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Nature in Art review SoGlos.com took a walk on the wild side with a visit to the aptly-named Nature in Art – the globe’s very first museum dedicated to art inspired by nature, right here in Gloucestershire. Even the impressive Wallsworth Hall is overshadowed by the eclectic array or pieces on display at Nature in Art. While most newly-weds are content to receive a toaster or set of matching towels to celebrate their big day, in 1740 Wallsworth Hall – a breathtakingly majestic-looking mansion – was presented by Samuel Hayward to his new wife as a wedding gift.
Fast forward more than 250 years, several extensions, conquered outbreaks of dry rot, changes of hands, and burgeoning bat roosts later, and the mansion remains a symbol of affection – now for the natural world, not new nuptials, as Nature in Art. Opening in 1988, Nature in Art was the world’s first museum dedicated entirely to art inspired by nature – with a mounting art collection and growing international reputation, as well as tens of thousands of visitors having walked through Wallsworth Hall’s impressive doors over the past two decades.
Nature in Art is justly proud of its permanent collection ‘spanning 1,500 years from over 60 countries and cultures by over 600 artists’ – some of which is always on display, alongside a year-round schedule of temporary exhibitions. Everything from big cats, scarab beetles, botany and boxing hares were represented in mediums spanning more than just oil paint, photography, porcelain and pencil on our visit.
Famous names, including Picasso and Shepherd, unassumingly rubbed shoulders with British jewellery makers and Japanese ceramicists, while interpretive modern abstracts sat side-by-side with centuries old fine works. This eclectic mix of eyecatchers at Nature in Art was undoubtedly the highlight of our visit, making for an invigorating and stimulating stroll through the separate galleries – where the anticipation of each new discovery made us feel alert with inquisitive investigation, in contrast to the passive herding from one similar piece to the next you sometimes get in more stuffy museums.
The chance to chat to one of the regularly changing artists in residence also proved a pleasant surprise, allowing us the opportunity to pick the brain of the professional quilt maker, as well as see her work in detail – with other visitors hopping on the sewing machine to give the craft a go themselves. A slice of homemade courgette and stilton quiche, followed by apple crumble with piping hot custard in the dated but quaint coffee shop made for an appetising pit stop.
Alongside some of the museum’s other visitors, the lunchtime rush saw a smattering of parents also sit down for a cup of fair trade tea while their little ones made brass rubbings, meaning seating, even mid-week, was at a premium. A leisurely stroll in Nature in Art’s menagerie of a garden burnt off some of the custard, with Alan Jack’s horseshoe birds, rusty orange seed heads, a soaring albatross with an impressive carved wing span, and a life-sized fibre glass tail of a blue whale lifting out of the green grass all making for evocative talking points.
The chance for energetic kids to clamber on a small wooden play area was also seized by younger visitors to Nature in Art, while ponds for dipping and the wild overgrown surrounds of the open countryside act as a living reminder of the nature represented in the sculptures in the peaceful garden – which should not be missed, whatever the weather. As we prepared to leave, a quick glance at the visitors book showed accolades galore from gallivanting visitors from all over the globe.
From Texas to Tokyo, people passionate about the natural world and the artwork it inspires have trekked to the Twigworth treasure trove. While our car journey paled in comparison, Nature in Art proved all the more impressive for it’s proximity – having a museum of such high international regard in Gloucestershire should not be taken for granted. Don’t miss SoGlos.com’s Nature in Art photo gallery and, to find out more about visiting Nature in Art for yourself, see nature-in-art.
org.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (01452) 731422. By Michelle Fyrne © SoGlosSaturday 18 April 2009
Title: Art Galleries In Gloucestershire