Prized works find a new home

STEPHEN PULLINGER They are the most prized works picked out from several generations of a Norfolk town's most talented artists. However, since changes at Gorleston library took away their long-term home several years ago, the 70 paintings of Yarmouth and District Society of Artists' permanent collection have lang-uished in store away from public view.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

They are the most prized works picked out from several generations of a Norfolk town's most talented artists.

However, since changes at Gorleston library took away their long-term home several years ago, the 70 paintings of Yarmouth and District Society of Artists' permanent collection have lang-uished in store away from public view.

The good news revealed last night at the opening of the society's 80th anniversary exhibition is that much of the collection - which includes work by such famous names as early society member Campbell Mellon - will now go on display at the James Paget University Hospital, Gorleston.


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Antiques dealer, writer and broadcaster Mike Hicks, who opened the exhibition in the gallery of Yarmouth library, said: “I have been an avid supporter of the society for many years and I was determined to help them find a home for their permanent collection in their anniversary year.

“Following negotiation with John Hemming (chairman of the hospital trust) the majority of these local paintings will be displayed at the James Paget University Hospital for patients, staff and visitors to enjoy. Many of the works are irreplaceable because the view has gone or the artist is dead.”

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Mr Hicks said the society's strength was that throughout the 80 years it had kept its primary aim of promoting and developing local artists - the permanent collection contained paintings acquired by donation, bequest and purchases of works by past and present members.

Among its 80-year roll call of 343 members are such eminent names as John Arnesby Brown, who was knighted for his contribution to art in 1938 having exhibited 139 pictures at the Royal Academy, and Campbell Mellon - renowned for his beach scenes - a founder member of the society and its first chairman.

Others included Rowland Fisher who was president of the society in the middle years of the last century.

Mr Hicks said: “Minutes from the first exhibition state the organisers had 'gone all out' to push forward art in Yarmouth'. The present committee have done exactly the same to promote it.

“They get people doing miniatures, pastels, oils and watercolours and they all have a fantastic use of light. Each year the exhibition seems to be getting better.”

Society historian Richard Carver, 67, said: “The reason the society started was thanks to the EDP's sister paper the Yarmouth Mercury. Mercury correspondent Harry Johnson organised the first exhibition in his Northgate Street tea rooms.

“More than 6,000 visitors attended that first exhibition, which was a fantastic number, and we still regularly get more than 1,000 visitors through the doors.”

He highlighted from the minutes that in 1929 the cheapest picture at the exhibition was 15 shillings (75p) and the most expensive was a Campbell Mellon at £25. The cheapest Rowland Fisher was £2 and the most expensive was £10.10s.

“Present day prices for these artists' works would be several thousand pounds,” he said.

Society chairman Margaret Carver, who is exhibiting pastels and an oil painting at the current exhibition, said: “We have the same aims as in 1927, to bring good art to the public of Yarmouth, but it was a more elite club then. We are not quite as elite now because you don't have to be wealthy to join, but just have a reasonable standard of work.”

Among members exhibiting at the library are Rachel Thomas, the first person to hold an art exhibition in the House of Commons, and society president 87-year-old Julian Macey.

Other artists on show include Wilfred Sutton, still painting in his 90s, and Henry Holzer, a society past president who died this year aged 99.

The free exhibition runs until next Saturday, from 10am to 4.30pm.

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