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.”
The eight short-listed design teams have been announced for a competition to redevelop the Windermere Steamboat Museum on the shores of Windermere.
The Lakeland Arts Trust recently secured initial support for a £7.4m Heritage Lottery Fund bid, including £494,000 development funding, to take the project forward. The project aims to create an exciting and active museum which will use the lake and the lakeside setting to display the nationally significant collection of steam launches, motor boats, yachts and other vessels which are all associated with Windermere.
The first stage of the competition attracted 114 expressions of interest. The short-list (in order of the architect leading the multi-disciplinary design team) is as follows: Carmody Groarke; Adam Khan Architects; Niall McLaughlin Architects; Terry Pawson Architects; Reiach and Hall Architects; 6a Architects; Sutherland Hussey Architects; Witherford Watson Mann Architects.
Martin Ainscough, Chairman of the Lakeland Arts Trust, commented: “We are very encouraged by the quality of entries in the architectural competition and the judging panel had a difficult decision to select the final eight for the shortlist. We are looking forward to working with the successful practice to create a world class facility in the heart of the Lake District..”
Gordon Watson, the trust’s chief executive, added: “We are looking for a fresh, well-detailed and sensitive response for the stimulating and highly significant site on Windermere and to display the museum's wonderful collection of boats.”
The second stage of the competition will seek design concepts for the project. Architects will need to take into account the requirement of displaying the boats and other items in the collection in the exhibition space and wet dock, and enabling visitors to see the boats being restored in the conservation workshop, as well as designing an appropriate facility for the location to provide a world-class visitor experience.
The design proposals will be subject to public display and comment in late October 2011 and the design teams will be invited to present their schemes to the jury panel at final interviews in late November 2011.