Messums Wiltshire is delighted to announce its new exhibition, A Wessex Scene, a celebration of the location that we are situated in, both immediately and further afield.
Since time immemorial many artists have been inspired by the landscape of Wessex — an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in Great Britain whose borders stretched the entirety of the south of England. In the 19th century, Thomas Hardy resurrected the ancient name of ‘Wessex’, leading to a revival of its popular modern use. In an 1895 preface to the novel Far From the Madding Crowd, he summed up Wessex as ‘a merely realistic dream country’, capturing the wild and fantastic nature of this archaic place, mostly unchanged in spite of the passage of time.
A Wessex Scene hopes to recapture the magic of Hardy’s wonderful description by presenting a remarkable collection of paintings, drawings and etchings which illustrate the rich history of the ancient south-western region. Sites such as Salisbury Cathedral, Stonehenge and Durdle Door have been painted by artists from Turner and Constable and continue to inspire artists from Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller to the award winning American artist Judy Pfaff whose 140 foot sculpture exhibition at Messums Wiltshire ‘Roots Up’ was also inspired by the area’s remarkable natural and artistic heritage.
Artists in the show include David Inshaw, James and Kate Lynch and Norman Ackroyd — an artist known primarily for his etchings and one of Britain’s most celebrated contemporary printmakers. His wonderfully atmospheric and expressive etchings of The Fonthill Estate and the local landmark Wardour Castle capture the way that the fog sits low on the hills in the area, adding to its mystery.
A Wessex Scene will also include those working at the beginning of the 20th century who imaginatively and abstractly rendered landscapes like John Craxton and Henry Lamb. Through viewing their images, as well as the glorious location that Messums Wiltshire is situated in, we will allow them to take our focus outside in this increasingly technology-driven and sedentary world. This exhibition brings together the sublime countryside scenery with the artists it has inspired and influenced; painters as dynamic and far-ranging as Elisabeth Frink and Philip Wilson Steer. As such, A Wessex Scene will also constitute an art historical map of the surrounding area.
A Wessex Scene will hang in our brand new art space, The Long Gallery, adjacent to the giant 13th century tithe barn, the largest of its kind in the country where Messums Wiltshire is situated. This gallery has a long panoramic sweep of a glass window, viewing straight onto the rolling hills of the Fonthill Estate, home to the greatest – and most notorious – collector of the 19th century, William Beckford.