwer, then by descent; Walker’s Galleries Ltd.; 1926 bought by Sydney Kitson; Elisabeth and Alice Barbara Kitson, given to Gallery, May 1973.

EXHIBITIONS: John Sell Cotman (The Bulwer Collection), London, Walker’s Galleries Ltd., 1926, no.8; Oxford, Oxford Art Club, 1928, catalogue not traced; Twee Eeuwem Engelse Kunst, Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, 1936, no.181; Watercolour Drawings by J.R.Cozens and J.S.Cotman, Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, 1937, no.32; The English Tradition: an exhibition of watercolours from two private collections, Bedford, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, 1972, no.18; John Sell Cotman, London, V&A, Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery and Bristol, Bristol City Art Gallery, 1982-3, no.62

REFERENCES: S. Kitson, The Life of John Sell Cotman, 1937, p.107, pl.43; M. Pidgley, John Sell Cotman’s Patrons and The Romantic Subject Pictures in the 1820s and 1830s, 1975, p.79, no.252; L. Herrmann, Nineteenth Century British Painting, 2000, p.51. fig.36.

JAMES HOLLAND (1799-1870)
Edward the Confessor’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey, 1834

pencil and watercolour on paper, 26.3 x 17.5 cm, inscribed: J.Holland 1834
Accession No.P.349
 This drawing was formerly thought to depict Canterbury Cathedral.

This is a watercolour sketch for either the oil painting Part of St.Edward’s Chapel with the tombs of Edward III and his Queen Phillippa, exhibited at the Society of British Artists in 1835, or for another version, also an oil, exhibited at the British Institution in 1835 entitled St.Edward’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey.

Rebuilt by Edward the Confessor c.1050-65, Westminster Abbey is the earliest example of the Norman Style in England. The Confessor’s shrine was commissioned by Henry III before he began the new abbey in 1241.EJ/CB

PROVENANCE: W.G. Walford; P&D Colnaghi Ltd, from whom purchased by Gallery, July 1960.

EXHIBITIONS: James Holland Bi-Centennial Exhibition, Stoke-on-Trent, The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, 1999, no cat.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Alan Davie at 90

Today (Tuesday 28th September 2010)  is the  90th birthday of one of Britain's most esteemed artists. Alan Davie first made an impact with his unique brand of abstract painting in the late 1940s and the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery first acquired one of his works in 1959 - and not without controversy, but more on that later. A further work was purchased in the 1970s, but after the release of the 2004 Cecil Higgins Art Gallery Print Catalogue, Davie donated a major collection of his print and gouache works to the gallery.

Over the next few days you'll be able to view all of the works in our collection by Davie, get an insight into his print making process, and read the fascinating  debate provoked by the Gallery's 1959 purchase of 'First Movement in Pink'.

UPDATE: Alan Davie Collection now viewable here

First we'll start with a biography of the artist.

Broad Horizons: Alan Davie (1920- )
Alan Davie's experience of the Second World War was unusual. Having left his home town of Grangemouth, Scotland, a year earlier to take an entrance scholarship to study at the Edinburgh College of art, he had been sent to join the Royal Artillery in the middle of the English countryside. Instead of discovering, as many did, the harsh realities of war, Davie discovered nature, drew his fellow gunner-men, and planted a garden. His eyes were opened to a new way of life - one where the quality of ones existence was of the utmost importance. 

Davie turned his back on painting to be a jazz musician after the war, as this seemed a better way to achieve what he wanted from life. Again, it was travel that opened his eyes to new possibilities. In 1948 he finally took up a traveling scholarship awarded at Edinburgh and went with his wife, Bili, who he had married in 1946, to Venice. The city was then hosting the first Biennale since the war. The great art collector Peggy Guggenheim had been given use of a tent originally allocated to Greece, then in civil war. Seeing the Surrealist works of Max Ernst and Joan Miro, and the early mythological paintings of the American artists Pollock, Rothko, Gorky and Matta had a profound effect on Davie: these pictures, steeped in Jungian theory of the universal unconscious, and with mythological names and references, showed Davie new possibilities in the purpose of painting. He re-started work immediately and was instantly well received when within a short space of time he held an exhibition in Venice. By the the time he returned to England, he had already established a reputation as an artist.
Throughout the next few years hes painting was accompanied by work as a goldsmith, silversmith and jeweller. He was inspired by American, Celtic and Syrian goldwork. In 1959 this new direction led him to become a jewellery tutor at Central School of Arts and Crafts in London.
Although never a household name, he has always enjoyed a high level of respect from other artists. From 1951 to 1974 the Davie family spent summer in Cornwall and Davie knew most of the second generation St. Ives group: Patrick Heron, Terry Frost, Bryan Winter, Peter Lanyon, and Paul Feile. Davie met Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and others in New York in 1956. By 1959, Davie had held solo shows in New York (1956) and at the Whitechapel in London (1958), been bought by the Museum of Modern Art and the Tate, and heralded by The Times as ‘an artist who bids to be recognized as the most remarkable British painter to have emerged in recent years’ (6th March, 1958).

During the 1960s and '70s Davie explored his new found passion for gliding, completing over 2000 hours of flying. He found 'a sort of mysterious realm away from everyday reality, one very close to natural forces', as he put it, that was analogous to painting.

Alan Davie at work in his studio in the 1950s (left) and his studio in the late 1990s. Photos: copyright of the artist.

Davie is fascinated by the art of other cultures. He sees within them a less materialistic life and a greater emphasis on spirituality. His art making process is not a practice that involves the production of art-objects for public appraisal or consumer demand, but one that seeks to unify the artist with a more spiritual existence.

As his art has developed, Davie has evolved how he uses improvisation within his work. Like Miro’s use of automatic drawing as a design for a painting, Davie’s later works are often more likely to be based on an intuitive sketch than constructed through the painting process directly on the canvas.  In a 1993 interview with Art Review magazine he said of this process:

You can’t deny consciousness completely. You must have rules. Without a system you can perhaps achieve a beautiful chaos which is itself exciting up to a point, but it’s not until we impose restrictions on ourselves that important things begin to happen.[1 (Art Review, May 1993, (vol. XLV) p4.)

The images that Davie use are part of a wider ranging interest in the ‘other’ and the exotic. From his Zen Buddhism, through his Jazz playing and his gliding, Davie seeks experiences and ways of being that are intuitive and in some way ‘freer’.

Art is an intimate meditation process involving some kind of communion with the gods, it’s got nothing to do with communing with the public, as if it was some kind of show business. Art can exist without the public. I’m not interested in what anybody else thinks. I’m in it entirely for myself, and if someone else is on the same wavelength all well and good; if not, then forget it. But art should give people a kind of uplift, an understanding of the mystery of life itself. It should take people out of their mere selves into another realm. What one should get from art is a kind of inspiration and revelation. You should be taken out of yourself and lifted of the ground.”(ibid. p4.)

Davie continues to work in his home in Hertfordshire.
You can view a number of his works by Alan Davie across his career on the Tate website.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Picture of the Week No.34 & New Acquisition

Williangton Stable, S. R. Badmin

I am cheating a bit this week and combining picture of the week with a blog about a new acquisition, but in my defence it’s been a busy airship filled week. This morning I have had a bit of a break from the dirigibles and have accessioned our newest acquisition, a watercolour by Stanley Roy Badmin (1906-1989). Its subject is the Willington Stable built in the 1530’s by Sir John Gostwick, which along with its companion dovecote, is the only building owned by the National Trust in Bedfordshire.

Badmin’s career was similar to Edward Bawden’s, both blurred the lines of fine and commercial art, by exhibiting watercolours as well as illustrating books and producing posters and adverts for companies such as London Transport and Shell. ‘The Old Stable’ is a lovely example of the kind of topographically precise work Badmin produced as part of the ‘Recording Britain Scheme’. Intended to boost national morale, the scheme was set up by Sir Kenneth Clark as an extension of the Official War Artist Scheme, to celebrate the home front’s natural beauty and architectural heritage.

You can find out more about the Recording Britain Scheme and see more of Badmin’s work on the VandA Website.

If you would like to visit the Willington Stable and Dovecote be quick as it looks like this Sunday is the last opening of the year.


Monday, September 20, 2010


Bedford Borough Council’s flagship arts and heritage facilities Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum has secured an award of £959,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) towards the planned redevelopment of the facilities, specifically for improvements to buildings and the fit-out of new exhibition spaces. The award will signal the start of the work at the Art Gallery & Museum following confirmation of the Council’s £3.6m investment earlier this year.

Mayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson, said:

“This is great news for the Borough. The injection of nearly a million pounds, added to the Council’s £3.6 million investment and other generous contributions means that we will be able to start work to turn the exciting plans into a reality. We want to make Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum the place to go for residents to enjoy art and culture, meet friends and bring visitors to the Borough.”

Cllr Doug McMurdo, Portfolio Holder for Arts and Leisure, at Bedford Borough Council, added:

“We are delighted with this announcement, and thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for this award, which will allow us to work and pull the facilities together. The art gallery and museum are already home to excellent exhibits - now we plan to display them in a high quality venue which will help make Bedford Town Centre an even more attractive place to visit.”

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund, East of England, said:

“This exciting project will completely transform Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum, making the wonderful collections fully accessible to local communities and offering new opportunities for people to learn from and enjoy them. It will help draw together the cultural heritage of Bedford and tell the stories of communities across the town and local area. This redevelopment has the potential to reinvigorate this heritage site, making them a key heritage attraction in the heart of the town.”

The £6.6m Redevelopment Project will involve the complete redesign and redisplay of the galleries in Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum. The revitalised buildings, with new galleries, collection stores, spaces for learning activities and corporate hire, shop and café will be an excellent resource for local people and visitors to Bedford right in the heart of the cultural quarter at Castle Lane.

This major grant will enable the Borough Council to progress the project to the next stage, namely to work up detailed building and exhibition designs and place the work out to tender; tenders are then expected back in March 2011, followed by the works starting in May 2011. The works, including the design of new exhibition spaces and displays, are expected to take approximately 18 months with the facilities re-opening in late 2012 or early 2013. Meanwhile Bedford Museum will close on Sunday 17 October, following which all museum artefacts will be carefully packed away and stored off-site in readiness for the works.

Click here to download information about our redevelopment plans

Click here to fill in an online survey about our plans

Please click here to download Frequently Asked Questions regarding the redevelopment.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Picture of the Week No.33 - Edward Bawden

We have been so busy putting up the ‘R100 & R101 Airships at Cardington exhibition’ and admiring our new Paul Catherall prints that we have completely neglected our picture of the week duties! As an apology I offer up Edward Bawden’s ‘The Pagoda, Kew Gardens’ for your viewing pleasure. Bawden was fascinated with Kew Gardens, and like Brighton, he returned to it as a subject throughout his career. What you won’t be able to see from this image is the scale of the picture, it’s over a meter tall which caused Bawden’s assistant to be print it in a unique way…. by stomping on it with his feet. This however wasn’t the strangest way to produce linocuts, some of the sample wallpapers Bawden produced with John Aldrich in the 1930’s were printed by driving a Rolls Royce over the blocks. VP


The Pagoda, Kew Gardens

12 colour linocut, 115 x 66.7 cm
inscribed: The Pagoda, Kew 4/50 Edward Bawden
From his student days at the R.C.A., the landscaping, flora and architecture at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew had fascinated Bawden. He would spend many warm weekends at Kew making numerous sketches. Various aspects of the Gardens were to feature throughout is work from the 1920s, through the advertising material of the 1930s to the large linocuts of the 1960s.
PROVENANCE: Bequeathed by the artist to the Gallery, given via The Fine Art Society, August 1990

R100 & R101 graphics!

We are working hard installing the new exhibition 'R100 & R101 Airships at Cardington' and even though there is a still lot to do (and I mean a lot!) we thought we would give you a quick sneak peak. Yesterday vinyls of the exhibition artwork by Paul Catherall arrived and we are all very happy with them. One stretches the length of the far wall and makes a huge statement as you come in. We hope you will all like them too. VP



Thursday, September 9, 2010

What's On leaflet

Not only does the new leaflet contain all of the fantastic exhibitions, talks, family days and activities to keep the kids happy over half-term, it also looks fab with the new Paul Catherall artwork on the front cover. Pick one up in the museum and keep up to date with all that's happening at Chag&Bm (or frame it!).

Paul Catherall R100 & R101 Artwork

If you've picked up our What's On leaflet in Bedford over the past few days, you may have been taken by the striking design on the cover.....

To celebrate the forthcoming R100 & R101: Airships at Cardington exhibition the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum have commissioned an exclusive artwork from renowned linocut printmaker and illustrator, Paul Catherall.

Paul Catherall has previously been commissioned by such high-profile names as Transport for London, British Airways and the Southbank Centre.

His strong, clear lines and bold colours have depicted such iconic buildings as the Eiffel Tower, St. Paul’s Cathedral, 30 St. Mary’s Axe (otherwise known as the ‘Gherkin’) by Foster + Partners, and Battersea Power Station. Now the sheds at Cardington join that illustrious list.

The work is entirely hand made throughout the drawing, carving, and editioning stages and the final design is printed with highest quality oil based inks on acid-free paper. The dimensions of the works are 76.4 x 56.4cm

The Art Gallery and Museum originally only asked for one design, but inspired by the iconic forms of the airships and the sheds the artist decided to increase the work he produced to three striking variations at no extra cost. The primary image that will feature on the poster for the exhibition depicts the sheds, R100, and R101 in shades of blue. The other two are in stark black and white with different numbers of airships on each, that evoke the paintings of dazzle ships by Edward Wadsworth, one of Catherall’s favourite artists. We love them all, and are thrilled with the outcome. The exhibition is in the process of being put together as we speak and we hope this is going to be a really popular exhibition.
A very limited run of the prints will be available to buy at £375 each, and the exhibition poster will also be available to buy. We are currently in the process of putting together a range of merchandise with the commissioned artwork.

All images copyright of the artist and Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum, 2010.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wednesday 1st September
Our curators will be ready and waiting today to answer all your questions about museums and collections, or whatever you want to ask about!
You can ask the Art Gallery & Museum questions via Twitter on @chagandbm or on Facebook, or you can ask them in person at Bedford Gallery from 12-4pm. Head of Collections and Exhibitions, Tom Perrett is tweeting from Berlin so contact him via @tjperrett.Our keepers of Social History, Archaeology and Fine & Decorative Arts are all on hand too.
This event is part of the national 'Ask a curator' day. Visit for more information and follow the #askacurator hashtag to see the international conversation.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Picture of the Week No. 32 - Edward Wadsworth

We're all very excited about the imminent launch of our commissioned Paul Catherall artwork which we should be able to show you here next week. Designed for R100 and R101: Airships in Cardington, 2nd October-19th December, the finished work will be on the poster and available to buy as a very limited edition linocut and as an exhibiton poster, as well as on a range of merchandise. One of Paul Catherall's artistic heroes is Edward Wadsworth, who is perhaps most famous for his paintings the First World War dazzle ships. Dazzle camouflage was intended not to hide the ship but confuse the outline of the ship un order to disguise its direction and distance in the eyes of a submarine periscope operator. The modern appearance of the ships evoked cubism and it is of little surprise that a Modernist artist such as Wadsworth supervised the camouflaging of many of the ships painted at Liverpool. This week, as I've been away for a few weeks, I'll show you two of the Wadsworths in the collection, and they arequite different pieces. The first is a pencil study of a Marseilles street in a stylised but realist manner. The second, a bold and cubist composition using repeated forms and motifs and a limited pallete of red, pink, black, white, and maroon. KP

EDWARD WADSWORTH, A.R.A. (1889-1949)
Street in Marseilles (also known as Hospice de la Charité, Marseilles), 1924
pencil on paper, 47.9 ´ 22.8 cm
inscribed: Edward Wadsworth 1924
Acession No. P.329

Marseilles and the nearby naval base at Toulon enjoyed a reputation in the early 1920s as a bohemian centre for artists and writers. Wadsworth was amongst the first English artists to go there, with others such as Edward BURRA, and Paul NASH following soon after.

It was during this period that he fell out with Wyndham LEWIS whose novel, The Apes of God, railed against 'champagne bohemia' and criticized many from Wadsworth’s circle of friends.

PROVENANCE: The artist’s widow; Mayor Gallery, from whom purchased by Gallery, January 1960.
EXHIBITIONS: Edward Wadsworth Memorial Exhibition, London, Tate Gallery, 1951 as no. 75,76, or 77 (all three have the same date and virtually identical measurements); Edward Wadsworth, 1889-1949, Bradford, Cartwright Hall, 1989-1990, no.86 as Hospice de la Charité.
REFERENCES: J. Lewison (ed.), A Genius of Industrial England. Edward Wadsworth 1889-1949, 1990, p.47, no.86, repr. as Hospice de la Charité, Marseille.

'Composition, 1930', 1930

pencil and bodycolour on paper, 35.3 ´ 50.9 cm
inscribed: E WADSWORTH 1930
Acession No. P.327

Wadsworth was born at Cleckheaton in 1889, the son of Fred Wadsworth, a well known name in the worsted spinning industry of Yorkshire. He studied at the Knirr Art School, Munich, the Bradford School of Art and the Slade 1910-12. He befriended Wyndham LEWIS and exhibited in London with the Vorticists and various other independent groups.

His war service was as an intelligence officer in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve based at Mudros, on the Aegean isle of Lemnos. He was invalided home in 1917 and later engaged with dazzle camouflage at various English ports.

In the 1930s Wadsworth was a member with Ben NICHOLSON, Paul NASH and others of Unit 1 and was also commissioned to make two paintings for the liner Queen Mary.

PROVENANCE: Mrs Wadsworth the artist’s widow, from whom purchased by Gallery, January 1960.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lunchtime Lecture

I have just given the last in our series of lunchtime talks to accompany the Stanley Lewis exhibition on Augustus John, thank you to everyone who came; I hope you all enjoyed it. For those of you who missed it you can read it here.
The picture on the right is of Augustus's wife Ida Nettleship from the Cecil Higgins collection.

That’s it for art related talks until Toulouse-Lautrec in January but there are lots of fascinating R101 Airship talks coming up which we will keep you posted on.


Picture of the Week No.31 - Jankel Adler

KP is off on holiday for a couple of weeks so GH and I are going to take it in turns to choose a picture of the week. This week it’s my pick and as I don’t regularly do it I am having trouble choosing. I try not to play favourites with the collection but if you pushed me I would have to say Edward Bawden, Dora Carrington, John Piper or Paul Nash, hence there is usually a work by one of them in our exhibitions. However I am very fickle so in my ten years here I have changed my mind regularly. Last week I was waxing lyrical over a Samuel Palmer, and this week I have been looking at our Augustus’s Johns with renewed interest.

I tend to like a picture because it’s beautiful or how it makes me feel, but some of my favourites are my favourites because I am so familiar with them. Such as Dora Carrington’s ‘Lytton Stratchey’, which a copy of hung on my bedroom wall for about ten years and which is the first picture I visit when ever I go to the National Portrait Gallery, or Howard Hodgkin’s ‘After Degas’ because it reminds me of the Hayward exhibition my mum took me to in the nineties which made me think working in an art gallery would be great.

So my choice this week is Portrait of Mr Murray by Jankel Adler, for two reasons firstly it is a beautiful study, the lines on his eyes draw me in but secondly it reminds me of Kirkcudbright where I spent all my childhood holidays. Adler spent about six months in Kirkcudbright after he was invalided out of the army in 1941, like St Ives, Kirkcudbright was a popular place amongst artists including Jessie M King and E A Hornel who on being asked why Kirkcudbright attracted such talent said "Well, it's a fine old town and not too big, but big enough to keep you from vegetating." Kirkcudbright was certainly more than that, with unspoilt views, the sea only a moment away and the beautiful architecture, the small town was the perfect place for Adler to recuperate.

Portrait of Mr. Murray

ink on paper, 51 ´ 43.8 cm
inscribed: Adler
Portrait drawing of Mr.Murray of Kirkudbright by Jankel Adler 1942

Adler was born in Poland and studied art in Düsseldorf before being conscripted into the Russian army in the 1914-18 war. He went to Germany after the war where he lectured at the Akademie der Kunst, Düsseldorf, until his work was declared ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis. He moved to France where he worked with S. W. Hayter (1901-1988) at the Atelier 17. When he enlisted in the Polish Free Army during the Second World War, he was sent to Scotland (where he drew this portrait) before settling in London. His images have been described as being ‘expressive of a melancholy acceptance of fate’, of which the sitter here is a striking example.

Kircudbright is in Dumfriesshire but the local library has no trace of Mr Murray.