Twentieth century British Abstraction, figuration and everything in-between features in the Ingram Collection, which is currently having a major airing of its treasures at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Cumbria
Abbot Hall Gallery has built a reputation for showing high quality work by British artists working in the twentieth century, and their latest exhibition LAND | SEA | LIFE mines one of the best public/private collections of art from the period, The Ingram Collection of Modern British Art.
Collected by entrepreneur, advertising man and philanthropist Chris Ingram, who began collecting in 2002, from its base at the Lightbox Gallery in Woking, the Ingram Collection is shared via galleries, schools and even prison across the UK.
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At the Cumbrian gallery, the emphasis is on the best of British to emerge from 20th century art and they have brought together over seventy works of art from a roll call of artists that includes Barnett Freedman, Ben Nicholson, Christopher Wood, David Jones, Graham Sutherland, Henry Moore, John Craxton, John Minton, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Barbara Hepworth and Laura Knight – to name-drop just a few of the nigh-on 50 artists on show here.
So what’s new? After all, it sometime feels like the artistic tropes of the British mid-century have been mined to the point of exhaustion, but one of the joys of the Ingram Collection is that, for the time being at least, quite a few of these paintings are unfamiliar to many of us.
Among them is Edward Burra’s atmospheric Landscape near Whitby (1972), which is a rarely seen late, great landscape painting by the artist and Laura Knight’s, Sea and Rocks (c. 1928), which offers a typically agreeable, but overlooked view of interwar Cornwall.
There are other intriguing treasures too, like Mark Gertler’s The Doll (1914), which as one of the earliest paintings on show, has an eerily gentle and surreal quality to it that suggests the qualities of his later, more famous painting, Merry Go Round (1916).
To help visitors navigate their way through these treasures, a broad range of themes represents what the artists were engaging with in terms of subject and developments in artistic practice.
Landscape features stunning works by Burra, Alan Reynolds, Keith Vaughan, Frank Auerbach and Carel Weight among others reflecting both urban and pastoral British panoramas, whilst works by Knight, John Piper, Terry Frost and Patrick Heron focus upon Boats and the Sea.
A final subject of Life brings together several sub-themes including Still Life and the Figure displaying work by significant artists from the period such as Gertler, Barbara Hepworth, David Bomberg, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Eric Gill and the famous reclining figures of Henry Moore.
“The golden rule is only buy what you like and enjoy”
But beyond the artworks another interesting theme emerges from the exhibition; that of the collector through Ingram’s own passions, motivations and inspirations.
“The golden rule is only buy what you like and enjoy,” he says. “Regardless of what people tell you and whatʼs fashionable. Always start with what you like.”
Visitors are being encouraged to reflect on this advice and share their own experiences of collecting by Visitors are invited to share their own collections and motivations for collecting by populating a wall of contributions as part of the exhibition, and to perhaps stop and ponder the collections that they never realised they had.
“As in any walk of life you need to study and learn – practice makes perfect! So build up a bit of expertise,” adds Ingram, who says it’s fine to have an eclectic assortment of things, “but if you focus in you become more of an expert, you learn the ins and outs more. It really becomes a collection then.”
As luck would have it, Ingram’s taste in British art of the twentieth century is both fashionable and cohesive, as visitors to this perfectly balanced overview of British art of the twentieth century will discover for themselves.
The Ingram Collection works in partnership with galleries, innovative spaces and new artistic talent to bring art to the widest possible audience. Find out more at www.ingramcollection.com
LAND | SEA | LIFE is at Abbott Hall Art Gallery until February 17 2018. You can share pictures of your own collections with Abbot Hall Art Gallery on Facebook @AbbotHall #MyCollection
Abbot Hall Art Gallery
The award-winning Abbot Hall Art Gallery is a Grade 1 listed building with a national reputation for showing world-class contemporary and historic works. Conveniently located in the town centre, Abbot Hall enjoys a pretty riverside setting. Just a stone's throw from the leafy Abbot Hall Park and Kendal Parish Church,…