ALFRED EAST ART GALLERY
THE PERMANENT COLLECTION GUIDE
BY KATIE BOYCE GALLERY OFFICER KETTERING BOROUGH COUNCIL
REVIEWER: LAURENCE HUMPHRIES
The Alfred East art Gallery’s permanent collection is housed in a purpose built building with over 900 art objects at Sheep Street Kettering. It is one of the few Art Galleries owned and run by a local authority.
Katie Boyce one of the Gallery officers has written and displayed an excellent guide to the permanent Collection, its origin and how the guiding light Sir Alfred East gave the inspiration for the construction of an Art Gallery to house works of Art including his own.
Sir Alfred East (1844-1913) was an exceptional artist as you can see from the examples above . His self portrait and ‘Newby Bridge’ shows his skill in both portraiture and Landscapes. He could draw and knew how to depict using the right perspective appreciating how light could be used as a form of illusion and reality.
East lived during the latter part of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. He was befriended by Whistler and Frederick Leighton. It was due to Leighton’s influence that he became President of the Royal academy.
East was well travelled and visited Japan and Australia. His Japanese prints were influenced by the early Japanese masters like Hiroshige .He was much appreciated wherever he went. his drawings and etchings were a great favourite with most admirers.
At the opening of the Gallery on the 31st July 1913 Sir Edmund Gosse had this to say about East
“not a temporal or ephemeral artist but an artist who was first and last a painter of exquisite distinction and full of originality” .
Katie Boyce gives a history of the gallery from its opening in 1913 to the present day. The Gallery was first and foremost the inspiration of East who like JMW Turner wanted his works to be given to the public and appreciated by them.
When East offered his collection to Kettering Urban District Council he insisted “That they should aquire a suitable site within the district and construct on the site a suitable Art Gallery to take a collection of pictures and etchings and forever maintain tem as a separate collection which should be open to the Public free of charge” .
This decision to build an Art Gallery and house the permanent collection was carried out. John Alfred Gotch a local Architect and member of the Gotch Family was responsible for the layout and design.
Kettering is indeed fortunate in that not just one famous artist but two others besides East blossomed into very fine Painters.
Thomas Cooper Gotch a member of the Gotch family is also remembered in the catalogue as well as Walter Bonner Gash. Katie Boyce shows how both Gotch and Bonner Gash used Portraiture as a genre to a very fine degree.
Much of Cooper Gotch’s work is displayed together with East in the permanent collection. Both Gotch and East would move to Cornwall and live and paint in the Artist Colonies there. This has been a favourite place to paint for many artists. Artists as diverse as Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth have made Cornwall their home and the Tate have a gallery at St Ives.
As an Open University Art History student one of my first assignments was to write about Cooper Go tch ‘s “Death the Bride”.
Gotch himself described “Death the Bride” “A woman veiled passing through a mass of scarlet and mauve poppies” . There is a good deal of symbolism in Gotch’s paintings.
Much of Gotch’s paintings and drawings were symbolic representing religious and other aspects. He developed the genre of portraiture to a very high degree.
” Thomas Cooper Gotch (1854-1931) was one of the original members of the Newlyn Colony of artists” .
Walter Bonner Gash (1869-1928), although not a native of Kettering was a very talented artist who moved from Lincoln to Kettering to take up a position at the local Art College. “He decided to reside here and soon became an instructor in Art in Wellingborough and the Kettering Technical College” .
Bonner Gash who completes the great Triumpherate of Talented artists in Kettering. Together with East and Cooper Gotch Bonner Gash was also to excel at painting portraitures and Landscapes.
Bonner Gash could draw and use etchings as well as East and Cooper Gotch. His use of light and perspective is brilliantly displayed in my two favourite paintings of Bonner Gash “The Inseparables” and “Old Men in Rockingham road park”.
“My father’s last major painting was called the “Inseparables” and it is of my school friend Vera and me walking in a meadow” .
As well as providing a background to the permanent collection Katie Boyce describes the History and Development of the Kettering and District art society which is thriving and continues to this day.
Kettering for an Average market town has been able to develop and encourage the development of artistic practices.
The rest of the catalogue discuses the role of the Friends of Kettering Art Gallery and Museum.
Finally Katie provides us with an alphabetical list of past works from all Genre’s , Portraiture ,abstraction ,Landscape. there are also etchings ,drawings and aspects of modernist art.
Kettering art Society and the art Gallery are very innovative organising regular Exhibitions of Local Artists. The Alfred East art Gallery has led the way in showing works of art from artists like Millais , Vanessa Bell and others since the art Gallery opened its doors in 1913.
This Guide to the Permanent collection has been well produced and collated by Katie Boyce and others.
I would strongly recommend this Book as a good introduction to the Collection of art at the Alfred East art Gallery in Kettering.
1) Alfred East Permanent Collection Guide
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6 Walter Bonner Gash Unsung Edwardian Hero – Clare Bowyer and Margaret Bonner Gash