Looking ahead at the Holburne.

Looking ahead at the Holburne.

Extending the reach of what we do and attracting a bigger and wider audience. That appears to be the plan of action for the future now being put together by the new Director of Bath’s Holburne Museum, Dr Chris Stephens.

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Dr Chris Stephens Director, Holburne Museum

In an extended interview with Bath Newseum he says museums – whatever their academic credentials –  are a popular form of entertainment and he wants the Holburne to be a centre of attraction for as many art lovers as possible.

Dr Stephens comes to Bath with an outstanding record from his time at Tate Britain where he was Head of Displays and Lead Curator, Modern British Art.

At Tate Britain he has curated a series of major exhibitions, including Gwen & Augustus John (2004), Francis Bacon (2008), Henry Moore (2010), Picasso and British Art (2012), Barbara Hepworth (2015) and, most recently, the on-going David Hockney retrospective that is projected to be the most popular exhibition in Tate Britain’s history.

I wanted to know why he’d given up the bright lights of London to come to Bath.

Apologies regarding the wind noise across the microphones on this interview. My former colleagues in the ITV sound department will no doubt be wagging a finger. I will try and avoid breezy gardens next time!


Let’s ‘twin’ museums says Holburne’s new director to Bath’s Dutch friends.

Let’s ‘twin’ museums says Holburne’s new director to Bath’s Dutch friends.

An exchange of artwork between Bath’s Holburne Museum and one of the Netherland’s oldest museums is on the cards following a town-twinning reception held in our Georgian city last night.

It was organised to help celebrate 70 years of international friendship – between Bath and the city of Alkmaar in northern Holland.


The Mayor of Alkmaar – Burgomeester Piet Bruinooge  and his wife Elly – inspecting a display of Dutch silver at the Holburne Museum reception.

It was also the first public engagement for the Holburne’s new Director, Dr Chris Stephens.


The new Director of the Holburne Museum, Dr Chris Stephens.

He welcomed everyone to the museum and hoped an ‘ association’ might develop between the Holburne and the Stedelijk Museum in Alkmaar.

Forgive the sound quality of an impromptu recording.

Bath has been hosting a week of festivities for the Mayor of Alkmaar, Mr Piet Bruinooge and a delegation from the Dutch town.

The Bath-Alkmaar friendship goes back to the days of World War Two when a young Dutch Jewish playwright – Elias Prins –  escaped the advancing Nazis and ended up in Bath working as an air raid warden.


L to R. Mayor of Bath, Cllr Ian Gilchrist; Dr Chris Stephens, Director of Holburne Museum, and the out-going Chairman of the Bath-Alkmaar Twinning Association, Mr Martin Broadbent.

He quickly became a well-known local figure through the many talks he gave to community groups and schools about the plight of his people.

Bathonians – inspired by Eli and his new friends in the local Rotary Club – decided to launch its own Alkmaar Appeal – and with the blessing of the Dutch sovereign, HRH Queen Wilhelmina.

It makes Bath’s ties with Alkmaar the oldest official ‘twinning’ link of any which came out of the war.

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L to R Professor Gwythian Prins receiving a ‘Certificate of Honorary Membership’ from out-going Association Chairman Martin Broadbent.

At the Holburne reception, Professor Gwythian Prins – the Bath-born son of Elias Prins – was given an Honorary Membership Certificate of the Twinning Association and an Alkmaar Medal of Friendship by the Mayor of the Dutch town.


Professor Gwythian Prins receiving an ‘Alkmaar Medal of Friendship’ from Burgomeester, Mr Piet Bruinooge.

The Association has also arranged two Concerts to be held on Saturday 15 July and Sunday 16 July, featuring the fabulous Alkmaar Youth Orchestra with special guests, re-telling a tale of tragedy, daring escape and international friendship in music and readings, rounding off a week of Anglo-Dutch celebrations in Bath.
Alkmaar Youth Orchestra concerts flyer V5
The Mayor (Councillor Ian Gilchrist) will attend the Concert on Saturday, and the Deputy Mayor (Councillor Rob Appleyard) will attend the family Concert on the Sunday.
Find out more about the Bath-Alkmaar Association – and read the amazing full story of how it came about – via www.Bath-Alkmaar.eu
Earlier in the day, a memorial service was held at St Swithins, Bathford to remember Elias Prins and especially his parents and family who were all murdered in the Sobibor concentration camp.
Gwythian Prins at Memorial Service, Bathford

Eli and Ida’s son Gwythian speaking at the memorial service in Bathford.

Memorial stones for Eli and his wife Ida are in the graveyard of the church in the village in which they lived.
Eli and Ida memorial stone Bathford

The memorial to Eli and Ida Prins at Bathford

Children from Bathford Primary School were also at the event.
Kaddish spoken at Memorial to Eli & Ida Prins 2017

Children from Bathford Primary School look on as kaddish – an ancient Jewish prayer – is spoken at the memorial to Eli and Ida Prins.




The threads of life.

The threads of life.

How do you follow your most successful exhibition in years? Why – with something completely different of course.

Bath’s Holburne Museum recently wowed visitors with a display of Flemish talent which brought together a variety of work across the whole Bruegel family dynasty – for the first time in this country.


Now be prepared to move away from the 16th century and come right up to date – but with an art form that would have graced the walls of Henry the Eight’s Hampton Court Palace.


We’re talking tapestry – a form of textile art – but not as we normally think about it. The new exhibition – Tapestry: Here and Now – makes it clear we are not talking about Baronial walls but an ambitious survey of contemporary tapestry from a range of international artists – engaging with political, aesthetic and personal issues of contemporary relevance. As Catrin Jones, the Museum’s Curator of Decorative Arts, explains.

The exhibition runs from Friday, June 23rd through to October 1st. I have had a sneak preview of the works on display and must say they are both colourful and provocative.


Saori Sakai, detail of ‘Let’s Pretend.’


They exhibit both vision and dedication and use an ancient skill – and its materials – to produce pictorial representations of contemporary issues – like war, the environment, identity and memory. Read them anyway you will. I am sure you will be impressed.

Tonje Bloom and Jolly Future, detail. copy

Tonje Hodahl Sorli, detail of ‘Bloom, And Jolly Future’.

What l found relevant is how their quite striking vibrancy gives us some idea of the original colours of more ancient works which – like memory itself – fades over the years.

Ironically, Henry the Eighth’s 28-foot long tapestry at Hampton Court has been ‘virtually restored’ using coloured light beams.

See:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturenews/5131200/Henry-VIIIs-500-year-old-tapestry-gets-21st-century-makeover.html


Tapestry: Here & Now

The Holburne Museum

23 June – 1 October 2017

£10 | £9 concession | £5 Art Fund | Free to all Museum Members and under 16s

A touring exhibition from The National Centre for Craft & Design

The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2 4DB
Open daily, free admission 10am – 5pm (11am – 5pm Sundays and Bank Holidays)
T: 01225 388569 | E: enquiries@holburne.org | www.holburne.org

New Holburne Director named!

New Holburne Director named!

Bath’s Holburne Museum has named its new director. He’s Dr Chris Stephens – currently Head of Displays and Lead Curator of Modern British Art at Tate Britain. He will take up his new role in early July. Dr Stephens succeeds Jennifer Scott, now Sackler Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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Dr Chris Stephens. His most recent curation has been the on-going David Hockney retrospective that is projected to be the most popular exhibition in Tate Britain’s history.

John Barneby, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Holburne Museum, said: ‘I’m delighted, on behalf of the Trustees, to announce the appointment of Dr Chris Stephens as the new Director of the Holburne Museum to succeed Jennifer Scott.

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John Barneby, Chairman of Holburne Museum Trustees.

Chris has had an outstanding record at the Tate and once again the Holburne has been able to attract a top talent to continue to move it forward. I have every confidence that Chris will lead the Holburne with creative flair and grow the critical and popular success enjoyed by the Museum.’

On his appointment Chris Stephens said: ‘Since its reopening in 2011, I have admired the richness and professionalism of the Holburne, its staff and its programme, so I am thrilled to become its next Director and to continue and extend its innovation and all that it offers the people of Bath and beyond.’

Nick Serota, Director Tate, said: ‘Chris Stephens is an outstanding curator whose deep knowledge of British art, and of the twentieth century in particular, will bring real strength to the Holburne. In major exhibitions over the past decade he has brought new perspectives to the work of Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Barbara Hepworth and currently David Hockney.

He is widely recognised as the leading scholar on the St Ives School and has curated several exhibitions at Tate St Ives, including recently an important re-assessment of Peter Lanyon. Chris is widely respected in the art world and this affection and personal standing will carry the Holburne forward into an exciting new chapter.’

Alex Farquharson, Director Tate Britain, said: ‘Chris Stephens is a hugely respected and valued member of the Tate Britain team, where he leads the group of curators which has responsibility for modern British Art and the collection. His role in the hugely successful rehang of the collection of British art and redevelopment of Tate Britain is a significant achievement that leaves a substantial legacy for the public that reflects Chris’s enthusiasm, deep understanding of audiences and curatorial excellence.’

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Dr John Stephens © Tate Britain

As Head of Displays, Chris Stephens has overseen the programming, planning and delivery of the collection displays at Tate Britain since 2001. He played a key role in a major refurbishment of the building and in the complete rehang of the collection that accompanied it in 2013.

He is recognised as a leading scholar in 20th century British art and leads the team responsible for the development of and research into Tate’s collection from 1900 to the 1970s.

Chris’s own main area of research has been into artists in Cornwall in the 1940s and 50s and he has curated numerous successful exhibitions at Tate St Ives, including ‘Barbara Hepworth: Centenary’ (2003), ‘Peter Lanyon’ (2010) and ‘International Encounters: St Ives and Modern Art (2014); his book on the subject will be published in 2018. At Tate Britain he has curated a series of major exhibitions, including Gwen & Augustus John (2004), Francis Bacon (2008), Henry Moore (2010), Picasso and British Art (2012), Barbara Hepworth (2015) and, most recently, the on-going David Hockney retrospective that is projected to be the most popular exhibition in Tate Britain’s history.

Here’s links to a couple of YouTube pieces that show the man in action.



Defining a dynasty- a gem of a show.

Defining a dynasty- a gem of a show.

For colour – and sheer quality – Bath’s Holburne Museum has got itself a little gem of a new exhibition which brings together a variety of artistic work – across the whole  Bruegel family dynasty – for the first time in this country.


Guests admire the newly-discovered masterpiece.

Bruegel: Defining a Dynasty helps unravel the complex family tree – revealing the originality and diversity of its members across four generations of painters.


Thirty-five works are on display – including masterpieces from the National Gallery, Royal Collection Trust, the National trust, the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Ashmolean Museum and the Barber lnstitute of Fine Arts.

Pride of place goes to the discovery of a masterpiece in the museum’s own collection.

This is Director Jennifer Scott’s last big show before she leaves for a new post as Director of the Dulwich Gallery in London.


Bruegel expert Amy Orrock and Holburne Director Jennifer Scott.

She has co-curated the display with Bruegel expert Amy Orrock who has also written  a book to accompany the exhibition.


The book Amy Orrock has written to accompany the exhibition.

lt’s not the biggest of galleries to lay out such an exclusive exhibition but – with a clever use of space and colour – the Holburne’s succeeded in providing the perfect background to show off both the talent and diversity of Antwerp’s most famous artistic dynasty and give you room to appreciate it.

Bath Newseum spoke to Jennifer and Amy – just before the special preview.


A book to accompany the exhibition Bruegel: Defining a Dynasty is written by Amy Orrock and published by Philip Wilson and will be on sale in the Holburne’s Gift Shop for £16.95.

Principal Exhibition Sponsor Bath Spa University Bruegel: Defining a Dynasty 11 February – 4 June 2017 £10 Full Price | £9 concessions | £5 Art Fund, Full Time Student | FREE Entry to under 16s and All Museum Members All tickets purchased online will state 5pm but are valid at any time during our opening hours The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2 4DB

Open daily, free admission 10am to 5pm (11am to 5pm Sundays and Bank Holidays) T: 01225 388569 | E: enquiries@holburne.org | http://www.holburne.org

Holburne Director leaves for Dulwich.

Holburne Director leaves for Dulwich.

p1160219Jennifer Scott, Director of the Holburne Museum, has been appointed as the new Sackler Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery. Jennifer will take up this position in April 2017, replacing Ian A C Dejardin, who is joining the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Ontario, Canada, as Chief Executive. 


Jennifer joined the Holburne Museum as Director in August 2014. Since then she has played a significant role in shaping the Museum’s centenary celebrations, with three critically acclaimed exhibitions in 2016. In addition, she led a successful £450,000 acquisition campaign for Sir Thomas Lawrence’s painting Arthur Atherley and a linked community engagement programme, and initiated conservation and research leading to new attributions, thereby positioning the Holburne as the primary UK Collection of works by Pieter Brueghel the Younger. Jennifer has also initiated innovative national and international partnerships for the Holburne and developed its reputation as one of the UK’s best-loved independent Museums.

Holburne Museum

The Holburne Museum at the Sydney Gardens end of Great Pulteney Street.

Jennifer spoke to Bath Newseum about the news.

Richard Fleck, Chairman of Trustees at the Holburne Museum, said: “We will be very sad to lose Jennifer. She has achieved a great deal in her time at the Holburne – and the status of the Museum under her leadership has gone from strength to strength. This is a tremendous accolade for Jennifer, and also acknowledges the success and standing of the Holburne. We wish her well in her new position.”


Dulwich Gallery

Evelyn Welch, Chair of Trustees at Dulwich Picture Gallery, said: “I am delighted to be able to announce Jennifer’s appointment to this important role. Her passion for the Gallery is clear and her achievements at the Holburne Museum are an excellent foundation for joining Dulwich. We look forward to welcoming her on board as we look towards the Gallery’s future ambitions.”

From 2004-2014 Jennifer was Curator of Paintings at Royal Collection Trust. Prior to this she held positions at the National Gallery, London, and National Museums, Liverpool, and has curated a number of major exhibitions for The Queen’s Galleries in London and Edinburgh, The Bowes Museum County Durham and The Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels.

Bath’s 2017 is going to be Crescent shaped.

Bath’s 2017 is going to be Crescent shaped.

On May 19th, 1767 the foundation stone was laid for the construction of what many would now consider to be Bath’s most iconic Georgian building.


So 2017  has a 250th anniversary to celebrate and – thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund award and other donations – Bath Preservation Trust – in collaboration with other cultural organisations – will be leading a whole host of walks, talks, exhibitions and free public events to mark this architectural date in history.


News of the foundation stone being laid from the Bath Chronicle.

Caroline Kay, Chief Executive of the Trust, outlined plans at an informal meeting of representatives of other cultural organisations, held at the Holburne Museum.


The informal gathering at the Holburne Museum getting a briefing on next year’s anniversary plans.

She is anxious to encourage other bodies to come on board and maybe work in some reference to the Royal Crescent in whatever programme of events they may be planning for next year.


The 250th anniversary logo

She also unveiled the logo the Trust will be using to promote the planned celebrations – which also coincide with the 30th anniversary of Bath’s inscription by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.


Bath Preservation Trust Chief Executive Caroline Kay unveils the 250th anniversary logo for the Royal Crescent.

There is much to be finalised and an official launch in the New Year – once the exact HLF funding has been determined  – but here is a rough idea of some of what is in store from a  Bath Preservation Trust briefing:

“No other building represents the architectural innovation, social identity and creative imagination of Georgian Britain better than the Royal Crescent in Bath.  The foundation stone for this masterpiece of 18th century design was laid on 19th May 1767 and since then it has become one of the most famous buildings in Britain. 

It stands as a doorway through which the history of the Georgian period can be discovered and the architecture of the future inspired. 


Via exhibitions, debates, events and artworks the museums of Bath Preservation Trust will lead a year-long city-wide celebration of the Royal Crescent’s 250th anniversary – which also coincides with the 30th anniversary of Bath’s inscription by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Working in collaboration with other cultural organisations the celebrations will include over 70 events so far with lectures, walks, workshops and film screenings. There will be concerts and illuminations – even a grand parade.

I will keep Bath Newseum followers in the picture, but do also keep an eye on the Bath Preservation Trust website http://www.bath-preservation-trust.org.uk/http://www.bath-preservation-trust.org.uk/