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Compton Verney…my birthday week!

I haven’t posted for a while and my excuse is…it’s been my birthday! I have had a fantastic week and I have been utterly overwhelmed by all the cards, messages and presents from all my friends and family. It’s been the best birthday I have had so far! The whole week has been full of events, starting with a party with all my housemates which they had organised- including making a huge meal and a giant birthday cake. And it wouldn’t be a party without a good session of poker of course. On my actual birthday day, I was taken out for the whole day to a place called Compton Verney.

This is no ordinary house in the middle of the countryside- inside there are lots of exhibitions to see. The house itself has seen many changes over the years and by the 1980s, had become semi-derelict. The estate was bought by developer Christopher Buxton, who aimed to convert the house to hotel use and build a large opera house in the grounds to the east. However, his ambitious plan failed and the house continued to decay.

The future looked very bleak until it was finally rescued by the Sir Peter Moores Foundation in 1993 which established the registered charity Compton Verney House Trust. The resulting art gallery opened for a preview season in 1998 and fully opened to the public in 2004.

Compton Verney today is an exciting art gallery housing six permanent collections and a changing programme of engaging art exhibitions of international standard. The collections, vested in the Compton Verney Collection Settlement Trust, comprise bronzes and ceramics from Ancient China- a collection which is one of the top three in Europe, and which has earned Compton Verney its designation as a nationally accredited museum; early Renaissance pictures and woodwork from Northern Europe at the time of Luther; a fascinating series of British portraits, from the Tudors to the Georgians; pictures and sculptures from Baroque Naples; objects and artworks bequeathed by the influential British designer Enid Marx; and the best collection of British Folk Art in the country.

Federico Andreotti, The Violin Teacher 1875-1890.

One of the exhibitions which I was really excited about seeing is the Bellini, Botticelli, Titian… 500 years of Italian Art Spring exhib which is running from the 23rd of March to the 23rd of June. This spectacular exhibition comprises 40 of the City of Glasgow’s greatest Italian paintings – the finest and most comprehensive civic collection in the UK, and mostly unseen outside of Glasgow.

The works are of the highest quality and richness and chronicle a remarkable time span from 1400 – 1900, demonstrating the gradual move from religious to secular subjects. This outstanding exhibition includes landscapes, portraits and devotional works from the Renaissance by artists such as Giovanni Bellini, Sandro Botticelli, Titian, Salvator Rosa and Francesco Guardi who are some of my favourite artists. As I travelled around the exhibition I felt as though I had been transported back to Italy.

Botticelli, The Annunciation 1490-1495.

Another exhibition which caught my eye is the Outside In: Central exhib which is running from the 23rd of March to the 15th of December.

Outside In: Central is part of a national project based at Pallant House Gallery, which supports artists who find it difficult to access the art world. The goal of the project is to generate a ‘gentle revolution’ (Marc Steene, Pallant House Gallery) which will enable all who create to have their work seen and valued.

The exhibition at Compton Verney features work by 16 artists selected by a panel from over 300 entries across ten counties in the central region: Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Shropshire, Oxfordshire, West Midlands, Buckinghamshire, Nottinghamshire, Hereford and Worcestershire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire.

Keith Pawley, Self-portrait.

The work on display gives a unique insight into the extraordinary breadth and vitality of work produced by individuals often with no formal artistic training. At its heart, the impact of Outside In and the values it carries are a liberating influence for both artists and audiences, allowing a broader discussion of what art is and a wider participation in the art world.

Duncan James Simpson, Chaos Unleashed

Six of these artists have also been invited to choose a work from Compton Verney’s important British Folk Art Collection to be displayed alongside their own. These six are: Natasha Boyd, Michael George, Mark James, Keith Pawley, Christopher Samuel and William James West. Often highlighting personal journeys and symbolic events in their lives, these choices have also opened up the Folk Art Collection to new interpretation. The Folk Art Collection itself is testimony to the creative output of everyone and showcases the extraordinary talents of largely unknown and untrained individuals.

Alfred Wallis, Schooner Approaching Harbour, 1930s.

I haven’t explored much Folk Art over the years, so it was fantastic to discover the Folk Art Collection at Compton Verney. I am quite a fan of the artist Alfred Wallis who I have loved for years since spending so much time in Cornwall. I was delighted to see his work at this exhibition.

The whole experience is one I shall never forget and I would love to visit again. It really made my birthday special.

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