Rodin and Scotland: A Love Affair

Abbot Hall Art Gallery is currently showing one of Auguste Rodin’s best-known works – The Thinker is on show until 27 October. The iconic piece is on loan from the Burrell Collection in Glasgow. Pippa Stephenson, Curator of European Art, Glasgow Museums, explains how Scotland swooned for sculptures by the French artist:


Auguste Rodin is a well-known and widely-appreciated artist, with exhibitions springing up worldwide, particularly in the wake of last year’s centenary since his death. However, it wasn’t always that way.

It took France, in particular, a surprisingly long time to appreciate the artist’s naturalistic and unorthodox approach to sculpture. The first public monument to the ‘Father of Modern Sculpture’ was not erected in France until 1904, indicative of the country’s reluctance to embrace his art.

Scotland, however, developed a somewhat earlier appreciation for Rodin. Examples of the artist’s work were shown at the 1888 Glasgow International Exhibition, a time when public opinion of Rodin’s reputation was still out to jury (by 1900, with the artist’s seminal exhibition in Paris, his worldwide reputation was firmly established).

In 1906, the artist received an honorary doctorate from Glasgow University. He gifted a bust, Saint George’ to Glasgow’s Hunterian Art Gallery in return, a token of his affection for the city. Recently, letters between Rodin and Francis Newbury, the visionary founder of the internationally-famous Glasgow School of Art, have been unearthed in the archives of the GSA. These few letters confirm that the pair were in dialogue around 1901, with Rodin asking Newbury to report on how his sculptures were being received in the Glasgow International exhibition of that year.

Recognising Rodin’s importance, Glasgow Museums bought two works from that exhibition, a plaster cast of ‘Saint John the Baptist’, and a cast of the ‘Burghers of Calais’.

It was the actions of William Burrell, however, which gave Glasgow its particularly special relationship with Rodin. Burrell was the owner of a successful shipping business, and took a keen interest in art, amassing an internationally-significant collection of over 9000 objects.

The collection opened to the public in 1983, and is currently undergoing extensive renovation, due to reopen in 2020. In the course of his lifetime, Burrell bought at least 14 bronzes by the artist, all of which are in the collection today. This gives Glasgow the second largest collection of Rodin’s in the UK (after the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the recipient of 17 sculptures gifted by Rodin himself in 1914), and one of the largest worldwide in a public collection.

Burrell’s first purchase, probably ‘Fleeting Love’, was made before 1901, which he lent to the aforementioned Glasgow International Exhibition. Photographs of Sir William’s Glasgow townhouse at 8 Great Western Terrace show Rodin bronzes on display alongside medieval tapestries and Northern European Renaissance paintings.

He bought these sculptures from local dealers including Alexander Reid, as well as directly through the Musee Rodin, Paris. He collected sculptures by Rodin up until 1937, including important pieces such as ‘The Thinker’, which is part of the British Museum spotlight tour, on display at Abbot Hall Art Gallery Kendal until 27 October.

More on the exhibition at

A Summer of Rag Rugging

***UPDATE: The rugging will continue this October 22 & 24-27. Come to the museum during half term to take part in finishing this great textile project. Full details here.*** 

We’re creating giant rag rugs inspired by the rugged Cumbrian landscape! Sally Fallows is running drop-in workshops across Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House all summer long. The finished rag rugs and wall hanging will animate the learning centre at Windermere Jetty, Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories when it opens in 2017. Over 250 people have contributed so far – and there’s plenty left to do! So drop in and try your hand at traditional textile techniques with a contemporary twist.


Morning workshops at Abbot Hall Art Gallery
Monday to Friday until 2 September / 10:30 – 12:30 

Included with admission – children FREE 

Create an aerial view of Windermere in wool using a mix of hooking, prodding, crochet and pom-poms! Inspired by Winifred Nicholson’s views of Cumbria, on display at Abbot Hall Art Gallery until 15 October 2016. Nicholson designed over 180 rag rugs and commissioned local artists to make them. We also drew inspiration from Alexandra Kehayoglou‘s spectacular wool rug artworks.


Afternoon workshops at Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House
Monday to Friday until 2 September / 2:00 – 4:00
Included with admission – children FREE 

Help make a gigantic wall hanging inspired by the view from Blackwell – complete with fleecy sheep and boats sailing on Windermere. Enjoy an afternoon of crafting in an idyllic setting. Materials are locally sourced from William’s Wools and Faye’s Sewing Box – including local alpaca yarn from Town End Yarns.


Art on Tour: Putting Ourselves in the Picture III

On Friday 20 June, Candle at a Window and the Art on Tour team were welcomed to Holme Community School. We were shown to the main hall and a fantastic exhibition of their own art work – some of which had been inspired by a trip to Abbot Hall earlier in the year.

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Once Winifred Nicholson’s painting had been hung alongside their work, the school joined us in the hall for a celebration assembly. Two girls sang a very moving duet of ‘Candle in a Window’ before a more boisterous whole school rendition of ‘This Little Light of Mine’.


Every child in the school had the opportunity to have a close look at the painting and explore the colour of texture of Winifred Nicholson’s work, tracing the strokes of her paintbrush. They had a chance to explore how the painting made them feel and to work with artist and writer Karen Lloyd to create their own poem.


In the afternoon, the main hall filled with older members of the Holme community who were served tea, coffee and cakes by enthusiastic year 5 waiters. The group were serenaded with a range of music from children of all ages – from bell ringing infants, to violin, drum and flute solos, to choir and group singing. And our rag rug is coming along!


At the end of the school day, parents, carers, younger siblings and other family members piled into the bursting hall, full of the smiling faces of performers and audience, joined in pure celebration.


Join us for one of our next drop in sessions:

  • Dock Museum, Barrow, Wednesday 25 June, 1 – 3.45pm

Look out for further blogs as we capture the rest of the tour throughout the month.

Art on Tour: Putting Ourselves in the Picture II

We had a creative day out on tour at Allithwaite Primary School yesterday, creating lanterns, paintings, portraits and poetry inspired by Winifred Nicholson’s Candle at a Window.

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The painting was welcomed with a school assembly in which each child saw the work for the first time. We visited Allithwaite School as part of their Arts Week, a whole week off timetable to celebrate the arts and to celebrate the talents of the children in the school.


The Art on Tour team were joined by Cumbrian artist and writer Karen Lloyd who ran a poetry workshop inspired by the painting with each class.


Every child had the opportunity to reflect on what makes them special and what is important to them and to capture those ideas in a self-portrait. One teacher commented that they had discovered things about their pupils that they hadn’t found out all year.


The children were given a small candle, representing their own light and the talents they have to nurture and to share with the world and they created a lantern to hold that candle and their self-portrait.


We were joined by parents and members of the Allithwaite community at the end of the day and the children had the opportunity to show off the work they had created.


We shared the painting with over 150 children, teachers, parents and members of the Allithwaite community throughout the day and we’re looking forward to the next stops on the Art on Tour journey. Join us for one of our next drop in sessions:

  • Holme Primary School, Friday 20 June, 1 – 4pm
  • The Hut, Brampton, Monday 23 June, 5 – 6pm
  • Dock Museum, Barrow, Wednesday 25 June, 1 – 3.45pm

Look out for further blogs as we capture the rest of the tour throughout the month.

Art on Tour: Putting Ourselves in the Picture

Lakeland Arts is taking ‘Candle at a Window’ by Winifred Nicholson out of its familiar surroundings in Abbot Hall and into community spaces across Cumbria. This inspirational painting will be displayed in schools, community centres and other venues for one day each, providing inspiration for a broad range of activities.

Candle at a Window

The first stop on the tour was the Coniston Institute on 30 May. Candle at a Window had been meticulously packed the night before and the Art on Tour team arrived at Abbot Hall early to collect the work for the 20 mile drive. We received a warm welcome at Coniston Institute where our project technician proceeded to unwrap and hang the work, much to the delight of an avid audience.


We were joined by a local watercolour artist and a poet from Wordsworth Trust who helped to inspire creative responses to the painting throughout the day. Cyclists, walkers, and passersby of all ages called in and had a go at painting, experimenting with the varied qualities and challenges of watercolours, expertly led by Matt. Visitors were treated to poetry readings and a poetry writing workshop, and participated in open discussion of their responses to Nicholson’s beautiful windowscape.


As well as a talented painter, Nicholson was a keen creator and collector of rag rugs. Remembering her role in championing this traditional Cumbrian craft, we are inviting people to contribute to a new rug throughout the tour, adding to the fabric on each stage of the journey. We will require a lot of help and participation to finish the large textile this summer!

W Nicholson photo

The friendly, relaxed and imaginative atmosphere created by the painting, location and the fascinating people we encountered in Coniston was an inspirational experience. Call in and visit Candle at a Window at one of our drop in sessions on future tour stops:

  • Allithwaite Primary School, Thursday 19 June, 3.15 – 4pm
  • Holme Primary School, Friday 20 June, 1 – 4pm
  • The Hut, Brampton, Monday 23 June, 5 – 6pm
  • Dock Museum, Barrow, Wednesday 25 June, 1 – 3.45pm

Look out for further blogs as we capture the rest of the tour throughout the month.

Only a week away to Museums at Night 2013!

We’ve got some great free events lined up for Museums at Night 2013:

Arts & Crime, Murder at Blackwell

Thursday 16 & Friday 17 May
Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House
5.30pm / 6.30pm / 7.30pm (8.30pm performances now full)
Performances last 30-40 minutes.

FREE event. Places are limited to 15 per performance.
Booking essential 015394 46139

Not all is as it seems when you enter the dining room at Blackwell tonight. You’ve mistakenly entered the end of a dinner party in the 1920s: what has happened and is someone still ‘at large’? Let the theatre company Bear Necessities lead you on a bespoke performance through Blackwell in search of the culprit.

The Tea Room and Gardens will be open until 10.00pm to enjoy a glass or two of wine and take in the wonderful views.

Read more

New event, back by popular demand:
Chadwick Chatter with Estelle Lovatt

Saturday 18 May, 7.00 – 8.00pm
Abbot Hall Art Gallery

FREE event. Places are limited – book now to avoid disappointment.
Booking essential 01539 722464

Estelle Lovatt is back at Abbot Hall, and she wants to write a review of the Evolution in Sculpture exhibition, but she has writers block. We are inviting you to join a small group of art critics to review the show for us. The evening will start with a walking tour of the exhibition with Estelle. As you walk she will gather your innermost thoughts on the work (don’t be shy now), before heading to a quiet space with her (and some wine) to write a Cooperative reVIEW of Chadwick. The review will be published online instantly through our Museums at Night blog. We’re putting it in your hands!

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Saturday 18 May
Abbot Hall Art Gallery
Gallery open until 10.00pm
Open from 6.00pm, games start after 7.00pm

FREE event, just turn up on the night!

Why stay in and play board games when the Lakeland Arts Trust team is challenging teams of visitors to a giant game of Cranium sculptorades as part of Museums at Night. The Gallery will be open until 10.00pm, so come along and enjoy an after-hours night at Abbot Hall Art Gallery.

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Talking about life on the Lake

Thursday 16 May
Windermere Steamboat Museum
Museum open 5.00 – 8.00pm

FREE event, just turn up on the night!

We’re staying open tonight to welcome people in for a chat. The new museum will be alive with Windermere vessels, but stories from people are as important as the objects themselves. Did you work on the lake or did members of your family in the past? Drop in for a close-up look at museum objects and photographs and a chance to share memories and bring our lake story to life.

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Victorian Vendor

Saturday 18 May
Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry
Museum open until 10.00pm

FREE event, just turn up on the night!

We are serving up some Victorian food outside the museum and gallery as part of Museums at Night, but we’re keeping our very modern tastes in mind to serve you some more modern treats. Whatever your tastes, there will be something delicious for you.

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The end!

We’ve reached the end of Takeover day at Abbot Hall, all 20 blog posts are now online, a big thanks to Reece, Finley, Judah, Leo, Zoe, Harriet, Neve, Kofi, Samuel, Thomas, Reece, Charlie, Aaron, Molly, Zara, Samuel, Connor, Jessica, Erin and Abbie our budding bloggers, and to all of the staff and parents who helped today.