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FLAG News:

NEWSLETTER - January 2018


Firstly, I would like to wish you all a happy and healthy New Year and to thank you for your continuing support for The Friends of the Art Gallery and Museum. With your support this helps us to provide assistance with the finance towards special projects, conservation and exhibitions at The Gallery.

2018 will be an important year for the Art Gallery and Museum with a rehang of the Art Collections and major changes to the reception area. We look forward to these exciting developments during the coming year.

We are in the process of planning a full programme of excursions for the Summer and Autumn 2018. A visit to Ely Cathedral has been rescheduled for the Autumn.

It is appropriate that I mention the work of our Committee in managing the finances, arranging excursions, booking speakers, publishing and delivering the newsletters, membership applications, catering at our meetings and organising the raffle.

Many thanks to all our volunteer committee members.



Christine sadly died last August. She was an enthusiastic member of FLAG for many years, serving as Chairman on several occasions.

She requested that we hold a Memorial Lecture for FLAG members which we are in the process of arranging with the Art Gallery & Museum.


February 2018 – April 2018


Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen: Dressing for the Pleasure Gardens.

Sarah Jane Downing is the author of many books on social history: most recently she has been focusing on Victorian Pleasure Gardens and Jane Austen who is likely to have visited the Pleasure Gardens in Leamington when she stayed at nearby Stoneleigh Abbey in 1806.

Several FLAG members heard Sarah Jane do a Friday Focus talk which they thoroughly recommended so we are very pleased that she can come along to our meeting. Apparently she is a very lively and interesting speaker.


Architectural Illustration

Mark Baker is an architectural painter & draughtsman producing traditional watercolours for architects, property developers and estate agents. He will be telling us about his work whilst also giving us a practical demonstration of his watercolour pictures. This will be a first for FLAG but I am assured that the technical details will be ok and we will all be able to see!


Mary Anne Clarke
1776 - 1852

A Right Royal Scandal

Dr. Graham Cope has provided us with the following:

The Duke of York had many mistresses but one in particular, Mary Anne Clarke, was the focus of a major scandal when she and the Duke were accused of selling promotions with the army. The background is one of treachery, deceit, political shenanigans and a major enquiry in Parliament, which rocked the country for seven weeks and resulted in the resignation of the Duke.

Sounds perfect to follow our AGM, which hopefully won't contain any treachery or deceit but will start at the earlier time of 7.15pm.

We are currently busy planning the summer excursions. Details and booking forms will be sent with the AGM papers in March.


NOTE: our evening meetings take place at 7.30pm in St Peter’s Conference Centre, Dormer Place.

There is car parking on the street in Dormer Place and St Peter’s Car Park, just round the corner, in Augusta Place. The small car park at the centre is reserved for church members.

Art Gallery & Museum News

The last six months have been busy at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum. After several new appointments and the Arts Service re-structure in the first half of the year, the Collections & Engagement Team was finally complete when Vicki Slade returned from maternity leave in October. We have been enjoying all working together and making plans for the year ahead, which promises to be as busy as the last!

Drawn from Life: People on Paper, opened on 7 July and ran until 17 September 2017. The exhibition included some of the finest drawings of the human figure in the Arts Council Collection with loans from the British Council Collection. It began in the early twentieth century with Gwen John’s delicate lines, the intricate patterns of Harold Gilman and the precision of William Roberts. Mid-twentieth-century works included the whimsical lines of George Fullard and John Golding and the bold markings of Frank Auerbach and John Bratby. The story was brought up to the present with the imaginary figures of Charles Avery and Mimei Thompson. Perhaps some of the most surprising examples were those from very early on in artists’ careers, such as a self-portrait by Richard Hamilton from 1938, the carefully drawn Mrs Ash Asleep, 1952 by Howard Hodgkin and Eduardo Paolozzi’s Drawings from Rembrandt, 1945. The show was a great success and attracted nearly 10,000 visitors.

Our exhibition The Benevolent Despot: Alderman Alfred Holt (1858 – 1943) and the foundation of Leamington Art Gallery (supported by FLAG) which opened on 29 September 2017 with a Friday Focus Extra talk by curator Jeff Watkin. Alfred Holt was a leading figure in Royal Leamington Spa, from his arrival in the town in the mid-1890s to his death in 1943. After Holt had presented ‘Forty Years‘ Recollections of Leamington’ to the Leamington Rotary Club in 1940, one member summarised his career with the tongue-in-cheek observation that, ‘Into this beautiful town Alderman Holt had come and played the part of a benevolent despot for half a century.’ Much of Alfred’s work on behalf of Leamington Spa has since been largely forgotten, although several of the projects he supported have proved to be enduring value and continue to benefit the town today. This exhibition and an associated catalogue present, for the first time, an appreciation of one of Leamington Spa’s ‘most generous and public-spirited residents’.

All FLAG members can also collect their complimentary copy of the catalogue from the foyer reception desk.

The New Year will start with an exhibition curated by artist Stuart Whipps called Lights of Leamington. In the 1950s a festival called The Lights of Leamington drew 300,000 visitors to the town. Thousands of coloured electric lights turned Jephson Gardens into a wonderland. The last event took place in October 1961. This eclectic exhibition, selected and curated by Birmingham based artist Stuart Whipps, brings the theme up to date showing the diverse ways light runs through the collection at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum. The show will open with a preview on Thursday 18 January from 6-7.30pm. Speeches will take place in the foyer area at 6.30pm. Stuart Whipps will also give an introductory talk for Lights of Leamington at a Friday Focus Extra on 19 January at 1pm.

This exhibition is the first that will take place both in the exhibition space and the foyer area. Supported by the Arts Council, it is part of a major redesign that started with the moving of the art gallery desk and will continue with the installation of designs by artist Lyndall Phelps in January.

This will be followed by the New Displays which will be installed in the main gallery through the first half of February. We will be changing the pictures on display and including some old favourites, while incorporating a new layout and colour scheme. We shall also be including a dementia friendly area.

Huw Jones and Lily Crowther, the Human History Curators, are working on an exhibition about World War One. It will explore the stories of locals on active service at the front, as well as the impact of the war on life in Leamington. The town was particularly active in the treatment of wounded servicemen; many were treated at the Pump Rooms. The exhibition will open at the end of July 2018 and close on Armistice Day, marking 100 years since the end of the war.

In the autumn, we will also be marking the centenary of women’s suffrage with a display on the Mezzanine looking at local suffragists.

We are looking forward to organising a lecture in May by Thomas Plant, who used to work closely with David Barby on Flog It! More details will be circulated in the New Year. The lecture will be in memory of Christine Percival and will be an opportunity for FLAG members to gather together; potential new members can also attend, if space allows.

Chloe Johnson & Alice Swatton,
December 2017


Our events programme includes a print workshop with Corinna Spencer, necklace making with Eleanor Allitt, an introduction to collage with Victoria Smith and a drawing class with Mary Riley. All workshops are now available to book online via www.warwickdc.gov.uk/royalpumprooms and through our Box Office in the Royal Pump Rooms foyer, 01926 334418. There will be family friendly activities to mark Valentine’s Day and Mothering Sunday and we shall also be linking up with the Library for an Easter Elephant Art Extravaganza!

I have been in post for just over six months now and I’m starting to get to know many of you in FLAG. I would like to thank you for your on going support and encouragement, particularly with Friday Focus and Santa’s Grotto. I have been made to feel incredibly welcome and feel very privileged to be here doing a job I love (despite being very busy!)

As well as continuing to run regular events and school trips, we’re in the planning stage of creating new trails for the gallery which will include handling activities and games. They will hopefully bring our wonderful collection to life and are going to be aimed at primary school age children. We’re also developing ‘handling objects’ for some of our paintings which will be included in the rehang. It’s hoped these will help visitors with learning difficulties or those living with dementia. We’re also in the process of creating an art tour for adults. I’m sure we’ll ask you to help us trial at some point in the New Year.

Sally Larke
Learning & Engagement Officer
December 2017

The Benevolent Despot

Have you got a favourite picture in the current exhibition, brilliantly titled “The Benevolent Despot? This almost classic oxymoron hooks you into viewing the eclectic collection of pictures and other interesting pieces donated by Alderman Alfred Holt to the embryonic Art Gallery attached to the old library building in Avenue Rd. Initially his bequests formed the basis of the current stock of art now rehoused, of course, and added to by many other benefactors including his wife. What a divergent gift it turned out to be, ranging from landscapes to portraits, still life to townscapes, conversation pieces to posed portraits, seascapes to regular harbour scenes there is something for everyone. The styles are varied, the media also. It is a remarkable testimony to his breadth of vision, of taste and of the depths of his pocket.

When I was asked the question that heads this piece I found myself at a loss: spoilt for choice one might say. Then I remembered my swift intake of breath on first seeing the display and remarking on the two pictures of three women, entirely dissimilar except for the number of figures in each and their common gender.

Do you recall the large painting to the left as you entered the gallery? It is titled “The Three Generations" then, a little further round, a small canvas entitled “The Cronies". Don’t they make a contrast? Both are oil on canvas, both by somewhat overlooked artists who saw in their compositions an opportunity to make a statement about the bonding or otherwise of women whom we can speculate as being related to each other either by blood or proximity.

"The Three Generations" is a remarkable study of three Middle Eastern Ladies by an Armenian artist, Sarkis Katchadourian depicting the women moving towards greater freedom in dress through the generations shown here. The sombre black of the matriarch, relieved by a dark, patterned underskirt, is stark against the white chadors worn by the younger women, sisters perhaps, who exhibit vibrant coloured skirts, and whose features are shown more clearly as the younger of the two looks out challengingly from the picture. One could see them as representing the past, present and future, not only in dress but also in life-style and in opportunities to work and fulfil their dreams.

"The Cronies" depicts a totally different trio. The artist, William Conor, conveys warmth, companionship, caring and sharing the strands of their lives. Working housewives, neighbours maybe, finding support in chatting as they meet, arms akimbo in the universal gesture of taking a break and having a bit of a gossip. It seems they are a group from the North of England but they could be three long standing friends anywhere.

You will probably have a completely different favourite. I have cheated by talking about two. I didn’t know the work of either artist so thanks to Alderman Holt and the Internet I have had the opportunity to see new pictures and learn about new artists. His choice may not be to your taste but it would be ungracious not to say thank you to the Benevolent Despot as we look forward to the new exhibition, Lights of Leamington. See you there hopefully.

Claire Spivey 02/01/2018.


September - Cambridge
October - Windsor

Our trip to Ely Cathedral and Glass Museum was unexpectedly postponed; however quick thinking by our Committee arranged a visit to Cambridge instead.

Kings College Chapel, Cambridge – photographer Clive Nelson

Windsor Castle - Photographer Clive Nelson


We started our tour at the King William IV Inn, which was renamed after the King drove through Hampstead in 1835 on his way to a Strawberry Feast at Kenwood. Our Blue Badge Guide Sean, undaunted by the size of our group, took us up the High Street by the Flask Inn where health-giving water was sold. Affluent Londoners came to Hampstead for its fresh air and pure water, which filters through Bagshot Sands on the Heath to emerge as springs. These feed the rivers Tyburn, Fleet and Westbourne. It is still a place for the rich and famous and has the second most expensive street in the land. Many of the villas are investment opportunities, not homes.

We climbed Holly Bush Steps by Golden Yard to the house of George Romney who painted Lady Hamilton 60 times. The extravagantly decorated Mount Vernon “Consumptives" Hospital is now apartments. The oldest mansion in the ‘village’ – Fenton House (1693), was owned by a silk merchant Joshua Gee. His initials appear on the gilded wrought iron gates made by Tijou. We crossed a little Green to pass the home of George Du Maurier to lime-shaded Admiral’s Walk by Admiral’s House, home of Gilbert Scott 1878-1891. A canon used to be fired from its poop deck.

Constable came to 2 Lower Terrace in 1821 to improve his wife’s health and he painted many oil sketches of the Heath and around his home. He is buried in the Graveyard of the Parish Church of St John’s, which was built by Sanderson in 1747 to accommodate the swelling congregation. Keats, John ‘Longitude’ Harrison and Norman Shaw also rest here. We made our way back, by the white Roman Catholic Church, where Judi Dench was married. We had lunch at the King William surrounded by prints and photographs of famous ‘locals’ such as Dickens, Coleridge, Byron, Elizabeth Taylor and Enid Blyton. Hampstead has more Blue Plaques than any other London suburb.

On the way to Kenwood House we had views over the Heath by Whitestone Pond and saw Spaniards Inn (built 1585) where Dick Turpin often stabled Black Bess. The landlord delayed a mob of Gordon rioters by plying them with refreshments, saving Kenwood House from destruction.

At Kenwood we looked from Repton’s terrace over his Arcadian landscape of lawns, groves and a lake with an ornamental bridge, to the London skyline. Today, St Paul’s and the Post Office Tower are both overwhelmed by The Shard, Gherkin and Toastrack.

To a brick-built villa of 1700 "Classical Bob", Robert Adam added an imposing portico, a third storey, the wing which contains his masterpiece, the Great Room or Library. The design, a double cube with semi-circular apse and cove ceiling is derived from Roman public baths. Light and spaciousness are emphasised by seven and a half feet high French pier glasses, which took eight men three days to hang. A full-length portrait of Kenwood’s most celebrated resident, Lord Mansfield, formed the over-mantle, instead of the landscape Adam had envisaged.

Visitors would bow to the bust by Nollekens of William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, arguably the greatest British judge of the eighteenth century. As Lord Chief Justice he reformed court procedure, developed commercial law and ruled against slavers who threw ailing slaves overboard in order to claim insurance. Lord and Lady Mansfield adopted two generations of nieces. The story of the daughter of his nephew and a black prisoner from the West Indies was made into the film “Belle".

Nearly all of Kenwood’s contents were stripped and sold in 1922 after a bid to save it failed. The Kenwood Preservation Committee did manage to buy most of the estate, but Edward Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, acquired the house and remaining 74 acres. He used his fortune to buy Dutch and Flemish paintings of the seventeenth century and British art of the late eighteenth century. In 1928 Kenwood with this magnificent collection was opened to the public. The Guitar Player by Jan Vermeer was stolen in 1974 but has been recovered. Pieter van den Broeche by Frans Hals smiles, satisfied by a successful career, a contrast to the soul-searching gaze of Rembrandt van Rijn’s last self-portrait. Paintings by Reynolds, Van Dyke, Gainsborough, Turner, Romney, Boucher, Guardi and Landseer hang in the Dining Room, Music Room and Green Room.

Upstairs the Suffolk Collection of full-length portraits attributed to William Larkin have found a home. Wedding guests in sumptuous costumes are depicted in extraordinary detail.

Serpentine paths lead through the garden’s shrubberies and woodland to the dairy where the second Lady Mansfield presided over the making of prize-winning butter from her herd of Longhorn cattle. Here she entertained guests with cream teas. On the way out there was just time to visit the walled garden, full of flowers and busy bees on this perfect sunny day in Hampstead.

Marilyn Lowe
August 2017