TEL: 01305 262735

Monday 16th July 2018 until Sunday 30th September 2018

From 10:00 until 17:00

Venue: Dorset County Museum, High West Street, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 1XA

Folly Barn, Showing a Reconstruction around 1820 by Mabel Frances Wickham (1901-1992); produced in 1954, oil on board.

Inspired by Dorset

Paintings and Sculptures from the Museum Collection

This exhibition offers an insight into the changing role of painting in Dorset, presented through a collection of Dorset portraits, landscapes, artists and works of art which represents Dorset as a haven from urban life. This is a unique opportunity to view images that have rarely been on open display, and to place classical works alongside other contemporary pieces to inspire fresh comparisons.


The Boy in the Red Coat - Thomas Rackett by George Romney

The collection holds several hundred images of Dorset people ranging from portraits of wealthy Dorset patrons painted by British Georgian artists such as Gainsborough, Hogarth and Romney across to twentieth century artists. The portrait section of the exhibition includes the oldest painting (dated 1604) owned by the Museum - a picture of Dorset Admiral Sir John Browne (1559-1627) attributed to Robert Peake (1551-1619) the court painter to James I, and one of the most recent acquisitions- a portrait by the great British impressionist, Wilfred de Glehn.


The Museum collection of landscapes dates from the early nineteenth century, and shows how Dorset’s beautiful countryside has been depicted over the centuries. Included in our landscape collection are two ‘en plein air’ artists- Frederick Whitehead (1853-1938) and John Everett (1876-1949). John Everett was born in Dorchester and later lived in Swanage. He is a significant figure in Dorset art, partly as a prolific producer of paintings but mainly as the inspiration for his more famous friends (including William Orpen and Augustus John) to also come and appreciate the Dorset landscape.

Dorset as a Haven

Dorset's countryside and relative isolation have provided an inspirational haven for artists seeking a refuge from fame or the stress of urban life. This part of the exhibition highlights works of art that have come to the Museum not through any Dorset subject or connection but because the artists or the sitters appreciated what Dorset could offer them.  In 1922, London singers Norman Notley (1890-1980) and David Brynley (1902-1981) met and fell in love. The artistic Spencer-Watson family invited Notley and Brynley to sing at their Dorset home, and this led to the couple moving to Corfe Castle near Swanage. This provided them with a peaceful second home and they became an important part of the bohemian community there. They established a circle of like-minded friends including collectors such as Jim Ede, who gave them several important works including five pieces by the Cornish fisherman-artist Alfred Wallis (1855-1942) and three works by Christopher Wood (1901-1930), the latter now regarded as one of the giants of British modernism. When David Brynley died in 1981 these works were gifted to the Museum.

Paul Nash came to Dorset and lived in Swanage for two years between 1934 and 1936 for health reasons, and used his time in Dorset to paint, draw and develop his sense of surrealism. His work Ballard from “Sea Bank” will be on display. Dame Elisabeth Frink RA (1930-1993) lived the last sixteen years of her live in Woolland, East Dorset. Frink is considered to be one of Britain’s leading post-war sculptors and printmakers. Her sculpture Tribute II, is a memorial to universal suffering and will be shown in the exhibition.

Dorset Artists

Dorset has been the birth place of two artists who made and left their mark in the most public of national monuments: James Thornhill and Alfred Stevens. Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734) was born in Melcombe Regis to the daughter of the Governor of Weymouth. In 1725 he was commissioned to paint the interior of St Pauls Cathedral. More locally he decorated the ornamental screen positioned behind the alter (reredos) of St Mary's Church, Weymouth and in 1720 became the first British artist to be knighted. William Hogarth, the great Georgian painter and satirist – who is represented in this exhibition - married his daughter. Alfred Stevens (1817-1875) was a painter and sculptor. He was born in Blandford to a decorator and joiner. He was comissioned for the memorial to the Duke of Wellington to be erected in St Pauls Cathedral, but died before it was complete. Stevens was considered the Michelangelo of his day and the Museum also holds a cartoon, published after his death, of Leonardo da Vinci reaching down from heaven to lift him to his proper place in the pantheon of greats.

Please note that some items are light-sensitive and so they have been deliberately placed in an appropriate environment.

Details and pictures of the 270 paintings in the collection at the Dorset County Museum are now available as part of Art UK. 

Click here to see our collection online


Free Entry to Art Fund National Art Pass Holders





For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or Contact Us

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Inspired by Dorset