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Ecclesistical & Heritage World No.89

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A great British summer at the Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum is forecasting a Great British Summer, with the launch of a major new exhibition and the opening of new galleries.

Ecclesiastical & Heritage World Bowes MuseumBritish Sporting Art, which opens on Tuesday 11 May, will explore the genre of Sporting Art in Britain, from horseracing and hunting to boxing, football, cricket and ratting!

Central to the theme of the exhibition, which will include works by George Stubbs, Sir Alfred Munnings and George Morland, is John Bowes, the founder of the Museum and the first man to lift the renowned Triple Crown. Inspired by Bowes’ love for horseracing and its importance to the story behind The Bowes Museum, this exhibition will explore his prolific racing career and the wider genre of Sporting Art.

The branch of painting which has come to be known as British Sporting Art was at its height during the 18th Century, when horseracing fervour swept the nation. It was a golden age for sporting artists, the most famous of which was Stubbs, with an urge to immortalise winners on canvas. Despite it being rejected by connoisseurs as a low form of art, and by Sir Joshua Reynolds as genre painting, Stubbs was a significant presence at the Royal Academy annual exhibitions, to huge critical acclaim.

Ecclesiastical & Heritage World Bowes MuseumFeatured in the display will be the Museum’s painting, Cotherstone, by J F Herring Jnr, and John Ferneley’s Beeswing. The former was bought at auction from Christie’s in New York in 2006, Cotherstone being one of Bowes’ most successful racehorses, while the latter is on long term loan to the Museum. Beeswing won 51 from 64 races, becoming quite a celebrity, with several public houses named after her.

Artists such as Gillray, whose work also features in the exhibition, were quite different from those depicting field sports. They produced detailed portraits of boxers and comical sporting scenes, which were reproduced in popular print form.

Ecclesiastical & Heritage World Bowes MuseumThe exhibition will consider whether this in itself is a statement about the class system in the 18th Century, particularly as the print industry became prominent. It will also consider the next generation of painters – Herring Snr & Jnr and Henry Alken, who faced less prejudice than their predecessors, and will conclude with more recent sporting paintings by Munnings, whose hunting scenes are instantly recognisable.

Lifelike bronzes of racehorses, deer and gundogs, by sculptor Sally Arnup, will enhance the sporting art.

Also opening on May 11 is a new British Decorative Arts Gallery, which will reinforce the Museum’s reputation as the leading Fine and Decorative Arts Museum in the North of England. Reflecting design from Tudor to Victorian Times, it will show how British designers interpreted styles such as Baroque and Rococo. The focus will be on the importance of the objects themselves, rather than actual room settings, with colour and ornamentation symbolic of each period playing a vital part in the displays.

And there’s more! A new Fashion & Textile Gallery, which was previewed on BBC Flog It! earlier this month, is due for completion on 11 May. The gallery, which will be the leading one of its type in the UK, is both spectacular, using the latest display ideas and materials, and serious, by ultimately providing easy access to study the collections.

Ecclesiastical & Heritage World Bowes MuseumThe gallery will represent the wide range of the collection, including dress, European silks, tapestries, embroidery, lace and quilts, housed in glass cases which can be viewed from all sides.

The displays illustrate the use of textiles in fashionable dress and historic design from the 16th to the late 20th Century. A large glass ‘cube’ has been created to be used as a study area, with state of the art storage for quilts, embroidery and the Museum’s important collection of Blackborne Lace. It will, in the near future, accommodate specialist and student groups for talks and study sessions.

The Museum’s Director, Adrian Jenkins, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be further improving the visitor experience with this quality exhibition and the rolling out of two new galleries. It certainly is gearing up to be a Great British Summer at the Bowes.”

The Museum has launched a 6 month Admission Pass, giving a cost effective opportunity to make the most of all this fabulous building has to offer.

Incredible value for money at only £10.00, the pass enables the buyer to make unlimited return visits to the Museum within that 6 month timeframe. Passes are available to purchase on the Museum’s website, or alternatively purchase on the day of your visit.

The Bowes Museum, Café Bowes and Shop are open daily from 10.00. A full programme of events and exhibitions is available by calling 01833 690606 or by viewing the website at www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk.