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Nationally acclaimed artists celebrate the art of rural life

PUBLISHED: 11:20 24 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:24 24 January 2019

Sybil Andrews painting Mowers is on show as part of The Art of Rural Life exhibition at Diss Corn Hall. Picture: Roger Crosby

Sybil Andrews painting Mowers is on show as part of The Art of Rural Life exhibition at Diss Corn Hall. Picture: Roger Crosby

Slater Crosby Photographic

Rural England has offered inspiration to artists for generations. While we tend to conjure up scenes of landscapes, exemplified by John Constable’s Hay Wain, rural art is in fact far more diverse and entertaining.

The Art of Rural Life is part of a season of events on the theme of rural life being staged at Diss Corn Hall. Picture: Sonya DuncanThe Art of Rural Life is part of a season of events on the theme of rural life being staged at Diss Corn Hall. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Now a celebration of rural life through the eyes of local and internationally acclaimed artists has gone on show in Diss, including works by Norman Ackroyd, Sybil Andrews, Henry Moore, Samuel Palmer and Mike Webb.

Taking a broadly chronological view of the art of rural life, the new Diss Corn Hall exhibition The Art of Rural Life starts with Thomas Bewick’s woodcuts from around 1800 including animals from the agricultural revolution such as his well-fed ‘Sow of Improved Breed’ and grumpy ‘Dunkey Sheep’ through to contemporary artist Hughie O’Donoghue’s ‘Green Man’, the symbol of the spring reawakening.

Tractor in Landscape by Kenneth Rowntree is on show as part of The Art of Rural Life exhibition at Diss Corn Hall. Picture: Roger CrosbyTractor in Landscape by Kenneth Rowntree is on show as part of The Art of Rural Life exhibition at Diss Corn Hall. Picture: Roger Crosby

Along the way we have etchings by Samuel Palmer and the group of Pastoral artists from the early 20th century, who captured the mid-Victorian rural idyll in an age before mechanization; market town shop fronts from Eric Ravilious and woodcuts by the internationally celebrated Sybil Andrews, including her interpretation of her home town - Bury St Edmund’s - market.

Add a 1950s tractor, ‘Bees’ from Graham Sutherland, delightful sheep by Henry Moore, chickens by Kenneth Armitage and landscapes from Phil Greenwood and Norman Ackroyd and a sweeping glimpse into rural life through the ages starts emerging.

Dunkey Sheep byThomas Bewick is on display as part of The Art of Rural Life exhibition at Diss Corn Hall. Picture: Roger CrosbyDunkey Sheep byThomas Bewick is on display as part of The Art of Rural Life exhibition at Diss Corn Hall. Picture: Roger Crosby

Local artists also make their appearance: Mike Webb contributes minutely worked watercolours of mysterious barns, Michael Carlo a randy Cockerel ‘The New Boy’ and a reminder of rural industry, and ‘Mill Workers’ by Maz Jackson.

Norfolk rural life celebrated in season of events in Diss

Stimulating and occasionally amusing, the exhibition, which is part of a season of events all on the theme of ‘Rural Life’, shows us that rural art is just as diverse as living in rural East Anglia.

Market Day by Sybil Andrews is on show as part of The Art of Rural Life exhibition at Diss Corn Hall. Picture: Roger CrosbyMarket Day by Sybil Andrews is on show as part of The Art of Rural Life exhibition at Diss Corn Hall. Picture: Roger Crosby

Jessica Vincent, exhibition organiser, said: “There is no better place to celebrate our agricultural heritage than the Corn Hall in Diss, which functioned as a farmers’ trading market as little as two decades ago. To see this collection of work together in the venue contextualises East Anglian experiences of rural life in national history; it’s a great way to connect through our shared experiences.”

Hand-in-hand with the artistic impressions of agrarian life, the upper gallery features ‘Working the Land by Hand’; an exhibition in collaboration with Diss Museum displaying a collection of beautifully handcrafted implements used to work the land, in an age before farming became mechanised.

Cartmel in Winter by Norman Ackroyd on show as part of The Art of Rural Life exhibition at Diss Corn Hall. Picture: Roger CrosbyCartmel in Winter by Norman Ackroyd on show as part of The Art of Rural Life exhibition at Diss Corn Hall. Picture: Roger Crosby

These tools have fallen out of use, so much so that the function of some of the tools showcased in the exhibition is now a mystery, with vital information being lost over the years.

• The Art of Rural Life is at Diss Corn Hall until March 9, Mon–Sat 10am–4pm. Entry is free.

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