New and unusual: Little-known art collections that you should get to this summer...
From giant mechanical swans to Masonic aprons to Sigmund Freud's favourite antiques (via Monet, Picasso and Delacroix): here's our pick of the best British collections you might never have heard of...
The Sacred and the Modern: Revealing the Methodist Art Collection
Eric Gill, Annunciation, 1912 © Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes, used by permission of Trustees of the Collection
Opening this weekend, a temporary exhibition in Westminster affords works owned by the Methodist church a public outing, and they're certainly worth a look. Some major artists are represented, predominantly post-war British (the collection was established in the 1960s). As all the works deal with Christian subjects, this should also provide an interesting study of how Modern art met faith. Artists including Graham Sutherland, Edward Burra, Eric Gill, Patrick Heron, Elizabeth Frink and Craigie Aitchison (28 July to 9 September, London)
The Freud Museum
Take a trip to the Hampstead home of the great psychoanalyst himself for a peak at his study, preserved as he left it. Peruse more than 2000 antiquities that Freud amassed throughout his life, and lived with daily, and even get a look at his couch - surely the most famous piece of furniture ever. An intriguing-looking show by artist John Goto entitled Dreams of Jelly Roll drawing on a Jazz legend and the pitfalls of historical biography (and featuring an ‘Augmented Reality installation') is also on show until 16 September. (London)
The Bowes Museum
Bowes' fantastically opulent French style mansion took 23 years to build...
This colossal Teesdale country estate houses a collection voraciously embarked upon in the 19th century by the wealthy John Bowes and his wife Joséphine - a French actress (gasp), before she died tragically. They bought up fine and decorative art form the world over reaching back to the middle-ages, including a silver swan-shaped automaton. The museum has just unveiled new galleries to show off its fashion and textile collection (among the largest in Europe) spanning the 1400s to the 1960s. An award-winning ‘50s carpet by Lucienne Day and recently acquired examples of 20th-century haute couture are highlights. (Barnard Castle)
The William Morris Gallery
William Morris, Peacock and Dragon woven wool, 1878 © William Morris Gallery
The transformed gallery reopens its doors to the public in a week's time after a full restoration of the Georgian building and gardens. Located in one of Morris's childhood homes, and providing a bit of an oasis in Walthamstow, it is a must for admirers of the Victorian polymath. See his personal letters, family photographs, celebrated wallpaper designs, political writing and utopian fiction. All this is complemented by paintings, prints and furniture by his Pre-Raphaelite contemporaries. (London)
The Museum of Freemasonry
An apron from the late-18th century shows imagery from the Royal Arch and the Mark Masons. Courtesy the Museum of Freemasonry
Curiosity innately follows the centuries-old fraternity that can name the likes of Winston Churchill in its ranks: is there really a secret handshake? What are the actual entry requirements? While this museum won't reveal any key secrets, it does give you an incredible glimpse into Masonic decoration and the trappings of the society's aesthetic. If you're hungry for more, daily tours will take you into the ceremonial areas of The Grand Temple. (London)
The Mary Greg Collection
One of the wierd and wonderful items collected by Mary Greg. Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester
Mary Greg's collection of everyday domestic objects dates from the late 1800s and early 1990s, and was donated to the Manchester Art Gallery in 1934. Of particular interest to her were pre-industrial handmade objects, and this collection is an impeccable preservation of now-forgotten artisan craftsmanship from the late-Victorian era. (Manchester)
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Edgar Degas, Jockeys before the Race, 1878-9. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham
Of the many collections in this second city gem, its assortment of 19th-century French paintings is most notable. Find images by the great Impressionists, including a sunset view by Monet, a wonderfully informal portrait by Manet, and an example of Degas at the races (above), as well as Post Impressionist works by Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec, and landscapes by Courbet. And if that's not enough to entice you in, Magritte, Renoir, Rubens, Rossetti, Rodin, Delacroix and van Dyck are in here too. (Birmingham)
The Fitzwilliam Museum
Pablo Picasso, Blind minotaur guided by Marie-Thérèse in a starry night, 1934-5 © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2012
Alongside antiquities, the Fitzwilliam offers an impressive array of Old Master paintings, prints and drawings. Their aptly-titled temporary exhibition Designed to Impress (until 7 October) displays selected highlights from their holdings, and features Albrecht Dürer, Picasso's neoclassical-style Minotaur etchings (part of his Vollard Suite) and William Blake's illuminated manuscript, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. For those on the lookout for more contemporary prints, seek liminal landscapes by George Shaw and Michael Landy, in their Edgelands show until 23 September. (Cambridge)
The Cinema Museum
If you get nostalgic just hearing the Pearl & Dean tune, chances are this could be the museum for you. It started out as one enthusiast's hoard: Ronald Gant began collecting aged 15 and teamed up with Martin Humphries in 1987 to properly establish this cinephile's dream. Housed in an ex-Victorian workhouse, the elaborate archive covers every aspect of the ‘talkies' including old fan magazines, posters, literally millions of images and even usher uniforms and the specific fragrance used to mask cigarette smoke in theatres. Forget bad summer blockbusters and be swept back to a grander age of film. (London)
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