Art Collection (Colchester)
The Colchester art collection focuses on the local area. It represents the landscape and its people through paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture and decorative arts. Art has been collected in Colchester since the museum service began in 1846. The collection isn’t just about showing the grand events and people but also about the everyday.
Art for Colchester Town Hall
A major element within the Colchester art collection is the paintings that were commissioned to furnish Colchester Town Hall, which opened in 1902 to the design of Sir John Belcher. Artists including Harry Becker, Frank Daniell, Charles Head and John L.Reilly painted numerous portraits of Colchester people. In subsequent years Colchester Borough Council has continued to commission portraits from artists such as Maurice Codner in the 1950’s and local artist Richard Stone. His portrait of the Queen from 1991 is one of the best known images of the monarch.
The Fine and Decorative Art Collections
There are only a few paintings that date earlier than 1800 in the collection. One of the earliest and most important paintings is Flemish Village Merrymaking by David Vinckboons (1576-c.1632) from the early seventeenth century.
The largest part of the collection dates post 1800. There are a number of well-known artists represented in the collection. Foremost is John Constable with his painting of the Headmaster of Dedham Grammar School, the Reverend Thomas Lechmere Grimwood and also of his mother. The collection also holds Flatford Lock, the only securely attributed painting by the East Bergholt artist, John Dunthorne (1770-1844), who encouraged Constable in his early career. There is also a painting of Willy Lott’s Cottage by Roger Fry and ‘The Garden in Winter’ by John Nash, a founder member of the Colchester Art Society. In 1998, ‘The Acacia Tree’ by Lucien Pissarro, that was painted in the garden of the Minories in Colchester whilst on a visit, was acquired for the collections.
Nineteenth century artist, John Vine, who despite being born with rudimentary arms and hands, became an accomplished painter whose speciality was animal portraits. The museum has two of his paintings of horses as well as portraits of Mr and Mrs James Cobb.
Contemporary Print Collection
This collection was started in 1997 with the aim of actively collecting a body of work by contemporary and recent artist printmakers who have a strong association with the Colchester area. This area has always had a rich heritage of printmakers and it is fitting to recognise these artists now and into the future. The print collecting initiative is a valuable record of their achievements. Artists in the collection include Ted Atkinson, Richard Bawden, Charles Bartlett, Roderic Barrett, James Dodds, Blair Hughes-Stanton, Eduardo Paolozzi and Valerie Thornton.
The Colchester decorative art collection consists principally of the Mackmurdo collection illustrating the Arts and Crafts Movement, Castle Hedingham pottery, a few further ceramic pieces and a collection of tea caddy spoons.