In 2013 The Higgins Bedford opened its doors following an extensive refurbishment that united the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and Bedford Museum. The ‘We Are Ten’ exhibition currently running at The Higgins Bedford celebrates ten years since the major redevelopment of our local museum and art gallery. This free exhibition runs until Saturday 28 January 2024.
It showcases the favourite artworks of various community groups, organisations and individuals who have worked with The Higgins Bedford over the last decade. This includes a mix of both old favourites and rarely shown works, resulting in a vibrant display of paintings and prints for all to enjoy.
The ‘We Are Ten’ exhibition is spread across two galleries in The Higgins Bedford. In the first gallery, visitors will be able to view the choices of Richard Wildman and his brother Stephen. Richard was one of the town’s best-known historians and protector of some of its finest buildings. After his death in 2018, his brother generously donated a large part of Richard’s collection of pictures to The Higgins Bedford, as well as additional works from his own collection. You will find written memories alongside the pictures from those who knew Richard best.
In the second gallery, people who have worked with The Higgins Bedford were asked to choose any picture they liked and then explain their choice in their own words. It demonstrates the belief that art can inspire, bring back memories and stir emotions. Works by forty artists were chosen and include Chagall, Turner, Rossetti, Hockney, Burra, Rego, Stannard, Blake and Bawden.
Councillor Sarah Gallagher, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture, said, “It’s wonderful to celebrate this landmark of ten years of The Higgins Bedford and to see the favourite artworks of people that have worked with the team over the last decade.
“It’s fantastic that Bedford Borough residents, schools, and visitors have the opportunity to visit and enjoy this exhibition and explore the other exhibits and displays at The Higgins Bedford, I really encourage people to come along and have a look.”
Edward Bawden’s granddaughter chose a painting of her grandfather’s studio in Saffron Walden that she writes ‘conveys the pleasant and orderly nature of Edward’s studio’. She was even able to answer the question of ‘what was the cat in the painting’s name?’ Toosie after the artist Toulouse Lautrec.
The Bedfordshire Archives archivist chose one of the galleries most important paintings - ‘A First Rate Taking in Stores’, by JMW Turner. It is the only known watercolour by Turner where he was watched painting it. His patron’s son sat with him as ‘he began by pouring wet paint on to the paper until it was saturated’. The painting is highly sought after by museums across the world for exhibitions so it is a treat to have it on display in Bedford Borough.
One of the members of Autism Bedfordshire chose a painting that reminded him of Indiana Jones. ‘Karnac Egypt’, by William James Müller. This shows the temple of Amun-Ra, which Indiana Jones fans will know as having the headpiece that showed the location of the Ark of the Covenant.
One of the most moving paintings was chosen by Ukrainian refugees who were given photographs of all the paintings in the collection. Without knowing the title, they chose ‘Refugees’ by Dorothy Webster Hawksley which shows some of the 65 million people displaced by World War Two. Asked what they would title it, they suggested ‘Loss and Hope’ as they said there was always hope.
Several exhibition tours will be held in the art gallery. The Keeper of Social History, Lydia Saul, will give a tour about the Richard Wildman collection of local scenes on Wednesday 27 September and Wednesday 18 October. The Keeper of Fine and Decorative Art, Victoria Partridge will give a tour of some of the highlights of the community exhibition on Wednesday 4 October and Wednesday 15 November. All tours last half an hour, from 2pm to 2.30pm, and cost £3.25 or £2.75 for concessions. Places are limited, so booking is essential and can be made on The Higgins Bedford website or by phone.
Find more information about the exhibition and book a place on a tour at www.thehigginsbedford.org.uk.