Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Take a look at our new exhibitions page on the tab above or click here. Below is just one of the fascinating exhibitons coming up in our fantistic new exhibition space, Bedford Gallery, located on Castle Lane behind the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery.

Coming Next at Bedford Gallery...

The Unknown Artist: Stanley Lewis and his contemporaries
Bedford Gallery
Saturday 12th June – Sunday 5th September 2010

Born in 1905, Stanley Lewis was described as one of the most important artists of his generation. From his time at the Royal College of Art (1925 – 1930), Lewis continued to paint everyday until his death last year at the age of 103. This will be the first major exhibition of this talented but little-known artist, held alongside works from the Cecil Higgins Collection by Lewis’ tutors and contemporaries, including William Rothenstein, Augustus John and Stanley Spencer.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Picture of the Week No.16 - James Pryde

Over the last few years gouache (or bodycolour) has become one of my favourite mediums. It's chalky finish and its ability to be re-wetted and worked into gives it useful qualities for preparatory work as well as finished studies and it goes well with ink and watercolour. While it can of course be used in neat bold colours and typified by Roger Hilton or Alan Davie in the collection, something about it lends itself very well to monochrome or a muted pallette. This weeks picture of the week is by James Pryde and is a black and white study (with a just a hint of blue) for the oil painting 'The Unknown Corner, and uses the milkyness of diluted white gouache with the flat matt black in a strong and evocative way. KP

JAMES PRYDE (1866-1941)
The Unknown Corner, c.1912

bodycolour on paper, 18.3 ´ 15.3 cm

Accession No.: P.449

Painted c.1912, this is a study for an oil (85.8 x 70.2 cm) exhibited at the Goupil Gallery in 1912 and now belonging to Robert Fleming Holdings (no.559 in the 1992 exhibition).

Pryde was born in Edinburgh, the son of the headmaster of Queen Street Ladies College. Through his mother he was descended from two Scottish artists, Robert Scott Lauder and J.E. Lauder. He studied at the Royal Scottish Academy and then in Paris, for three months under Adolphe - William Bouguereau (1825-1905), before settling in London in 1890. There he joined his brother-in-law, William NICHOLSON, designing posters under the name of ‘J. & W. Beggarstaff’. He produced little after 1925 although he designed sets for Paul Robeson’s Othello in 1930.

PROVENANCE: Piccadilly Gallery, from whom purchased by Gallery, May 1963.
EXHIBITIONS: Watercolours from Bedford, Norwich, Castle Museum, 1965, no.44; James Pryde 1866-1941, Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 1992, no.60.
REFERENCES: James Pryde, 1992, p.100, no.60.
NOTES: There is an oil version of this c.1912, oil on canvas, first exhibited at the Goupil Gallery, 1912, and as The Balcony in Pryde’s one-man show at the Leicester Galleries, 1933 (dimensions 85.8 x 70.2 cm).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Picture of the Week No. 15 - R.P. Bonington

Finding a different picture each week from the collection is a great reminder of some of the fascinating gems in the collection, all those hidden away pictures that are not so well known but all the fresher and more interesting for it. I'm hoping to get the time amidst the packing and exhibiton work here at the gallery to look in focus on certain areas of the collection such the Pre-Raphaelites and the Neo-Romantics, and also bring you some highlights from the Decorative Arts collection. I 've updated the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery page, link below the top banner on this page, with fresh content from a recent talk on the history of the colleciton, so have a peak there too. In the meantime, here's a beautiful study by tragically short-lived Richard Parkes Bonnington. KP

Pile Drivers, Rouen, 1821/2
(click on image for larger version)
black lead on grey wove paper, 35.8 ´ 26.4 cm
inscribed: R.P.B.

Bonington spent much of his short life in France as his family moved in 1817-8 to Calais, where the boy studied with FRANCIA and later in Paris with Baron Gros (1771-1835). There he also became friends with Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), who influenced his costume pictures. Delacroix wrote in 1856 that Bonington had ‘ a sense of mastery, sureness of touch going hand in hand with clear ideas’. Bonington’s brilliant watercolours attracted a host of admirers and imitators in both France and England.

Pile Drivers was sketched at Rouen in 1821, a preliminary study for the slightly later and considerably larger watercolour in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, commissioned by a ‘Miss C.’ for two hundred francs. There is also a watercolour version of the same size in the British Museum.

A critic in the New Monthly Magazine (1 August 1829), reviewing Bonington’s studio sale, praised the rough sketches of pile-driving etc. where ‘it appears as though he had arrested the figures in their progress and transferred then to his paper, there is so much life and reality about them’.

PROVENANCE: Sutton Palmer; Dr John Percy (Lugt 1504); Dr John Percy; Christie’s 22 April 1890, lot 102 as Harbour Scene; Kidson; O’Byrne; Christie’s 3 April 1962, lot 50, purchased by Gallery.
EXHIBITIONS: Watercolours and Drawings from the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery Bedford, London, Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd, 1962, no.23; R. P. Bonington, Nottingham, Castle Museum and Art Gallery, 1965, no.48; Bonington, Cherbourg, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1966, no.20; Richard Parkes Bonington ‘On the Pleasure of Painting’, New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, Paris, Petit Palais, 1992, no.11.
REFERENCES: M. Cormack, Bonington, 1989, p.34, pl.19, P. Noon, Richard Parkes Bonington ‘On the Pleasure of Painting’, 1991, p.95.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gift Ideas for Mothers Day at Bedford Gallery

From notebooks and postcards, to writing sets and wrapping paper, theBedford Gallery Shop has it all. Located in the lower gallery you'll find beautiful artist designed cards from the collection and St. Judes artists amongsts others. Rosehip cards and boxsets and Liberty notebooks sit perfectly alongside the beautifully produced catalogues of the Cecil Higgins collection, including the recently published and very popular Edward Bawden catalogue. Our team regularly update the selection and find interesting gift ideas that connect with the exhibition schedule. Latest additions include books and dvds on Bedfordshire memories and the Jonny Hannah designed poster for the the Clocking In exhibiton.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Picture of the Week No. 14 - Eugène Carrière

Every time I come across a work by Eugène Carrière I am struck by both his individual technique and the ethereal nature of the faces he portrays. This weeks picture is a classic example of a Carrière portrait looming out of a misty wash of ink or paint, making use of a subtractive process to create a likeness by removing rather than adding to the plate. By the 1890s the artist had fully develpoed his atmospheric monochrome style that translates the effects visible in this lithograph into major oil paintings. KP

Eugène CARRIÈRE (1849 - 1906)
Buste de jeune fille, 1890

lithograph, 31 ´ 26 cm (image)
51 ´ 33.8 cm (sheet)
inscribed: in pencil Eugène Carrière and Mme. Emile Javal
on reverse: No.12 Buste de jeune fille Lithographie tiree a une cire

PROVENANCE: Hamilton Galleries, from whom purchased by Gallery, May 1966.
REFERENCES: L.Delteil, Le Peintre-Graveur Illustré (XIX - XX Siècles), 1913, vol.8, no.12.

Carrière was born at Gournay, Seine-et-Oise (now Seine-Saint-Denis) just east of Paris. His father (an insurance salesman) struggled to support his family, and, at the age of two, the family moved to Strasbourg. Carrière's early training was for a career in commercial lithography, but, after seeing works by Rubens in the Louvre, he decided that he would become an artist.

He struggled in his new career, resorting to commercial work in both Paris and London and at the Sèvres porcelain factory (1880-84), where he met Auguste Rodin (1840 - 1917). However, by the late 1880s he had achieved recognition for his work (being made Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur).

His renewed interest in printmaking as an art medium, came about through the encouragement of his friends, and, from 1890 onwards he made a series of lithographs, many of which were used as frontispieces or published for print collectors.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Picture of the Week No.13 - Odilon Redon

As I was flicking through the two catalogues of all the works on paper in the Cecil Higgins Collection I was struck again by the intense black of Odilon Redon's lithography. The recent show of his lithographs at the Fitzwilliam was my favourite exhibition of last year and the catalogue entry for this weeks picture of the week goes some way to describing how Redon moved from his black chalk 'noirs' to these intense prints based on Flaubert's 'The Temptation of St' Anthony'. This entry was written by Julia Nurse of the Wellcome Trust who contributed greatly to the production of our Print catalogue, published in 2004 and available for £35 from the Gallery & Museum. KP

Odilon REDON (1840-1916)
Les Sciapodes: La Tête le plus bas possible, c’est le secret du bonheur (The Skiapods: The Head as low as possible, is the secret of Happiness), 1889
lithograph, 28 × 21.4 cm
inscribed: ODILON REDON in plate

Accession No.: P.494
PROVENANCE: Purchased from Sotheby’s, Lot 180, 9 March 1965.
REFERENCES: A. Mellerio, Odilon Redon: Peintre, Dessinateur et Graveur, cat.no.100, ed. H.Floury, Paris, 1923; T. Gott, The Enchanted Stone: The Graphic World of Odilon Redon, cat.no.66, 1990.
NOTES: Printed on Chine appliqué by Becquet of Paris. Final plate VI from an album of lithographs made for Gustave Flaubert’s La Tentation de Saint Antoine, published by Dumont of Paris, 1889.

Redon was one of the outstanding figures of Symbolism, the French artistic movement at the end of the 19th century, which was characterised by a rejection of direct, literal representation in favour of evocation and suggestion. He frequently drew inspiration from young poets and novelists and vice versa. In this case, he draws on the writings of Gustave Flaubert (1821-80), master of the 19th century French novel, who was preoccupied with the fantastic visions of the temptations of St Antony on which The Skiapods is based. Skiapods were legendary medieval creatures who reputedly lived in Africa. Their name stands for ‘shadow-foot’ which refers to their one-legged appearance with a foot so large that they could lie on their backs and use it as a sunshade.

Prior to 1889, Redon had been drawing, painting and etching for some years, yet he could find no way of showing his works outside the reluctant official institutions. The publication of lithographs, particularly of albums, represented an alternative to exhibitions and enabled Redon to reach the wider audience. Redon used lithographic crayon, hard to create the design, soft to develop the shadows and tones. This graphic medium allowed him to expand on his earlier black chalk drawings, so-called ‘noirs’. He printed almost exclusively on applied China paper (Chine appliqué) which involved transferring the lithographic impression onto a thin sheet of paper while mounted under pressure to a heavier backing paper. This process allowed the ink to be absorbed more than other papers. Production was in limited editions, largely because of his small audience, but also because profit could only be made on up to 100 copies.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Clocking In

Our new exhibition, ‘Clocking In’ opens on 27th February 2010 at Bedford Gallery and continues until 23rd May.

The exhibition will be an exploration into the past, present and future working lives of the people of Bedford. From market trading to brick-making to cutting-edge aerospace research, the working lives of the people of Bedford have always been varied. We will be using interviews with local people, as well as the Art Gallery & Museum collections to illustrate the vibrancy and variety of Bedfordshire life.

The exhibition includes amazing insights in our working day, highlighting what has remained the same but also, how our lives have changed.

‘There were still people in Bedford who believed in what they called gold water, which was the water they washed the gold in, having medicinal properties when they drank it or rubbed it in. His job was to go and retrieve the water that they had washed the gold objects in and hand it out gratuitously to the people of Bedford.’ Richard Stoodley (speaking about his father working at John Bull & Co from 1920 to 1970)

We have commissioned artist Jonny Hannah to design a poster to celebrate the opening of the exhibition. We are very pleased to have limited editions of the poster, printed by Jonny Hannah at ‘Cake and Ale Press’, for sale at the exhibition.

On the 12nd March we will be having a one-off, free screening of British Pathé newsreels. From 2 – 3pm you will be able to see amazing footage of supersonic jets at Thurleigh, Land Army girls on the High Street, and the ‘Super Giant’ of Stewartby. It’s your chance to see the place you live in as you’ve never seen it before.

On Saturday 17th April there will be a chance to discover how Victorian Bedfordian’s would have lived and worked. Earning a Crust: A Victorian Working Day is a free family day at Bedford Museum. There will be lots of activities; you will be able to join in with rag-rug making, washday, writing with quill pen and ink and laying the table for a Victorian dinner party! There will also be folk music provided by Graeme Meek who sings songs inspired by Bedfordshire life, as well as traditional basket weaving from Martin Hazell and you can have a go at lace-making.

Our popular programme of free lunchtime talks will return, beginning with ‘Clocking In: An Introduction’ on Wednesday 3rd March, at Bedford Gallery, 1pm. Other planned talks include more in-depth looks at The Britannia Iron & Steel Works, Bedford High Street and The Elstow Royal Ordnance Factory.