Ruffling feathers

Bath’s wonderful little artistic gem – the Victoria Art Gallery – isn’t open on a Monday but Collection’s Manager, Katharine Wall thought it an excellent and quiet opportunity to show me around their latest exhibition.

It features the work of some of the members – old and new – of a club set up in the 1880s by artists frustrated by the conservatism of the British art establishment and keen to explore new ways of painting.

Here’s the full gallery programme for 2023.

Visitors will be able to see paintings by celebrated English artists John Singer Sargent, Walter Sickert and Stanley Spencer; colourful quilts by Kaffe Fassett; and British Surrealist artworks by Eileen Agar, Roland Penrose and John Banting, among others. The Gallery will also continue to showcase work by local artists, with opportunities to admire and buy work by some of the best artists from the region.

Nathalie Levi, Senior Curator at the Victoria Art Gallery, said: “We have a dynamic programme of exhibitions coming up with a range of international and regional artists, including the ever-popular Bath Society of Artists annual open exhibition that welcomes submissions from all artists. This years’ exhibitions have been many years in the making and we’re thrilled to be presenting them in Bath in 2023.”

Kevin Guy, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “We’re looking forward to a great year ahead at the Gallery, with fantastic exhibitions that will appeal to both residents and visitors to Bath. As always, admission to exhibitions will be free for residents with a Discovery Card and for Friends of the Gallery. There’s also a lively programme of special events and family activities linked to the exhibitions.”

Capturing Life: A Century of the New English Art Club
21 January – 11 April 2023

This current exhibition showcases one of Britain’s foremost art organisations, combining work by current New English Art Club members alongside paintings by illustrious past members. The New English Art Club is an elected society of contemporary painters inspired by the visual world, which was founded in 1886 by a group of rebellious young artists protesting against their repeated rejection by the Royal Academy.

The Gallery has a long association with the New English Art Club, having hosted six exhibitions of members’ work between 1907 and 1947. The historical element includes major pieces by John Singer Sargent, Gwen John, Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer and Winifred Nicholson. Present day members of the Club will also be well represented via a large array of vibrant contemporary work, all of which will be for sale.

Jessica Palmer: Wetland Spring
Free exhibition in the Small Gallery
21 January – 11 April 2023

Bath-based Jessica Palmer is an artist and illustrator whose work spans collage, paper sculpture, paper cutting, digital drawing and painting. She is an in-house illustrator for English Heritage and exhibits her work in the UK and internationally. This gorgeous exhibition brings spring to life, through collages of meadows, plants and the flora around Bath. These works capture beauty in our natural surroundings, responding to our natural world in peril. The exhibits are for sale, with the proceeds from one of her works, The Pink Hour, to be donated to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.

Bath Society of Artists 118th Annual Exhibition
22 April – 24 June 2023

This highly popular exhibition has been an annual highlight of the Gallery’s programme for well over a century and showcases the best of the region’s artistic talent. Any artist aged 18 or over can submit work for possible selection, meaning that paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures by a hugely diverse group of artists is always included. Whatever your taste, you are sure to find something among the 400 or so works on display to delight and intrigue you. Almost all works are for sale, many at very affordable prices.

The Society was founded in 1904 with 26 members and has grown over the years to a membership of around 120 talented artists. Many distinguished 20th-century painters have exhibited with the Society, including Walter Sickert, Mary Fedden and Howard Hodgkin.

When you visit the exhibition, don’t forget to vote for your favourite artwork – the winning artist receives a £500 prize.

Kaffe Fassett: Timeless Themes – New Quilts
1 July – 1 October 2023

World-renowned artist, textile designer and author Kaffe Fassett is back at the Victoria Art Gallery this summer. This vibrant exhibition showcases 23 large new quilts and ties in with Fassett’s forthcoming book, Timeless Themes. Fassett has rummaged through his print archives to demonstrate the different motifs that people return to over and over again in patchwork designs: stripes, circles, dots, flowers and foliage.

Candace Bahouth: Enchanted Visions
1 July – 1 October 2023

Celebrated fine artist Candace Bahouth creates grand rococo mirrors decorated with porcelain and china pieces. She is inspired by the beauty of the china itself. Her works are in numerous private and public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum. The show will feature a range of extravagantly embellished mirrors filling the back wall of the gallery, along with fanciful candelabras adorned with birds and romantic figures. All works on display will be for sale.

When Dreams Confront Reality: Surrealism in Britain
13 October 2023 – 7 January 2024

Experience the magical visions of Surrealism – but from an unusual perspective. Surrealism originated in Paris in 1924, in the aftermath of the First World War. Artists such as Eileen Agar, Roland Penrose and John Banting visited Paris to meet the Surrealists and went on to develop their own unique British Surrealist style.

This exhibition is from The Sherwin Family Collection, arguably the most significant collection of British Surrealism in private ownership, which has found a permanent home with The Hepworth Wakefield. It shows the diversity of British Surrealism and European influences, with paintings, collage, drawings, ceramics and sculpture by artists including Max Ernst, Julian Trevelyan, F.E. McWilliam and Man Ray.

Works by talented female Surrealists who are only now receiving recognition, such as Leonora Carrington and Ithell Colquhoun, will be on display. Also on view will be pieces by artists working today who have been influenced by Surrealism, including Turner Prize artists Michael Dean and Helen Marten.

When Dreams Confront Reality: Surrealism in Britain is organised by The Hepworth Wakefield in collaboration with the Victoria Art Gallery.

Gail Mason: The Unseen Landscape 
Free exhibition in the Small Gallery
7 October 2023 – 7 January 2024

Gail Mason lives near Bristol and has exhibited her colourful art widely. Her atmospheric works are built up in layers with transparent and opaque inks. She scratches through the wet surfaces, removing and adding as the image emerges. The results reflect the feeling of being in an environment rather than the topographical details. All works will be for sale.