Los Angeles, Paris, Kendal – the homes of Haystacks

Claude Monet, Haystacks: Snow Effect © National Galleries of Scotland

Twenty-five works from Monet’s Haystacks series are held at some of the world’s most prestigious art galleries.

In January 2018 Abbot Hall Art Gallery joined the likes of Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Getty Center in Los Angeles to show off a Monet Haystacks painting.

Monet’s Haystacks: Snow Effect has been on loan to Abbot Hall from National Galleries of Scotland.

Thousands of visitors have enjoyed spending a moment with Monet in our gallery – but time is running out to see this masterpiece. The last day this painting will be on show in Kendal is Saturday 28 April 2018.

The Haystacks series is among Monet’s most notable work. The arrival of Haystacks: Snow Effect in Kendal was a major coup for the region and the very first time a Monet has gone on show in Cumbria.

Monet, the founder of French Impressionism, is the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement’s philosophy.

He worked at different times of day and season to capture the affect changing light had on their form.

The largest Haystacks collections are held at the Musée d’Orsay and Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris. The Art Institute of Chicago has six.

Other museums that hold Haystacks paintings include the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the Hill-Stead Museum in Connecticut, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Kunsthaus Zürich, and the Shelburne Museum, Vermont.

The remaining Haystacks paintings are in private collections around the globe.

Monet’s Haystacks: Snow Effect, is on show at Abbot Hall, Kendal until April 28th.

What is haystack exactly? Farmer Maria Benjamin explains.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/264476805″>Farmer Maria marvels about Monet’s Haystacks Snow Effect painting – on display at Abbot Hall until 28 April.</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/lakelandarts”>Lakeland Arts</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Blackwell: “While away hours in this magical place” – Katie Spragg

I first visited Blackwell on a beautiful sunny late-summer evening, having been approached and asked if I’d like to exhibit my work there.

It was only my second trip to the Lake District and a fleeting visit between installing a show in Stoke-on-Trent and an artist residency at Cove Park in Scotland.


On my tour of the house I was enchanted by the dark wood of the hall contrasted with the beautiful, light, airiness of the White Drawing Room – with the sun pouring in the windows and the view over Lake Windermere.

As I was shown round, Shannon, one of the learning team, shared a story with me; when the house was being renovated years ago, they had found a tree sapling growing in one of the cupboards in this room. I’m always on the look out for a good story and have an ongoing fascination with the way plants behave when left to their own devices; reclaiming and moving into man-made spaces.

From this tale, I had the idea for the first of my new works for Blackwell – Rowan Tree Sapling, which appears to grow inside a cupboard in the White Drawing Room and I’ve heard is many visitor’s favourite piece. 

On this first visit, the house seemed like a magical place; where you could while away hours with a book or the views in one of the inglenooks or play an excellent game of hide and seek (this was further inspired by the Swallows and Amazons exhibition on at the time).

There was just a short turnaround before the exhibition would open in January, but I felt that Blackwell was too special a place not to make some new work inspired by the house and surrounding landscape.

So in November I returned for a four-day research trip. The summer was now gone, but I was lucky that there was still sunshine coming in the drawing room windows. During my reseach trip, I would arrive at the house early before it opened to the public so I could have the place to myself, savouring the serenity and calm – the house is a great place to think as well as observe.

As the visitors begun to trickle in, I would move from the White Drawing Drawing Room up to the Minstrel’s Gallery, above the Great Hall. I liked to think of this as my hideout, like a child in a den. I could listen in on conversations below and fantasise about being a Romanian princess in her treehouse (there is a sketch displayed in the Minstrel’s Gallery of a treehouse designed by Bailie Scott for the Crown Princess of Romania).

This part of the house directly inspired my new piece The Treehouse. Balanced on trunk-like legs, an oak box references the joinery and details of a cabinet in the White Drawing Room and houses a landscape. The box was designed and created in collaboration with my partner Geoffrey Hagger who is a woodworker.

Instead of peering into The Treehouse and seeing a cosy interior, you find a vista reminiscent of both the local Cumbrian landscape and one of fairy tales. Coloured glass (which will be changed intermittently throughout the exhibition) is inspired by the Victorian observation tower directly opposite Blackwell, on the other side of  Windermere. Depending on when you see the piece the landscape will appear at different times of day or in different seasons.

During my exploration of the house I studied the colours, particularly those of the stained glass, the light, shapes used in openings of windows, inglenooks and doorways, the views and framing of the landscape through the windows and the carved architectural details inspired by nature.

These all came together to inspire The Treehouse. As well as spending time inside the house, I also explored the surrounding area; photographing and sketching the hundreds of plants that grow from the boundary wall around the house – this inspired two new Stone pieces.

An employee at Blackwell recommended a local walk, and following her instructions I navigated a circular walk from the nearby village of Troutbeck. Climbing up the hill, the vista opened up onto beautiful views of the lake. As I walked I was on the lookout for grasses to inspire some new small sculptures – the grasses I found were drying in golden shades and curling as they dried. Traversing a boggy area of the path I found tufts with many different seed heads and thin grass growing from the verge. Back in the studio I translated the photographs I took into four new Turf pieces, working with a spectrum of clays to try and capture the golden, sepia shades of the grasses. 

The opportunity to show my work at Blackwell is such a pleasure. It has allowed me to bring together pieces made over the past two years – from my MA degree show at the Royal College of Art to the new pieces made especially for the exhibition. One of my animations and a digital installation are also on display at Abbot Hall Gallery (until 28. April).

I have responded to the moods and features of the house in the display of the work – placing pieces with coloured glass in the stained glass windows, hiding a small Turf sculpture on a high window in the great hall and cleaning up The Glasshouse, originally designed to be displayed in a large, industrial old ceramics factory, to fit perfectly in The White Drawing room – the proportions of the windows are coincidentally almost exactly the same as the paneling on the walls and the rowan tree frieze is visible through the top windows and porcelain buddleia.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lakeland Arts for inviting me to exhibit my work in such a special place, in particularly Kerri Offord, Head of Curatorial who spotted and advocated my work. 

Katie Spragg’s Ceramics exhibition runs at Blackwell until 10 May 2018.

Her digital animations at Abbot Hall Kendal are on show until 28 April 2018.

Learn more Katie Spragg and her amazing work.

Katie Spragg, Ceramics at Blackwell

The Katie Spragg, Ceramics exhibition has opened at Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House and will continue until 10 May 2018. In the video, Spragg introduces the exhibition and discusses how Blackwell has influenced her work.

Katie Spragg, Ceramics Exhibition at Blackwell from Lakeland Arts on Vimeo.

Recognised as one of the country’s finest up-and-coming talents, Royal College of Art graduate, Katie Spragg combines clay with a range of processes including animation, illustration and installation. Her works aim to evoke a sense of wonder about being outside in nature.

The exhibition of ceramics at Blackwell will showcase eight new responses to the Arts and Crafts house and the surrounding landscape, alongside six existing works previously displayed by the Craft Council COLLECT at the Saatchi Gallery, Miami Art Week and the British Ceramic Biennial Award show.

Spragg spent a week at Blackwell in November and was inspired to create new works based on her experience. She said, “In the mornings Blackwell feels very serene. The nooks and corners of the house lend themselves to daydreaming, particularly at this time of day. I became interested in how the landscape is framed through the windows of the house and also how nature is brought inside.”

Alongside this exhibition at Blackwell, two digital works by Spragg will also be on display at Abbot Hall Art Gallery until 28 April 2018.

Spragg’s works are in demand. A recent piece, Hedgerow, was purchased in spring 2017 by the world’s leading museum of art and design, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Whether through sharing a story or conjuring a collective memory, Spragg’s works highlight the forgotten sources of joy and amusement that surround us, and aim to arose curiosity.

Two-minute-Monet: Facts about the founder of Impressionism

Oscar Claude Monet was born on 14 November 1890 in Paris, France. His mother was a singer, his father a grocer.

From an early age he had a love of drawing – and drew caricatures of his school teachers.

Monet went to Le Harve School of Arts in 1851 and sold caricatures to bring in extra money.

Monet married twice and had two children.

Following the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, Monet and his family fled to England. Inspired by the art of John Constable, Monet quickly began painting scenes of London including the Houses of Parliament and Hyde Park.

Monet first spotted the village of Giverny from the window of a train and then relocated to this rural haven outside Paris in 1883.

Claude Monet lived in the village of Giverny for 43 years. And it is here he painted his famous Haystacks series of works.

Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise (1872) led to the naming of a whole movement we now know as Impressionism.

When Monet first moved to Giverny, the village’s population was around 300. Today it’s still at tiny place with some 500 in habitants. However, the village is swelled by tourists who flock to see Monet’s house and gardens which were made open to visitors in 1980.

There are some 2,500 paintings, drawings and pastels attributed to Monet.

He struggled with depression and poverty during his lifetime. He once attempted suicide.

In 1918 Monet donated 12 of his Water Lilies series of paintings to France to celebrate the Armistice.

Monet remains one of the most famous painters in history and his works can be seen in the most prestigious art galleries around the globe.

Monet died from lung cancer at the age of 86 on 5 December 1926. He is buried in the Giverny cemetery.

Monet’s Haystacks: Snow Effect (1891) is now on show at Abbot Hall, Kendal until 28 April 2018. It is on loan from National Galleries of Scotland.

Painting Pop’s Playlist – the songs that swung 1962

Abbot Hall’s Painting Pop exhibition celebrates British Pop Art in the period around 1962 – a year known for great painters and great performers.

Whether music fed art, or art fed the music, is still up for debate.

The era of swinging London, of clubs, of freedom, fun and creativity was certainly an inspiration for many of the artists in our exhibition.

Painting Pop presents works by leading artists in British Pop Art who made a significant contribution to the development of twentieth century and contemporary art practice.

Away from the gallery walls, and into the dance halls, the artists making the headlines included The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Patsy Cline and the Beatles.

Amazingly the four lads from Liverpool were rejected by record company Decca at the turn of 1962. Fortunes would change stratospherically for Paul, John, George and Pete Best when Brian Epstein was appointed their manager a few weeks later. That summer Best was fired and Ringo Starr joined the ranks.

The year also saw the debut long player from American Bob Dylan, while back in breezy London The Rolling Stones were getting it together.

Musically everything seemed to come together in 1962 on both sides of the Atlantic. From South Liverpool to Southern California music was swinging and surfing.

In celebration of the brush strokes of paint and the strumming of guitars, we’ve compiled ten of our favourite records from 1962.

The collection sways and swoons to the sounds of Elvis, The Beach Boys, The Isley Brothers, Bobby Vinton and more.

Listen to our Painting Pop playlist on Spotify.

It’s a collaborative list – so feel free to add your favourites.

Head of Learning Jennie explains how to create inspirational learning events through art…

img_6146At Lakeland Arts we have a team brimming with ideas, enthusiasm who are willing to try new things to engage new visitors. When it comes to developing learning activity for families and schools, we trial ideas, we carry out research to see what other galleries are doing. We even find inspiration on Pinterest!

We want children and young people to engage in creative experiences in galleries. That’s really important to us because we deliver activity that can’t be replicated elsewhere – not in a classroom or soft play centre or IKEA showroom.

The learning team at Lakeland Arts has been involved with developing the George Shaw: My Back to Nature exhibition. Shaw was nominated for the Turner Art Prize in 2011, so we got the idea to stage an art prize for young artists in Cumbria between the ages of 16 – 22. We named it the Romney Art Prize after George Romney, the famous portrait painter who lived in Kendal. We want young artists to get inspired by the themes that George Shaw explores in his paintings and the art in our collection. Entries close on 30 April 2017 and the winner gets their work hung at Abbot Hall. That’s a pretty amazing opportunity for a budding young artist to highlight on an application to art school or college.


More and more, we incorporate digital and creative media activity in the learning programme. Digital workshops allow visitors to experience art in new ways, to learn new skills and to share their experiences with others on social media. The latter helps us promote our work and reach more people.

We identify trends in new media that put a twist on the artwork. Our Gif Gallery workshops at Abbot Hall (18-25 February) are inspired by video games and social media trends. The characters in our paintings have already mastered the Mannequin Challenge – they are static but they all have a story to tell. We want visitors to get inspired by the paintings and use digital technology to bring the characters to life; dancing or playing air guitar.


Lights Fantastic! at Blackwell runs alongside the Light Within exhibition (18-25 February Easter holidays and May half-term). The exhibition is a collaboration between a digital sound artist called Paul Miller, who maps digital projections onto delicate glass sculpture by his collaborator, Greit Beyaert. High tech, right? Linked to this stunning exhibition, we have transforming our learning space into a giant magic lantern for families to experiment with light, colour and reflection. Families are invited to be creative and express themselves in ways that will radiate around the space.

As well as delivering activity that is deliberately site specific and encourages creativity, we encourage families to learn together. We create experiences where people feel safe, can express themselves, form memories, and at the end of the day, have fun together.


Our schools programme is also linked to collections and exhibitions. To make school sessions relevant, we work directly with teachers so that the content is relevant to them and the National Curriculum. This is a new approach for us but we have found it hugely beneficial and liberating to collaborate with schools. It means we develop relationships with teachers and schools and means we are meeting demand from pupil learning needs. In June we are piloting two new initiatives. The first is a week of special events for primary schools exploring portraiture and landscape at Abbot Hall linked to our significant collection of portraiture and the Julian Cooper exhibition. The second is a digital art project at Blackwell where secondary pupils will work directly with Paul Millar and Greit Beyaert to create digital art that will be projected on the façade of Blackwell on 17 June 2017.

Constable’s “Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds”

john-constable-cenotaph-to-the-memory-of-sir-joshua-reynolds-1833-6-n-1272-00-000029-a6We’re absolutely thrilled that as part of George Shaw’s exhibition, My Back to Nature currently on view at Abbot Hall until 11 March, we are also providing a temporary home to a Constable!

The National Gallery generously lent us three paintings that inspired George during his residency with the Gallery – one of them being Constable’s “Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds”.

This painting depicts the memorial to Sir Joshua Reynolds erected by Sir George Beaumont in the grounds of his home at Coleorton, Leicestershire; the first stone was laid on 30 October 1812. The cenotaph has inscribed on it some lines of poetry by Wordsworth, specially composed in 1811. Reynolds’ name is legible on the cenotaph; busts of Raphael and Michelangelo are at either side.

Constable visited Coleorton and remarked on the cenotaph in October/November, 1823. He executed a pencil drawing of it, and this is presumed to have formed the general basis for the painting although the two are not close in detail.

The Constable will be on display  until 11 March alongside two other works by Piero del Pollaiuolo and Nicolas Poussin. Don’t miss it!