Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Acquisition - Edward Bawden Manuscript

Peyton Skipworth introduces the new acquistion to local Art Fund members and the Friends of the Art Gallery & Museum.

We've just made an exciting new addition to our Edward Bawden collection. We are pleased to announce the purchase of A General Guide to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Spring and Easter 1923, with the assistance of the Art Fund and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. Bawden designed this beautiful illuminated manuscript as a young man and gave it to his close friend, the artist Eric Ravilious. It remained unpublished and was was designed as a mock-up guide book to Kew Gardens, a favourite haunt of the artist throughout his career. A pencil inscription indicates that this manuscript was the artist’s first book.

The book was purchased for £30,000 towards which the Art Fund and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund each gave £10,000..

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said: "The vibrant, stylish illustrations and lettering in this work capture the sleek style of 1920s graphic design and exemplify Bawden’s flair for colour and composition. It is wonderful that this rare manuscript – the artist’s first book – has now been acquired for the Cecil Higgins Gallery and Bedford Museum, where it will be cherished within the wider Bawden collection for years to come."

The manuscript is on display in the Lower Gallery in Bedford Gallery from today, alongside a copy of Adam and Evelyn at Kew, or Revolt in the Gardens (1930)by Robert Herring, which Bawden illustrated in 1930 with designs based his earlier unpublished work.

A General Guide to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Spring and Easter 1923 comprises 23 pages worked with watercolour, graphite, bodycolour, drawing ink, graphite and printed text collaged together on edge-gilt pages.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Consultation Evening

We are having a consultation evening to give you the opportunity to discuss the new plans for the Art Gallery and Museum. Pop in to Bedford Gallery's Lower Gallery between 4pm and 7pm on Thursday 24th June to talk to our staff about any questions you may have on the redevelopment. You can also enjoy our exhibiton 'The Unknown Artist: Stanley Lewis and his Contemporaries' during your visit.

You can view the plans here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Picture of the Week No.26 - Richard Westall

This week I have selected a work by Richard Westall, the artist and illustrator best known for his portraits of the poet Byron. The picture shows three figures against a dramatic and foreboding sky, and though exact subject of this work has been questioned, the piece is the epitome of the late 18th century eclectic taste known as the Picturesque, of which the fanciful style Gothick is a part. Gothick, as opposed to the the more historically accurate Gothic or Gothic Revival, described a style that playfully took inspiration from medieval art and design and in architecture is most clearly defined in Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill, which used papier maché to create artificial fan vaulting. It was part of a mood that saw a great revival in interest in Shakespeare and Milton's works and many artists created pictures based on their writings.
RICHARD WESTALL, R.A. (1765-1836)Macbeth and the Witches c.1797
pen and ink, with washes of grey and yellow, over black lead on paper, 21.6 ´ 15.6 cm
inscribed: Collector's mark of the Second Earl of Warwick (1746-1816)


The subject was a popular one with 18th-century artists, most notably Henri FUSELI. Westall was a prolific illustrator of Milton, Gray, Crabbe and Shakespeare. He also wrote some poems and instructed the future Queen Victoria in drawing.

Iolo Williams observes that much of Westall's work contains an element of the ludicrous, citing 'a rather over‑dramatised’ sleep-walking scene from Macbeth in the V&A (Dyce 912), of similar size to this drawing. His most successful watercolours are those which include a landscape element.

PROVENANCE: The Second Earl of Warwick; Roland, Browse and Delbanco, from whom purchased by Gallery, 1958.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Stanley Lewis Video Clip

A short film about the artist Stanley Lewis by Oldham College media students. Includes an interview with the artist's Daughter Jenny Heywood-Lewis.

Stanley Lewis - The Orchard House Years

Oldham College Media | MySpace Video

Picture of the Week No.25 - Eric Ravilious

Now the Stanley Lewis exhibition is all up and running I'm starting to think about my free lunchtime lecture at Bedford Gallery on July 7th. 'An Extraordinary Outbreak of Talent - The Royal College of Art in the 1920s' will look at the talented individuals at the college alongside Lewis and the atmosphere in the English art scene that the RCA was part of, including, of course the dominance of the 'Slade ethos' and emphasis on drawing skills. The title of the lecture comes from Paul Nash's description of Edward Bawden and Eric Ravillious who, like Lewis, came to the RCA on provincial scholarships in the 1920s. Which gives me the perfect excuse to bring out Observers Post for this weeks picture of the week. The thing that really marks out Rav's beautiful watercolours is his effortless build up of colour and tone with thinly applied dryish brush strokes. The marks are clear and visible, objects and scenes are rendered in a crispness that fills the scene with light and air and well observed details.

For more details on the programme of free lectures which start on 23rd June with Head of Collections, Tom Perret's introduction to the exhibiton click here. KP

ERIC RAVILIOUS (1903-1942)

Observer’s Post c.1939-40

Accession number: P.223

watercolour and graphite on paper, 43.4 ´ 58.4 cm
inscribed: Eric Ravilious

Ravilious studied at the Design School of the R.C.A 1922-5, meeting Edward
BAWDEN; whilst there he came under the influence of Paul NASH. He was a watercolourist
mainly of topographical subjects, many of which lack figures, giving them a
haunted look. He also worked as an engraver and designer, from 1937 designing china for Wedgwood.
He and Bawden painted murals for the Refreshment Room, Morley College, London,
1928 (destroyed in an air-raid, 1940). Bawden credited Ravilious for his 'skill
in organising space and in creating in it figures to be sent dancing and
swinging in ballet movement across the walls'.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, he joined the Royal Observer Corps, but in February 1940 he became an Official War Artist attached to the Royal Marines.

Ravillious died on active service in September 1942 when he tragically disappeared on a mission over Iceland. EJ

PROVENANCE: Leicester Galleries; Miss Raymond; Redfern Gallery, from whom purchaed by Gallery, April 1958.

EXHIBITIONS: Contemporary British Artists, London, Leicester Galleries, 1941, no.3; Eric Ravilious, Sheffield, Graves Art Gallery, 1958, no.79.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Independent features Stanley Lewis

The Independent art section (or TheIndyArts to twitterers!) have featured Stanley Lewis and the exhibition which opens on Saturday in today's paper and now online at http://ind.pn/bp7m0T.

Take a look, they've put a fab sneak preview of the show on their In Pictures image player too. KP

Stanley Lewis Exhibition Pack

We have put together an exhibition pack for visitors, students or teachers to download including all of the panel texts and label information, so feel free to browse through it now or come back after your visit.

Click here to download.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Twitter Peeps

You can now find the curatorial team individually on Twitter alongside the usual feed from @chagbm

Tom Perrett, Head of Collections and Exhibitions is on @tjperrett
Victoria Partridge, Keeper of Fine and Decorative Arts is on @PartridgeO
Gemma Hutton, Sales and Marketing Officer is on
Kristian Purcell, Curatorial Assistant is on

We all try and give a personal glimpse into the behind-the-scenes working of an art gallery and museum and we have an exciting time ahead with our redevelopment plans, as well as reflecting our different interests and roles.

Stanley Lewis in The Telegraph

Interest in the story of Stanley Lewis, who's first major exhibition opens on Saturday (12 June) less than a year after his death at 103 years of age, has reached the national press, with The Telegraph featuring an article on the Welsh artist in today's art section. We're hoping this will start the ball rolling and have high hopes for this fascinating show, with Lewis's large mural works looking stunning in a modern gallery space for the first time.

To read the article click on the image, left, or on the long link below.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Picture of the Week No.24 - Walter Crane

Regular followeres of Picture of the week may have noticed a penchant for black and white in my selections, and with so many elegant wood cuts and atmospheric lithographs in the collection its easy to see why my eye is often led in this direction. The crisp pen lines of Walter Crane (1845-1915) have caught me this time in an intricate illustration for Edmund Spenser's (1552-99) Faerie Queen. The catalogue entry from our publication of Watercolours & Drawings follows below. I promise I'll let you have a bit of colour next week! KP

WALTER CRANE, R.W.S. (1845-1915)
Illustration to Spenser’s Faerie Queene c.1897
Pen and ink on paper, 24.3 ´ 19.5 cm
inscribed: with monogram

At last when they were passed out of sight
Yet she did not her spightfull speach for
But after them did barke, & still backbite,
Though there were none her hateful words
iv.viii.xxxvj. to heare


Published in 1897, by George Allen, Walter Crane produced a series of black and white drawings to accompany the six volumes.

Edmund Spenser (?1552-1599) began his masterpiece, The Faerie Queene, in 1579; the first three books were published in 1590 and Books IV-VI in 1596. This drawing illustrates the lines from Book IV given above. Prince Arthur, the hero of the poem, is seeking the Faerie Queene with whom he has fallen in love in a vision. He comes upon Aemilia (lover of the Squire of Low Degree) and Amoret (loved by Scudamour); they are in a wretched state so he puts them up on his horse and takes them to a cottage nearby. This is owned by an old hag, Slander, who insults them and when they depart in the morning, pursues them with vile words - as she is seen doing here.

Crane was an engraver, designer, painter and, above all, an illustrator. His pre-eminence in this field, together with Randolph CALDECOTT and Kate Greenaway (1846-1901), owed much to the enterprise and artistic skill of Edmund Evans, who published much of their best work.

Many of Crane’s watercolour designs for book illustrations and several of his landscape studies are now in the V&A. EJ

PROVENANCE: Elkin Matthews Ltd; P&D Colnaghi, from whom purchased by Gallery, January 1958.
EXHIBITIONS: Knights, Chivalry, Romance, Legend, Newcastle upon Tyne, Laing Art Gallery 1995, no cat.
REFERENCES: E. Spenser with illustrations by W. Crane, The Faerie Queene, 1897, volume IV.