The best art exhibitions to see in the East of England in 2014

By Richard Moss | 30 December 2013

The best of the East of England's art exhibitions in 2014 - from the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge to the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden

a painting of a harbour scene with flowers in the foreground
Winifred Nicholson, Summer (1928). The Nicholsons are the focus of an exciting painting exhibition at Kettle's Yard opening in May 2014© Estate of Winifred Nicholson
One of the most intriguing and obscure aspects of art practice is explored in Silent Partners: Artist and Mannequin from Function to Fetish (October 2014 – January 2015) at the Fitzwilliam whose snappy title belies an intriguing exploration of artists’ uses of the mannequin from the Renaissance to the 20th century.

Featuring more than 180 paintings including works by Cézanne, Poussin, Gainsborough, Millais, Courbet, Kokoschka and Degas, it will include beautifully-carved 16th century figures, haunting wooden effigies once owned by Sickert (and maybe Hogarth) and painted dolls of full human height that the Fitz says will "surprise and at times disturb”.

The rest of the exhibition programme flits between botanical art in From Root to Tip: Botanical Art in Britain (January 28 – May 11); the First Wold War Centenary in La Grande Guerre: French prints of the First World War (May 20 –  September 28) to Georgian England in Caroline Watson and female printmaking in late Georgian England (September  232014 - January 5 2015) and contemporary art in The Chapman Brothers and Goya’s Disasters of War (October 15 2014 - February 8 2015).

Over at Kettle's Yard, Jim Ede's former residence is the apposite setting for Art and Life: 1920 - 1931 (February 25 - May 11) a major exhibition bringing together the work of Ben and Winifred Nicholson alongside their friends Christopher Wood, Alfred Wallis, and the potter William Staite Murray.

In Norwich, the Sainsbury Centre will be offering fans of Art Nouveau a major exhibition called Sense and Sensuality: Art Nouveau 1890-1914 (February 14 - December 14), which as well as featuring hundreds of treasures will also uncover "the sensual and psychologically intense nature" of the style and the period.

There will also be works of art aplenty in Norwich Castle's Roman Empire: Power and People (February 1 - April 27), which brings together more than 160 stunning pieces from the British Museum.

In Suffolk, Ipswich Art School mines its collection of children's book illustrations with Once Upon A Time (January 25 - May 4), which celebrates children’s book illustrators of East Anglia.

Grand Collecting: Richard Wilson and Masterworks from the Ford Collection (January 9 - January 11) at Gainsborough's House in Sudbury in Suffolk, features a trawl of work from an evolving collection of landscape paintings - centering around the work of Georgian master Richard Wilson.

Colchester's firstsite kicks off the new 2104 season with facing - recovering (February 15 — March 30 2014), an art exhibition and ongoing project which explores the complex issues injured soldiers face in their transition from military to civilian life.

In Bedfordshire there are now three good reasons to head to the The Higgins Bedford, which adds to two wonderful painting exhibitions, Edward Bawden's Britain (until May 11) and A National Art: Watercolour & the British Landscape Tradition (until April 27) by welcoming the V&A's Recording Britain (January 9 - March 20).

Featuring works by a cast inlcuding John Piper, Charles Knight and Michael Rothenstein, Kenneth Clark's project to record inspiring pictures that were 'sympathetic records' of vulnerable people, landscapes and lifestyles at the start of the Second World War is a must for fans of mid-century English painting.

And finally to the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden, which continues its tradition of discovering the best in mid-20th century English painting and design with the intriguing Keith Vaughan in Essex (April 20 – July 13). During his later years Vaughan regularly visited his Harrow Hill property in Topplesfield, North West Essex, resulting in some of his most compelling abstract landscapes. 

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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