George Romney, The Gower Family, c1776-77

The Collection

Abbot Hall Art Gallery Collection

The collection at Abbot Hall Art Gallery consists predominantly of eighteenth and twentieth century British paintings, due to the nature of the Georgian building and the history of the collection, which began in the 1960s. There is also a significant collection of nineteenth century watercolours by artists such as J R Cozens, David Cox, Peter De Wint, JMW Turner, John Sell Cotman, John Varley and Edward Lear.

Abbot Hall was designed by architect John Carr of York in 1759. On the ground floor, there are original period rooms, which act as an opulent backdrop to the fine and decorative art collection. On the first floor modern galleries can be found, showcasing a range of exhibitions from the permanent collection, and on loan from other organisations and private collections.

Below is a summary of major areas of the collection and what can be viewed today.

George Romney (1734-1802)

Abbot Hall Art Gallery possesses a significant collection of works by George Romney.

After serving his apprenticeship in Kendal he went on to become one of the most sought-after portrait painters of his age.

The collection includes works from throughout his life, ranging from portraits painted during his early period in Kendal, to his 1776 masterpiece, The Gower Children, painted after his move to London.

In June 2018 we redisplayed Romney paintings in the downstairs gallery with a fresh insight into his work. 

This is the first significant re-hang of Romney works at Abbot Hall in more than two decades.

The Romney display also features early sketchbooks by the artist - thought to be on show for the very first time.

Alongside this, in the Abbot Hall Dining Room. are more contemporary portraits by LS Lowry, Victor Pasmore and Philip Eglin.

Twentieth Century Lithographs

Lithographs by some of the biggest names in the art world are now on display in the Watercolour Gallery (until 22 September 2018).

The display includes prints by Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore and Alan Davie.

Picasso’s Le Bouquet (1958) was produced for a peace demonstration. This work highlights how the process of lithography, and its ability to create multiples, opened up avenues for new artists. This allowed them to create works which commented on social change while it was happening.

Invented in 1796, lithography was used to produce printed text and images. The process duplicated existing images as opposed to creating original works of art.

It was only in the twentieth century that lithography was recognised as an art form in its own right, with artists like Picasso and Henri Matisse creating works intentionally as lithographs.

Modern and Contemporary Art

The modern collection concentrates more on painting than sculpture, although there are three-dimensional pieces, including a work by Barbara Hepworth, which is on display in the Oval, outside Abbot Hall Art Gallery.

Abbot Hall also has a significant group of Lake District works by the German refugee artist Kurt Schwitters, and still life paintings by Winifred Nicholson and the Scottish Colourist, S J Peploe. There is currently a display of works by Kurt Schwitters on the ground floor of the Gallery.

In recent years Abbot Hall Art Gallery has been active in adding contemporary British works to its collection, including Frank Auerbach, Paula Rego, Tony Bevan, and Celia Paul. There is also a growing collection of artist’s prints, including etchings by David Hockney and Lucian Freud, lithographs by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Henry Moore and aquatints by Sean Scully.

Please note that Abbot Hall Art Gallery has a large collection and changes displays regularly. Not all artists mentioned above will have works on display.

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  • George Romney, The Gower Family, c1776-77