Mottisfont Abbey, one of Hampshire’s oldest historic houses, is revisiting its links with the Modern British art scene with a new exhibition that has seen a hitherto private floor of the house transformed into a contemporary exhibition space.
The first exhibition, New Connections: Modern British Art, showcases selected works from Mottisfont’s Derek Hill Collection, alongside significant loans from Austin / Desmond Fine Art, London, a selection of which will be for sale. The exhibition explores the personal and professional connections between Hill and his contemporaries, and identifies some of the key themes of this period of Modernism in Britain.
The early 20th-century was a time of extraordinary creativity for the arts in Britain. Arts patron and society hostess Maud Russell embraced this movement and turned her home, Mottisfont near Romsey, into a vibrant hub of artistic activity.
One of Maud’s great friendships was with the renowned portraitist and landscape artist Derek Hill (1916-2000), who was born near Southampton and brought up at nearby Broadlands. Hill was a friend and advisor to many of the most influential artists of the day, whose work he also collected, some of which he later bequeathed to Mottisfont.
New Connections will introduce the theme of ‘outsider art’ with a focus on the first generation of self-taught painters from Tory Island (off the North West Irish coast), amongst them James Dixon and his direct association with Derek Hill. Dixon started painting at the age of 72 after encountering Derek Hill on Tory Island at work on a landscape painting of his own. Derek Hill’s subsequent encouragement and patronage saw Dixon become an important figure in the history of 20th-century Irish art.
Early abstraction in St. Ives will be explored with artists such as Naum Gabo, Ben Nicholson, Adrian Stokes, Margaret Mellis and Peter Lanyon. A look at the Neo-Romantic English landscape painters of the 1940s and 1950s will include work by Graham Sutherland, John Piper and Michael Rothenstein, and a display of works by the ‘Kitchen Sink’ artists of the mid 1950s; John Bratby, Derrick Greaves and Edward Middleditch, will provide insight into the realist painters’ depictions of the everyday in still life and landscape.
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