Celebrities, musicians, actors and artists of Georgian Bath come under a new spotlight when an exhibition dedicated to their incredible stories opens at the Victoria Art Gallery.
From the sleazy to the sophisticated ‘Entertainment in Bath’ looks at performers and events in the city since its Georgian heyday through to its Victorian past and more recently Bath Festival and infamous pop concerts.
In the 18th century, Bath was second only to London for the remarkable quality and variety of music, art and theatre on offer. Performers would come to the city to entertain the wealthy spa visitors. Here they would develop their skills, and attract a following and a good reputation before moving on to further fame and fortune in London.
Wonderful portraits by Gainsborough, Bath’s best painter at the time, and works by the Georgian comic artist Thomas Rowlandson will feature in the exhibition.
Highlights from the gallery’s own collection of paintings, drawings and prints will be on show alongside important loans from the Royal Collection, lent by Her Majesty The Queen, and the National Portrait Gallery.
The exhibition, which runs from January 13 to March 14, will touch upon some of the less obvious ‘entertainments’ in the city, covering the full spectrum of morality, from gambling and prostitution to attendance at fashionable chapels.
The quirkier exhibits will include gambling paraphernalia and instruments similar to those played by musicians such as William Herschel, who lived and worked in Bath.
Councillor Paul Myers, (Conservative, Midsomer Norton Redfield) Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “Entertainment in Bath will give a fascinating insight into the city’s social history, while showcasing highlights from the Victoria Art Gallery’s outstanding collection.
“Some of the creative stars depicted in the exhibition are still well-known today, while others have been largely forgotten. However they are all intrinsically linked to Bath’s history as a centre for entertainment and creativity, and all have interesting stories to tell.”
Entertainment in Bath will be brought to life by special performances by Bath Spa University drama students on Saturday 24 February and 3, 17, 24 March at 12pm-2pm.
The show will also be accompanied by a free audioguide. Admission to the exhibition is free for local residents with a Discovery Card (www.bathnes.gov.uk/discoverycard).