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.