Private Art Gets A Public Outing At Norwich Castle

By Richard Moss | 02 November 2004
shows a painting of a rainbow shape leaning against a blue wall.

Patrick Hughes, Leaning on a Landscape, 1979 © Patrick Hughes

The latest exhibition to grace the Timothy Gurney Gallery at Norwich Castle has been organised in partnership with the Norfolk Contemporary Art Society. All of the work on show has been selected from leading private collections of modern art in the region.

The result is Surprise! - an eclectic mix of modernist masterpieces that combines exciting abstract paintings with figurative pieces by international cast of artists including Howard Hodgkin, David Hockney, Paula Rego, Joan Miró, and Elisabeth Frink.

There are of course some local connections - in the form of major works by Norwich-born painter Michael Andrews and Ana Maria Pacheco, who was Head of Fine Art at Norwich School of Art & Design during the late 1980s, but the overall flavour is of the richness of the modernist - or at least post-war idiom.

shows a painting featuring a hooded figure strapped to a post with two winged creatures approaching from the air.

Ana Maria Pacheco, Dark Night of the Soul, 1994 © Ana Maria Pacheco

For Robert Short and his colleagues at the Norfolk Contemporary Art Society, who spent a summer spent trawling round the houses of the county looking at private collections, the project has yielded some pleasant if not altogether unexpected surprises.

“Our selectors unearthed a sufficient number of works of quality to furnish two or more further exhibitions at least as surprising as this one,” said Mr Short. “We all know that Norfolk has more than its fair share of practising artists; it’s great to discover that it’s now home to plenty of enterprising collectors as well.”

shows an abstract painting of block colours - vertical and horizontal shapes.

Howard Hodgkin, Interior 9AG, 1972 ©Howard Hodgkin

Norwich has a long tradition of patronage of the arts. The country gentry of the eighteenth century bought the European art of their time on their ‘Grand Tour’ of the Continent and later the newly established mercantile and business classes of Norfolk bought the paintings of the County’s homegrown Norwich School. Now, as the art on show at Surprise! reveals, there is nothing remotely parochial in the tastes of the new class of art buyer in the region.

Quite apart from offering a vast range of important and valuable art the show of private tastes also offers the visitor some inevitable but interesting contrasts. “If Barry Burman’s Mannequin and Ana Maria Pacheco’s Untitled Studies are as dark as they come - and Nicola Hicks’ The King’s Horse, majestic,” explained Mr Short, “the pieces by Joan Miró, Roger Hilton, Patrick Hughes and David Hockney, by contrast, are full of mischief and good humour.”

shows a painting featuring a blackk hooded figure, two children on a white horse. There is a two-storey house in the background.

Michael Andrews, The Rocking Horse, 1952 © Estate of the Artist

The organisers say the exhibition doesn’t claim to offer a comprehensive overview of Norfolk’s hidden treasures, but they are confident that the sheer range of what local collectors have squirreled away will surprise visitors.

Surprise! Modern Art in Norfolk Private Collections can be seen in the Timothy Gurney Gallery at Norwich Castle Museum until January 9, 2004.

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