Artists in Essex
The gentle rural landscapes of Essex, sprinkled with rivers and lit by constantly changing East Anglian skies, have inspired generations of artists. Most famous is John Constable - in fact the area around Flatford was known as Constable Country even during the artists' lifetime. Today, the artistic tradition continues, as heralded by Harlow's treasure trove of public sculptural art and the wealth of contemporary talent in hotspots such as Great Bardfield, Wivenhoe and Leigh-on-Sea. This, combined with innovative display spaces such as Naze Tower and Colchester's sensational new arts venue, firstsite, make Essex a truly memorable place to soak up centuries of our country's art heritage.
Best known for his equestrian portraits, Sir Alfred Munnings lived in this large country house for 40 years. It has now been restored and contains a superb collection of his paintings, including many of the rural scenes he loved, together with regular loans of other artists' work.
Set on the seafront, the Beecroft houses an eclectic collection comprising some 2,000 works, from fine old European Masters and paintings by Constable and Rossetti to contemporary British works by Seago, Frank Brangwyn and David Cox. The gallery hosts a regular programme of exhibitions including the prestigious Essex Open.
The hamlet of Flatford is famous as the location for many of John Constable's best-known paintings. 16th-century Bridge Cottage houses an exhibition about the painter. From here you can walk along the towpath to the painter's birthplace at Flatford Mill and Willy Lott's Cottage (which featured in the Hay-Wain). Boats are also available for hire.
Designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd in the 1950s, Harlow pioneered the practice of sculpture in the living environment. Today it is home to an extensive collection including works by Moore, Hepworth, Frink and over forty others, as well as Gibberd's own highly individual garden, recognised as an important contribution to 20th-century garden design.
Located in the heart of historic Colchester's, just yards from the famous Castle, this stunning new cultural attraction will add a 21st century dimension to Colchester's wealth of architectural gems. Set in parkland sweeping down to the Roman wall, this iconic, golden-clad crescent building has fast become an international centre for the contemporary visual arts. firstsite offers a changing programme of exhibitions by international artists, creative events and activities for the whole family, plus talks, films, workshops and more. At firstsite, visitors will experience the most exciting developments in contemporary art, and explore the rich artistic legacy cultivated by the East of England's unique landscape and character.
firstsite is a place to meet, eat, discover, learn - and just relax. At the firstsite shop, you'll discover a covetable range of design-led gifts and souvenirs, and at café restaurant MUSA you can enjoy drinks, delicious snacks and light meals throughout the day.
This unique collection features the work of a group of artists, lead by Edward Bawden, who founded an artists' colony in Great Bardfield in the mid 20th century. Works by Michael Rothenstein, John Aldridge and Bernard Cheese are included as well as significant contemporary works, underlining the area's continuing artistic tradition.
Situated on the scenic Naze headland, this octagonal landmark, once a shipping beacon, is today a thriving art gallery, representing a unique marriage of history and contemporary art. There's also a museum as well as tea rooms, where you can refresh your palate surrounded by artworks, and a rooftop platform offering panoramic views.
A long line of artists and writers have taken inspiration from this unpretentious fishing town with its quaint streets and pretty quayside. They include James Dodds, famous for his linocuts, his father, watercolourist Andrew Dodds, contemporary poet Martin Newell and Ernie Turner, dubbed Wivenhoe's Alfred Wallis, as well as many others who exhibit regularly in the town's galleries.
Gatehouse Arts is situated in the heart of Harlow and provides studios for up to 37 new and emerging artists. the studios and galleries, located in Westgate and Eastgate, make use of previously empty shop and office premises. Both galleries have a changing program of exhibitons and events, promoting the work of resident artists and local community groups.