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The Ingram Collection: A treasure-trove of British twentieth century art at Abbot Hall

a painting of a seascape with rocks in the foreground

Laura Knight, Sea and Rocks. c. 1928. Picture the Estate of Dame Laura Knight. DBE RA 2017

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.

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.

a photo of a spherical sculpture with strings inside

Barbara Hepworth, Sculpture with Colour and Strings.

a painitnbg showing a shoreline and sea

David Jones, Out Tide.

an abstract crayon drawing showing buildings

Frank Aurebach, Mornington Crescent.

an abstract painting with a glowing blue sceptre in the centre

Barbara Hepworth, Construction 1, 1965, (detail) © Bowness. Courtesy of the Ingram Collection of Modern British Art

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.

a painting of a road disappearing over hills

Edward Burra, Near Whitby, Yorkshire, 1972. © Estate of the artist c/o Lefevre Fine Art Ltd, London

an abstact painting with a central white circle

Peter Lanyon, Fossil Land

a watercolour of three men owrking in an orchard

John Minton, The Hop Pickers, 1945. Picture courtesy of the Ingram Collection of Modern British Art

a painting of an anatomical painting doll

Mark Gertler, The Doll. Courtesy The Ingram Collection of Modern British and Contemporary Art

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.”

an abstract wire figurative sculpture of a person with children

Rosemary Young, Women with Children.

a print of sveral ships in a harbour with the words the Ship underneath

John Piper, The Ship. Picture courtesy of the Ingram Collection of Modern British Art © JP Bland 2009

a painting of a beach scene with trees in the foreground

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, untitled view of St Ives.
Photography by Simon Cook

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.

a photo of a pair of cast hands

Eduardo Paolozzi, Hands of the Sculptor, 1996. © JP Bland 2016

a photo of a grren bronze in a figurative abstract shape

Kenneth Armitage, Pandarus: variation. 1962. Picture © The Kenneth Armitage Foundation/Bridgeman Images.


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

Kendal, Cumbria

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,…

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