Curator Kerri explains why ‘Walking Tours’ are a wonderful way to get closer to art

“For me, this is an opportunity to find out what George got up to in his studio – what makes him tick and do what he does. And I want to know what it was like for Colin, working with a living artist in a gallery known for its old masters who died centuries ago.”

george-shaw-blog“For me, this is an opportunity to find out what George got up to in his studio – what makes him tick and do what he does. And I want to know what it was like for Colin, working with a living artist in a gallery known for its old masters who died centuries ago.”

Working with artists is an exciting opportunity for any arts organisation. It’s an opportunity to learn about their working practice and connect more with their work. You get to find out about their time in the studio, some of the frustrations, moments of insecurity, and the moments of inspiration and joy.

This year at Abbot Hall we are lucky enough to be working with two artists. The first, George Shaw, has an exhibition with us that’s open until Saturday 11 March. The second is Julian Cooper, whose exhibition, celebrating his seventieth year, opens on Friday 7 April.

Through working with artists, curators are able gain an insight into a working practice and a rational that may not be seen by simply looking at an artwork. By going to an artist’s studio, by helping them shape an exhibition, they can create a bond with the artist and gain a deeper understanding of their work.

This week we are fortunate enough to welcome Colin Wiggins, Special Projects Curator at the National Gallery, who will be giving two talks at Abbot Hall. George Shaw describes Colin as his “handler”, who guided him through the duration of his two-and-a-half-year residency at the National Gallery. When George panicked six months in, realising that he’d lost his way under the pressure, Colin was there to reassure him it had happened to those who had gone before him, including Paula Rego and Peter Blake.


Colin worked closely with George, as his main point of contact during his residency, and to help shape the outcome – the exhibition George Shaw: My back to nature, which is now at Abbot Hall, and the subsequent exhibition catalogue.

Lost and Found: Into the woods with George Shaw is a tour by Colin of George’s exhibition at Abbot Hall. It will shed light on the relationship between artist and curator, the way in which George responded to the National Gallery’s collection and the work he produced. It promises to be an interesting tour, full of personal insights and anecdotes.

Colin will also be giving a breakfast talk, Carry on Constable: Three National Gallery masterpieces reinterpreted, which will look at the three works on loan to Abbot Hall from the National Gallery. These works, by Piero del Pollaiuolo, Nicholas Poussin and John Constable, influenced and inspired George. Colin will discuss how George tackled the pressure of taking on the Masters, and how he found new meaning in the National Gallery’s collection to create new and poignant work.

These talks will open up George’s works, taking them from the walls and transporting them back to the studio at the National Gallery, revisiting the process of their creation and exploring the works that inspired their creation through Colin’s personal experience with George.

To book for either or both of these tours, please call 01539 722464.



Nostalgia: Farming Life

We have many beautiful images of farming life through the years in the collection at MOLLI. Many of these images were kindly donated by members of the public. These 9 images are just one example of the intriguing images that are sent to us. These pictures show farming with horse-drawn machinery at Howestone. The photographs were taken in the summers between 1947 and the early 1950s and show essential work being undertaken in a traditional way, as well as the farm’s faithful horse Dobbin. They give a wonderful insight into farming at this time and the importance of the horse before the tractor became as prevalent as it is today.

Lakeland Arts 2016 and beyond…

Busy times are ahead for Lakeland Arts in Cumbria, one of the leading Arts and Heritage Organisations in the North West. Originally Founded in 1957, it has since developed a hugely successful artistic programme, which repeatedly brings the best contemporary and historical artists to the area. On an annual basis, thousands of visitors come to indulge themselves in visual feasts of consistently high quality exhibitions, held at inspiring settings throughout the Lake District and just outside. Yet this is only part of the story. For over the next few years, there are plans to raise the stakes even higher, with an ambitious strategy to significantly grow a diverse selection of attractions. Notwithstanding the realisation of an ambitious new Windermere Jetty project or the completion of new period rooms at Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House in Bowness.

Since opening Abbot Hall Art Gallery in 1962, the former Georgian town house has gained a national and international reputation for the excellence of its collections and programming. A wide-ranging collection boasts something for everyone, from iconic works such as the huge 16th Century triptych portrait of Lady Anne Clifford, to Cumbrian born George Romney’s finest society portraits from the 18th Century. Hung in elegant period rooms these magnificent works rub shoulders with a fine set of 18th & 19th Century watercolours from the likes of J.M.W. Turner, John Constable and Edward Lear. Highlights of a strong modern and contemporary collection include paintings by the St. Ives School, Graham Sutherland, L. S. Lowry and Ivon Hitchens, with three-dimensional pieces by Barbara Hepworth and Jean Arp. You can also find an important selection of works by German refugee Kurt Schwitters, who spent the last few years of his life in the Lake District, after fleeing to England in 1940. From its early days, Abbot Hall has regularly brought some of the most celebrated names in the art world to Cumbria, from: Bridget Riley, Lucien Freud and Patrick Caulfield to name only a few. The current highly acclaimed exhibition ‘Canaletto: Celebrating Britain’ is on the last leg of a hugely successful tour, which has already taken in the Compton Verney Art Gallery in Warwickshire and Holburne Museum in Bath. It offers a Northwest audience the unique chance to see a large grouping of drawings and paintings by the illustrious 18th century Italian artist. The works have been brought together from major collections including: the Royal Collection, British Museum and Dulwich Picture Gallery, along with a number of private lenders.

Lakeland Arts have also developed an extensive learning and activities programme of events, lectures, workshops, films and concerts across all of their sites. Giving invaluable access to their collections for families, schools, colleges and community groups. All galleries are free for children up to the age of sixteen, and young people receive further support with a variety of cross-curricula opportunities, predominantly in Art and Design and History. Engaging the local community is also another top priority. A series of projects aimed at meeting the needs and interests of individual groups include a programme entitled, Enriched by Moments, which delivers activities and events designed to engage people living with dementia along with their carers. These informal sessions often stimulate lively discussion, generating creative ideas and enhancing feelings of well-being. They have also established partnerships with organisations such as: Young Cumbria, the Leonard Cheshire Disability Trust, Riverview Day Centre in Kendal and residents and staff at the Leonard Cheshire Home at Holehird, Windermere.


From March this year, Abbot Hall will become one of only three host venues selected to display a Masterpiece from the National Gallery Collection. Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 63 will arrive during a UK tour from January to July 2016. This late contemplative self-portrait by one of the world’s most revered artists represents another major coup for the gallery. Helen Watson, Director of Exhibitions and Collections is obviously thrilled, “We are excited about bringing one of the greatest works of art in the UK to Kendal. Visitors will have a unique opportunity to spend time with this magnificent painting, study it in detail and learn about Rembrandt and his self-portraits.” Keeping a close eye on the Dutch master will be Lady Anne Clifford’s barn door-sized triptych from the same period, which is to be shown in an adjacent gallery. Looking forward to the pair meeting one another, Anne-Marie Quinn, Learning and Engagement Officer at Abbot Hall reveals, “We have designed a programme of talks and activities to encourage all our visitors to spend time with Rembrandt and Lady Anne. They are remarkable characters in their own right and both have used portraiture in very different ways to describe moments throughout their lives. Lady Anne’s portraits create a narrative about her status and power, while Rembrandt’s self-portrait is the intense almost spiritual scrutiny of an older man, reflecting on his image, and perhaps his whole life.


Housed nearby in the old coach house and stable block at Abbot Hall, The Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry displays a significant and widespread collection relating to the social and industrial history of the Lake District and Kendal. This year visitors will be treated to a new layout with more interactive displays. Exhibits not to miss include the original sketches, drawings, photographs, mementoes and a pair of slippers once belonging to Arthur Ransome, author of the enduring children’s classic, Swallows and Amazons. Whilst there are further opportunities to step back in time with the Victorian photographs of the Lake District by Joseph Hardman, or by tracing the local development of the Arts and Crafts Movement.


When architect MH Baillie Scott completed Blackwell in 1901, he built a beautiful holiday home overlooking Windermere for his client, Sir Edward Holt, a wealthy industrialist. Exactly one hundred years later, Lakeland Arts opened the house to the public in 2001, after stepping in to save it from an uncertain future. Initially securing a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a restoration project, this masterpiece of twentieth-century design now continues to present a rare opportunity for visitors to experience a breath-taking example of the Arts & Crafts Movement today. At the moment, plans to bring the Blackwell Project: An Arts and Crafts Story are close to fruition. This two-year project will eventually introduce new Arts and Crafts furnishings, objects and textiles to further enhance the period rooms, whilst telling the stories of some of the people who lived and worked at Blackwell.

Unquestionably, one of the most exciting future additions for the Lakeland Arts portfolio is the realisation of the new Windermere Jetty, Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories. Which replaces the former Windermere Steamboat Museum that opened in 1977. Thanks again to significant support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, an eighteen month build and fit-out programme started in a special Ground-breaking ceremony on November 20th 2015. Once opened, the new Museum will add a further dimension to Cumbria’s rich heritage and cultural offer. Windermere’s lakeshore history will come alive as it is combined with displays of steam launches, motorboats, yachts and other vessels. A new learning centre is a key feature of the design, whilst a new café will provide stunning views over the length of Windermere. Martin Ainscough, Chairman of Lakeland Arts is clearly delighted; “This is a major step towards opening the Museum to the public so that everyone can enjoy seeing the historic boats on display in the exhibition galleries and on the lake”. Local MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale (and leader of the Liberal Democrats) Tim Farron, also welcomes the latest addition to the shoreline, stating; “I cannot wait for the new building to open so I can have a look at Lakeland Arts’ fantastic collection of historic boats. I am grateful for the support the Heritage Lottery Fund continues to give to Cumbria”.

With the completion of the Windermere Jetty project expected in 2017, Lakeland Arts will grow significantly and boast one of the most far-reaching and diverse set of attractions. Incorporating a wide variety of collections with the potential to rival anywhere else in the UK. For nearly sixty years, they have cultivated an enviable reputation for exhibiting art of the highest quality. This has been achieved alongside the creation of inspiring spaces for the understanding and enjoyment of artists, the collections and buildings. Whilst the exhibition programme continues to celebrate artistic endeavour and imagination, it also engages and challenges audiences to fully experience all forms of art.

David Banning
Visitor Experience Coordinator, Lakeland Arts

Mary Burkett, 1924 – 2014

Mary BurkettGoodness we’ll all miss Mary. She never really needed a surname in Cumbria, we all knew which Mary we were talking about, she influenced and touched so many of our lives at different times and in different ways. It is both an honour and a daunting task to try and capture her life in a few minutes, she achieved so much, she had so many interests and so many friends.  There was no middle way with Mary, you were either a good thing or you weren’t, things were either terrific or terrible. And old age was terrible, ‘not for wimps’ she said, and we must all be thankful that she died while she was still living life to the full, and that she’d seen so many of her friends from all over the world who had come to join her 90th birthday celebrations last month.

Mary was proud to be descended from a saint. Her forebear, Saint William of the Desert, was a favourite and protector of Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor. Fast forward to Mary’s mother who came from an old and musical Irish family and her father who was a soldier in the Royal Engineers. They met at the outbreak of the Ist World War and married soon after it ended. Mary was born in Newcastle in 1924, grew up in the North East and went on to Durham University before becoming a teacher, first in Portsmouth, then Warwickshire and in 1955 coming to Charlotte Mason College in Ambleside which was then both a teacher training college and a PNEU school. With a shock of red hair and enormous energy, enthusiasm and a great sense of fun, she was an inspirational teacher both to the children and to those training, and as throughout her life, she went the extra mile. She taught Art but when one girl who longed to be a doctor couldn’t pass an essential Maths exam and everyone had given up on her, Mary took her on and got her through it. She spent summers working in refugee camps in Austria and then helped to raise money and start an Ockenden Venture house for refugee children in Ambleside.

In 1962, inspired by the writings of Freya Stark and with great spirit of adventure, Mary left Charlotte Mason and set off in an old landrover for Persia with Genette Malet de Carteret. They discovered a ruined Assassin’s castle, worked on a dig for several weeks, and travelled widely and at times dangerously. This trip gave her a lifelong love of the Middle East and Afghanistan and their ancient civilizations. She’d always been very interested in Archaeology (as well as Geology and Ornithology and wildlife), and subsequently she directed a small excavation in Roman Ambleside and played a very important part in setting up the Senhouse Museum in Maryport. While she was in Persia Mary also came across felt making for the first time. She researched its history, wrote about it, championed it as an art, founded a worldwide network of felt artists and was proud to be known as the Mother of Felt.

After 9 months of travelling Mary returned to take up a post at Abbot Hall, then a newly formed museum, and in 1966 became the director. During her 20 year rule the museum enlarged enormously, she cajoled locals into give furniture and paintings, created the adjoining Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry largely through donations, and made a number of very important acquisitions as well as encouraging young artists and craftsmen. My first real memory of Mary is in the mid 70s when I had just left the Royal College and she came to look at my photographs to see whether she thought them worthy of an exhibition. She put my folio on the floor. “I always told my pupils to look at things upside down” she said, swinging her head down between her legs. She really was a great Patron of the Arts, she encouraged those who were creative to create, and those with money to buy. In 1973 Abbot Hall won the first Museum of the Year award.

Mary fitted more into a day than most people would contemplate. The day of our wedding in 1986 was also the day of Margaret Austen-Leigh’s funeral and Mary went to both. Margaret was an old friend and distant cousin of hers and Mary was her heir. She had just retired as director of Abbot Hall, so while others might have thought of downsizing Mary moved from the log cabin she had built at Bowness to the great and ancient Isel Hall and so began another chapter of her life. With help from English Heritage she undertook a long restoration programme to the building, making it water and weather tight, she filled it with an eclectic collection of modern art and supported and encouraged painters, potters, poets, writers, dancers, musicians and sculptors. She continued to research and write on Cumbrian Artists, played the organ in this beautiful church, sped round the county going to meetings, lectures, concerts and parties and visiting friends. Mary had a great gift for friendship, she made friends everywhere, in trains, in shops, on the beach, it didn’t matter.

She was a member, trustee, chairman, patron and president of more organizations and charities than one can count. She raised money, filled lecture halls, organized exhibitions, she was unstoppable. She was always good company and the most generous of friends as well as being quite demanding. I don’t think she really liked being alone and latterly she was often looking for a companion, a driver or somewhere to stay the night as she hated to miss anything, even when her energy was failing. Other than her Christmas party it was best to visit Isel in summer. To conserve heat the curtains were rarely drawn back in winter, she hated cooking, her kitchen was prehistoric, and it was a good idea to arrive with a picnic. There were notices telling one not to waste water, and her wonderful letters were always in used envelopes with gummed labels. She didn’t spend money on herself, she quietly helped friends and causes she thought important. When we visited Nino, a friend of hers in Georgia, Russia, Mary gave us a small packet of money to pass on to her.

It’s hard to imagine life without Mary, her death leaves a great sad hole, but I think her legacy will live on in so many ways and through so many people that her spirit will be around for a long time to come.

A tribute by Cressida Inglewood of Hutton-in-the-Forest

Windermere Jetty, Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories

We took a major step forward last month when we started the enabling works to prepare the old Steamboat Museum site. The next stage is to appoint a main contractor and start construction of the new museum.

WSM Proposed View from Lake © Carmody Groarke

Lakeland Arts is working with Carmody Groarke architects, Arup engineers and Real Studios exhibition designers to develop not only a new world-class museum but a whole new venue, something quite extraordinary to create an inspiring, engaging and enjoyable experience to appeal to everyone from the local community and tourists, to specialists and school children.

A new attraction deserves a new name, and the museum will reopen as Windermere Jetty, Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories.

Windermere Jetty combines the unique collection of historic vessels, a stunning lakeside position, competition-winning design and interpretation, working conservation workshop with rare public access to the lake shore and one of the most beautiful locations in England.

Windermere Jetty will connect people to the lake in a very special way.

The Big Move

The Windermere Steamboat Museum team have been making the most of the good weather over the past few months and have been hard at work recording, packing and labeling all of the objects in the collection. The curatorial team has now relocated over 2,500 objects that relate to the boats, with enormous help from a team of volunteers. Whilst the new Museum is being constructed many of these objects will be cleaned and conserved ready to go on display and tell the stories of boating on Windermere. Careful packing of items associated with Sir Henry Segrave The conservation team has also been busy moving the workshop into temporary facilities where they will be able to continue conserving the boats ready for display both in the new exhibition space and on the water in the boathouse when the Museum opens. One of the most complex tasks the team has undertaken is the relocation of the boats in temporary storage on site, including the ferry Mary Anne pictured above. The collection has been moved to enable the construction of the new Museum to take place and to ensure the boats are away from all the activity. The store has only moved a short distance but the logistics of moving such a vast collection are not to be underestimated! We are thrilled to be moving into the next stage of the project and look forward to keeping you up to date with progress.

WSM Newsletter August 2014

Welcome Aboard

We are very pleased to welcome two new members to the museum team. Helen Parr joined us in May as our Learning and Interpretation Officer and has a key role in developing the interpretation that will be in the new displays as well as planning the exciting learning and activity programmes that we will offer in the Museum. Helen is talking to schools and community groups to develop our activities so if you are interested in being involved please get in touch.

IMG_9300 P1280640

We are also pleased to announce that Matthew Foot has been appointed as Conservation Assistant. Matthew has been completing an apprenticeship in Heritage Boat Building at the Museum for the past 12 months and will now continue to assist with the conservation of over 40 historic wooden vessels.