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Treasures from the Dungeon

Main Gallery
First displayed: 14 December 2005 to 4 February 2006
Repeated: 1 June to 27 August 2006

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The Treasures from the Dungeon exhibition unearths a number of works donated to the collection by Colonel R. H. Whitwell. This exhibition is the first in a series that will feature neglected aspects of the Tatham Art Gallery’s permanent collection.

Between 1923 and 1926 Colonel Whitwell donated over four hundred artworks by mainly British and French artists to the Tatham Art Gallery. Whitwell retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Indian Army Medical Corps about 1900 and, as a bachelor with no strong family connections he used his pension to travel and collect art. His sympathies with the Union government of General Louis Botha led him to the idea of establishing and enhancing Municipal art collections in the colony.

Whitwell wisely insisted that his donation be protected under a deed of trust, which protected it during the infamous dispersal of artworks in the 1960s. Whitwell’s contribution broadened and deepened the range of the collection and had an invaluable impact on the quality of the Tatham Art Gallery collection. Treasures from the Dungeons exhibition focuses on lesser known works from Whitwell’s donation, those which would not normally be displayed as part of the permanent collection.

This exhibition features two dimensional works of British artists, including Charles Isaac Ginner, Charles Maurice and Edward Julius Detmold, Edward Frank Gillett, George du Maurier, Kate Greenaway, Sidney Sime, Sir Frank Brangwyn, Sir Henry George Rushbury, Thérèse Lessore and Yoshijirô Urishibara.

Twins Charles Maurice and Edward Julius Detmold were precocious artists, having first exhibited at the age of thirteen. Charles Maurice committed suicide at the age of twenty-five but not before the brothers made some masterful works together. Of these the most famous are a series of sixteen watercolour illustrations for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The Tatham Art Gallery owns two of these works, The Council Rock and The Dancing Elephants, which will be on display in this exhibition.

Another pair of artists who collaborated was Sir Frank Brangwyn and Yoshijirô Urishibara. Urishibara’s individual work clearly shows his Japanese origins and training. His adeptness in printing is however clearly evident in his collaboration with Brangwyn where he demonstrates his ability to execute Western themes and visual conventions. This collection of fine traditional prints are exquisite works worthy to be seen. Thérèse Lessore belonged to a family of artists who had strong links with Wedgwood ceramic production. As the third wife of the painter Walter Richard Sickert, whose paintings are well represented in the Gallery collection, she interested him in trying his hand at ceramic decoration. The result was one of two ceramic Wedgwood platters, this one decorated with a sketch based on his famous painting Ennui.

Also on display are Moorcroft ceramics with tudric pewter stands and silver work based on ancient Celtic designs by George Connell. This kind of work was part of the arts and crafts movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which sort to reintroduce hand crafted items of high quality design in the face of increasing industrialisation. Unfortunately, the cost of producing such individualised items placed them beyond the reach of those for whom they were initially intended, the working classes. Ironically, shops such as Liberty of London employed designers to work on so-called arts and crafts pieces which were then manufactured for a mass market. Today these pieces are highly sought after collectors’ items.

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Art Gallery Shop

ImageThe Tatham Art Gallery shop stocks high quality works by local crafters. It is an ideal place to find unique presents and original collectables.