Warwickshire’s Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park will unveil its popular British Folk Art Collection to the public on Saturday 17 March following a £100,000 renovation project of its galleries. Funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in partnership with the Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund, the work has taken a year to complete. 

Swan Public House Sign, artist unknown, 1700-1750 © Compton Verney, photo by Hugh Kelly

With the work complete, artist Mark Hearld has not only been assisting Compton Verney’s curatorial team with the re-hanging of its extensive and culturally significant British Folk Art collection, but will also be displaying his own, band new work. This has been inspired not only by the artworks themselves, but also the Grade 1-listed Georgian mansion and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown-landscaped parkland. 

Hearld, who studied Illustration at Glasgow School of Art before completing a Master’s degree at the Royal Academy of Art, is renowned for his wallpaper designs. He has created a special print for the display, simply titled Compton Verney. He has also produced a series of cut-out metal silhouettes of animals and birds, all of which directly refer to specific objects and paintings in the collection.

“Mark takes his inspiration from flora and fauna of the British countryside and works across a number of mediums, producing lithographic and linocut prints, paintings, collages and hand-painted ceramics. Along with Mark’s own work, the re-displayed collection will also have new interpretation and lighting; helping to make the collection more interesting and engaging for visitors.” -  Professor Steven Parissien, Compton Verney Chief Executive.

Back in January 2017, the Warwickshire gallery received the grant to help it accommodate the growing popularity of Folk Art.

A Pair of Pigs, English School, about 1850 © Compton Verney, photo by Jamie Woodley 

 “The ever-increasing popularity of this wonderfully rich and accessible genre, which bridges the gap between amateur and professional arts and crafts, meant we wanted to create a more resonant and accessible installation for our collection. The funding has allowed us to renovate the Folk Art galleries and provided us with the capacity to rotate and re-display the collection in order to attract new and existing audiences, while also increasing our ability to contribute new understanding and knowledge of the art form. Not only that, we have increased our facilities for youngsters to enjoy and experience the collection with the creation of a brand-new Learning Space.” - Professor Parissien

When the galleries re-open on the 17th March, art lovers are in for a real treat. Compton Verney houses the nation’s largest collection of Folk Art, which encompasses a diverse range of pieces, including artisanal weathervanes, shop signs, paintings of prize farm animals, street scenes, items of furniture, agricultural implements and collage pictures. The work of Alfred Wallis is a highlight, but the pieces by unknown makers and painters are equally arresting and affecting. 

The term ‘folk art’ is used to cover a wide-ranging number of artistic and/or artisanal objects created by people who were not formally trained, or whom transferred skills from other professions – such as sign-writers who were able to use their talent and eye for painting to creating their own artworks.  

Seated Dog Weathervane, artist unknown, about 1880 © Compton Verney, photo by Jamie Woodley

The Folk Art collection can be found in the same gallery space as the acclaimed Marx- Lambert collection. Enid Marx (1902-1998) was one of the brightest design stars to emerge from the Design School of London’s Royal College of Art during the interwar years – author, illustrator, book designer, printmaker, textile designer and painter.

The Marx-Lambert collection features both work produced by Marx and a large number of pieces of folk art which were collected by the artist and her friend Margaret Lambert. These then inspired Marx’s own work -sometimes directly, as seen in the pair of ceramic wall-mounted cornucopia cases which inspired her ‘Cornucopia’ textile design.

Marx was a classmate and friend of Ravilious – so her work is also explored in the new exhibition Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship. English Artist Designers 1922-1942, which opens at Compton Verney in March 2018.

Compton Verney Wallpaper Design © St Jude’s

For more information follow @ComptonVerney on Twitter, like the Compton Verney Facebook page or visit www.comptonverney.org.uk  

Compton Verney is an award winning, national art gallery in Warwickshire, based in a Grade I-listed Georgian mansion and set in 120 acres of Grade II-listed Lancelot 'Capability' Brown parkland. With six permanent collections (Naples, Northern European Art 1450-1650, British Portraits, Chinese, British Folk Art & The Marx-Lambert Collection) and a schedule of thought-provoking changing exhibitions, it is an accredited museum, a registered charity, and the Chinese collection is nationally designated.  


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