ONE of the most important collections of watercolour paintings in the world is heading our way.
More than 40 works from the exquisite holdings of Sir Hickman Beckett Bacon (1855-1945), an avid collector of English watercolours between 1895 and the First World War, will be on show at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, from January 12 until April 14.
Now owned by Sir Nicholas Bacon, the precious paintings will be loaned to the Kendal gallery for its next exhibition - Turner and his Contemporaries: The Hickman Bacon Watercolour Collection.
Abbot Hall chief executive Gordon Watson was thrilled at the prospect of the eminent display, which should have the eyes of the nation’s arts world focused on the important regional gallery.
In fact, a fitting time to stage such a grand show as Abbot Hall celebrates a half century since its opened its celebrated doors.
Gordon added: “Fifty years ago on September 28, 1962, Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret officially opened the gallery and since then Abbot Hall has established itself as one of the most significant and ambitious galleries in the north of England.”
Rarely aired in public, the collection will be shown alongside highlights from Abbot Hall’s own permanent collection of watercolours.
Sir Nicholas said that he was delighted to be able to lend the paintings to Abbot Hall.
He continued: “My great uncle Sir Hickman Bacon (Hicky) had unusual tastes for his time and thus the collection is very strong in the type of late, ethereal Turner watercolours that only became widely popular with the advent of abstract painting in the 1940s and 50s. Equally, John Sell Cotman, an artist who had only just emerged from total obscurity, was of particular interest.
“Hicky’s collection represents English watercolour painting at its greatest; like so many collectors he was not interested by the fashion of the day, but he was committed to collecting those objects which fulfilled his heartfelt love of beauty.”
Born in 1855 into a family of landed gentry, Sir Hickman was educated at Eton. He joined the army, later returning to his old-fashioned family mansion. He suffered from ill health early in his life, and remained a bachelor until he died in 1945. He also collected fabrics, wall hangings, ceramics and Japanese prints – a collection he gave to the Japanese Government.
Abbot Hall collections manager Nick Rogers said that an exhibition of watercolours from the ‘remarkable’ Hickman Bacon collection was a cause for celebration wherever it was held. He added: “That it is taking place in Kendal, Cumbria, is particularly appropriate, as this is an area that played a significant role in the development of watercolour as the medium of choice for the itinerant artist in the late 18th and early 19th Century.”
TWO thirds of the red kites released in Grizedale Forest last summer have survived the harsh winter.
Wildlife rangers believe that around 20 of the 30 birds released in the Forestry Commission’s three-year re-introduction programme made it through the winter and are still in Cumbria, or nearby counties. Between five and eight of the birds are believed to be living around Grizedale and the Rusland Valley, with another three to five inhabiting the Kirkby Moor area near Ulverston.
Four more Grizedale red kites have been spotted by RSPB experts at feeding stations in Dumfries and Galloway – the furthest known movement is by the bird tagged as number four, which has flown 120km north west into Scotland.
“The birds are doing pretty much exactly as we expected, which is very encouraging,” said Iain Yoxall, Forestry Commission wildlife ranger. “We are more confident that these birds will make it to adults now they have made it through a harsh winter. Sadly we lost a few birds but that is natural and why we have to release the numbers that we did.”
The 30 red kites released from a secret location in Grizedale Forest in August last year had coloured tags on each wing. An orange tag on their left wing shows they are from Grizedale, and blue tags on their right wings indicate that they were released in 2010. Some birds were also fitted with radio transmitters to help with monitoring.
Mr Yoxall, who has been following the birds’ movements around Cumbria, said the help he has received from the public had been invaluable. “I have been radio tracking the birds but sightings from members of the public have been a fantastic help and greatly appreciated. This has been very important because it helps us find the birds and backs up our radio tracking results to give us a more robust picture of their movements. We hope that the public will continue letting us know when and where they make sightings of the red kites.”
This year’s birds will hatch in May and are likely to be released into Grizedale Forest in August. The red kites being introduced into Grizedale are the product of a reintroduction programme that took place in Northamptonshire in the 1980s.
Red kites were almost eradicated from the UK following changes in farming practices and human persecution between the 16th and 19th centuries. But they managed to cling on in Wales, and their numbers recovered slowly thanks to the actions of local conservationists