Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Artists of Great Bardfield exhibition at Braintree Museum

I came across the Great Bardfield artists at an exhibition at the Fry Gallery in Saffron Waldon when staying with friends, there was a wonderful exhibition including some of the principle artists. Friends I was staying with also bought me a book by Janet Dyson giving more details of life in the village of Great Bardfield. Here's a Wikipedia entry on them:

'The Great Bardfield Artists were a community of artists who lived in Great Bardfield, a village in north west Essex, England, during the middle years of the 20th century.
The principal artists who lived there between 1930 and 1970 were John Aldridge RA, Edward Bawden, George Chapman, Stanley Clifford-Smith, Audrey Cruddas, Walter Hoyle, Eric Ravilious, Sheila Robinson, Michael Rothenstein, Kenneth Rowntree and Marianne Straub. Other artists associated with the group include Duffy Ayers, John Bolam, Bernard Cheese, Tirzah Garwood, Joan Glass, David Low and Laurence Scarfe. Great Bardfield Artists were diverse in style but shared a love for figurative art, making the group distinct from the better known St Ives School of artists in St Ives, Cornwall, who, after the war, were chiefly dominated by abstractionists.
During the 1950s the Great Bardfield Artists organised a series of large ‘open house’ exhibitions which attracted national and international press attention. Positive reviews and the novelty of viewing modernist art works in the artists own homes led to thousands visiting the remote village during the summer exhibitions of 1954, 1955 and 1958. As well as these large shows the Great Bardfield Artists held exhibitions of their work in Cambridge (1956) and Bristol (1959). The artists also organised a multi-city tour of England and Ireland during 1957 & 1958. The early 1960s saw the majority of the Great Bardfield artists leave the village.'

There's a  blue plaque commemorating Eric Ravilious in Castle Hedingham a neighbouring village to Sible Hedingham where friends live.
They alerted me to this latest exhibition at Braintree Museum of the Great Bardfield artists which runs until 15 April, it's called 'Life in an English Village'
It's well worth having a look if you're able to do so, there are some lovely things collected together in one place. It's interesting that these artists had 'open house' in the 1950s, a forerunner of our open studios.
One of my favourite pictures in the exhibition was this linocut by Richard Bawden, son of Edward Bawden, entitled 'A Splash in the Pant', it depicts his parents and the Raviliouses swimming in the River Pant, watched by the local policeman.
 Above Ethel House by Kenneth Rowntree in 1942
Below a Heartsease teaset made by Wedgewood in 1952, designed by Edward Bawden
 Some of the illustrations used on book covers shown below

 Below a linocut by Edward Bawden of Braintree station 1960.
 Another teaset, this time with an Eric Ravilious design

 Below The Vegetable Garden, Place House by John Aldridge, 1966. John Aldridge and Edward Bawden were both keen gardeners, the two acre garden at Place House often featured in his paintings.

 and this is his painting of The Orchard.
The last picture is entitled 'Two Cats in the Dining Room', it's a watercolour by Richard Bawden.
 It's a beautifully intense painting.
Lovely exhibition celebrating the Great Bardfield artists


  1. I like the linocut station 1960.

  2. Yes it's fab isn't it? I've got Janet Dyson's book on the artists of Great Bardfield. They had a great flowering and coming together, or was it the other way round?