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Monday, 7 August 2017

Abbott Hall Art Gallery: Painting Pop & A Rake's Progress

Abbott Hall is Kendal’s finest historic house and an award winning art gallery which opened in 1962. Exhibitions at Abbott Hall showcase a variety of works by a wealth of international artists. The Georgian period rooms allow glimpses of what life was like in another time and provide views of the River Kent and Kendal Castle.

The collection at Abbot Hall Art Gallery consists predominantly of 18th and 20th century British paintings, due to the nature of the Georgian building and the history of the collection, which began in the 1960s. There is also a significant collection of 19th century watercolours by artists such as J R Cozens, David Cox, Peter De Wint, JMW Turner, John Sell Cotman, John Varley and Edward Lear.

On the ground floor, there are original period rooms, which act as an opulent backdrop to the fine and decorative art collection. On the first floor modern galleries can be found, showcasing a range of exhibitions from the permanent collection, and on loan from other organisations and private collections.

The Gallery possesses a significant collection of works by George Romney, as well as having one of the most comprehensive collections of John Ruskin's drawings and watercolours in the country. There is good representation from the St Ives School with works by Ben Nicholson (one is currently on display), Peter Lanyon, Terry Frost, Roger Hilton and Patrick Heron. Abbot Hall also has a significant group of Lake District works by the German refugee artist Kurt Schwitters, and still life paintings by Winifred Nicholson and the Scottish Colourist, S J Peploe. There is currently a display of works by Kurt Schwitters on the ground floor of the Gallery.

Modern landscape paintings and works on paper are displayed on the first floor by artists such as John Piper, Paul Nash, Bridget Riley and Hughie O’Donoughue. In recent years Abbot Hall Art Gallery has been active in adding contemporary British works to its collection, including Frank Auerbach, Paula Rego, Tony Bevan, and Celia Paul. There is also a growing collection of artist’s prints, including etchings by David Hockney and Lucian Freud, lithographs by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Henry Moore and aquatints by Sean Scully. A work by Barbara Hepworth is on display in the Oval outside Abbot Hall Art Gallery.

The summer exhibition celebrates British Pop Art from the early 1960s, including work by Sir Peter Blake, Pauline Boty, Patrick Caulfield (Christ at Emmaus), Richard Hamilton, David Hockney and Allen Jones borrowed from major collections such as Tate, National Portrait Gallery and Government Art Collection.

The exhibition focuses on the period around 1962, a pivotal year for Pop Art in Britain, presenting works by leading artists in British Pop Art who have made a significant contribution to the development of twentieth century and contemporary art practice. The show presents loans from the Tate collection by Allen Jones and David Hockney. Significant loans are also borrowed from the National Portrait Gallery, Arts Council Collection, and the Royal College of Art – a crucible for Pop painting during this time, as many of the artists in the exhibition met whilst studying there. Another RCA graduate included in the show is Pauline Boty, a largely forgotten artist, represented by her painting Colour Her Gone. This portrait of Marilyn Monroe is shown alongside other important works from public and private collections.

For many people, Pop Art means Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns, this bold, witty and thought-provoking show proves that painting in Britain in the 1960s could be just as inspirational and iconic as that of the Americans.

Also on show is A Rake’s Progress which was made following David Hockney’s first trip to New York in 1961, a visit that marked a transformation in Hockney’s personal and professional life. Hockney’s prints revisit themes in English artist William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, an eighteen-century moral tale presented in a series of 8 engravings.

A Rake’s Progress was Hockney’s first major group of etchings. Since then he has created more than 500 prints. Accomplished in drawing, Hockney developed a natural talent for depiction in line on etching plates. This series of 16 skillfully executed etching and aquatint prints draw on his experience as a visitor to New York in their narrative, featuring a semi-autobiographical character.


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