Fry Art Gallery

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The Fry Public Art Gallery houses an impressive number of paintings, prints, illustrations, wallpapers and decorative designs by artists of the 20th century and the present day who have local connections and have made a significant contribution to their field. There is a special emphasis on those who for a variety of reasons settled in Great Bardfield between the early thirties of the last century and the death in 1983 of John Aldridge. Other artists represented are Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, Kenneth Rowntree, Michael Rothenstein and Bernard Cheese.

The Gallery was designed to house the collection of Francis Gibson, a local business man who died in 1859, and the building passed by descent to the Fry family, who lease it to the Fry Art Gallery Society. The Gallery also houses a collection of work by Lewis George Fry RBA, RWA (1860-1933), who was Gibson's grandson and a landscape painter of repute. His oils and watercolours are normally exhibited annually between the spring and autumn exhibitions, along with other works by Roger Fry (1866-1934) and Anthony Fry.

Venue Type:


Opening hours

Easter Sunday - last Sunday in October
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 2pm - 5pm
Saturday 11am - 5pm
Sunday 2.15-5pm
Bank Holidays 2.15-5pm

Admission charges

Free admission

Over twelve hundred items now constitute the permanent North West Essex Collection, for the interest and benefit of the public and researchers alike. The Collection comprises around 500 oils, watercolours, lithographs, drawings, and textile designs, together with 600 books illustrated by the same artists. There is also a representative collection of ceramics by Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, and Michael Rothenstein.

Collection details

Fine Art

Key artists and exhibits

  • The following are particularly well represented within the Collection: Edward Bawden, John Aldridge, Bernard Cheese, Marianne Straub, Kenneth Rowntree, Michael Rothenstein, Edwin Smith as an artist and Sheila Robinson.
  • Edward Bawden RA who, with his friend Eric Ravilious, discovered Bardfield a year before the arrival of Aldridge and dominated the scene for almost four decades, is represented by nearly 400 items. The Gallery lias also acquired work by Ravilious and his wife Tirzah Garwood, and by those other artists who came to the village during the second world war — Michael Rothenstein RA, and his wife Duffy (now Duffy Ayers), Kenneth Rowntree, George Chapman, and Sydney Clifford-Smith. The collection is additionally enhanced by a number of prints and paintings by Bawden's son Richard, and by examples of the very varied work of artists who made their way to Bardfield in the 1950s — Marianne Straub, Audrey Cruddas, Sheila Robinson, Bernard Cheese and Walter Hoyle.
  • Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde spent a brief time at nearby Tilty during the same period, and are also represented, together with several other interesting artists associated with the area, among them John Norris Wood, Micliael Ayrton, Isabel Lambert, and Tom Deakins. More recently has come John Bellany, RA. In 1970 Edward Bawden moved to Saffron Walden, where he lived until his death in 1989. Also represented in the Collection are Olive Cook, Edwin Smith, Chloe Cheese, John Bolam, Paul Beck, David Myerscough-Jones and Olga Lehmann, all of whom are associated with Saffron Walden.
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.

A Modern Sensibility: Great Bardfield and Other Artists

  • 3 April — 30 October 2016 *on now

Inclusing Ravilious, Bawden, Rothernstein, Vaughan from the North West Essex Permanent Collection.

The title comes from Grayson Perry who visited the gallery in 2011 and, observing The Attic Bedroom by Eric Ravilious, said "it is that combination of the sort of parochial world and his modern sensibility that I really love about his work".

In their time people like Ravilious and Bawden could perhaps have been seen as rural moderns, a title that is perhaps carries further by Rothenstein, Vaughan and Ayrton, all of whom lived in Great Bardfield or neighbouring villages from the early thirties until 1977.

Work by all these artists an lesser-known ones will be displayed alongside ephemera, photographs, drawings, prints, wood blocks, ceramics and book covers.

Many of the illustrations for the book "Bawden, Ravilious and the Great Bardfield Artists" published by the Victoria and Albert Museum in association with the Fry Art Gallery will also be on display.

Richard Bawden at 80: Painter, Printmaker and Designer

  • 3 April — 12 June 2016 *on now

Work from throughout his career, with many pieces for sale, and a new biography by Malcolm Yorke from Fleece Press (2016).

Richard is a painter and printmaker. He is also a designer, whose work includes; book illustration, posters, murals, mosaics, textiles, engraved glass, furniture and cast iron seats (for which he cut the patterns himself).

He is an active member of the Royal Watercolour Society, the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, and the New English Art Club and a former Chairman of Gainsborough's House Print Workshop in Sudbury.

His paintings are drawn from life, and as a printmaker he works predominantly in etching and lino. He is attracted by atmosphere, oddity, pattern ad the strangely austere, which he finds in the world around him.

He studied at the Royal College of Art, has had over sixty one-man exhibitions at home and abroad, and has work in Royal, public and private collections.

Ravilious in Black and White

  • 18 — 26 June 2016

Inspired by an exhibition of the work of French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ravilious took up photography shortly after moving with his wife to Devon in the 1970s. He was asked to contribute work to the Beaford Archive, a means of documenting images to show the lifestyle associated with a small area of North Devon. What began as a short-term project turned into a 17-year quest.

Suitable for

  • Any age


free admission


Fry Art Gallery
Castle Street
Saffron Walden
CB10 1BD




24 hour answering m/c

01799 513779

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.