Curatorial trainee update

Our curatorial trainee shares her experience in Warwickshire Eleanor Hutchison Since my last blog post I have begun to write text for the redisplay of Compton Verney’s Northern European collection. This text will be used in a new gallery guide, as wall captions for individual works, and more extensive information will be added to the website. It has been such a pleasure to look in detail at every item in the collection and provide visitors with more information about these fabulous works of art. I attended the Museums Association conference that was hosted in Belfast in November. This was a great opportunity to discuss issues and ideas with colleagues from around the country and abroad. Discussions included how museums could and should approach challenging subjects and be a place to build relationships with communities. This was a really inspiring event and it will be exciting to see how the sector evolves. I have also been carrying out research into a small devotional panel of the Virgin and Child in the collection. I have been reviewing the evidence for its attribution to Ambrosius Benson, an Italian-born artist working in Bruges in the first half of the 16th century. Compton Verney also has a portrait […]

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The Lost Words – Curators Blog

Books to inspire you to be a nature lover Working with Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane The Lost Words exhibition will include miniature libraries of books which have inspired them and we hope future generations to take imaginary and real journeys into the natural world.   The Lost Words Spell Walks Our Spell Walks posts are going into the grounds as we prepare for The Lost Words Spell Walks which will take visitors to the exhibition on a journey of words and images with nature spotting on the way.       The Lost Words Letterpress The first letterpress prints for The Lost Words have been rolling off the press today. Each of Robert Macfarlane’s Spells are being set and printed by Nomad Letterpress at the Whittington Press in Gloucestershire. They are being printed in a Caslon font on beautiful 100% cotton hot-pressed paper with each of the titles picked out in gold to match Jackie Morris’s iridescent watercolour and gold leaf paintings.                         The Lost Words Wallpaper We’re excited to see The Lost Words wallpapers going up today! Imagine stepping into a book and seeing a world without oak […]


Exhibition curator Penny Sexton interviews abstract artist Lothar Götz

Abstract artist, Lothar Götz, has created a site-specific gallery-sized work for Seurat to Riley: The Art of Perception.  Lothar reveals to curator Penny Sexton how he approached the commission and how Compton Verney’s unique setting influenced his work. PS: What is the starting point when creating a site-specific work? LG: I start off with the visiting the building or space itself, I never know what exactly it will be. On this initial visit there is something happening, a first encounter with the room. I enter the space and imagine something in it, or I see something that is quite vague. I build up a personal relationship with the space, this is often the starting point. In order to make and do something in the space, I look at the architecture and I try to gauge the dimensions of the space. I would describe this as the design process, not starting immediately. In doing this I become the medium between the space and my work. PS: So the room speaks to you? LG: Yes, the room speaks to me, but I am not saying I am just meditating in here, or me relaxing in the space, or Zen Buddhism or anything like […]

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The Clearing  is a collaborative artwork by artists Alex Hartley and Tom James. Together they are building a geodesic dome by the lake, an ‘eye-catcher’ for the 21st Century, where visitors can explore at first hand a future afflicted by climate change.     Help us to bring this vision to life at Compton Verney Park


Major grant for British Folk Art Display

Compton Verney has been awarded £36,000 from the DCMS / Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund.


Queen Victoria in Paris: Curator’s Favourite

Thanks to the Queen Victoria in Paris: Watercolours from The Royal Collection exhibition in October – December 2016, we managed to get Rosie Razzall, the curator of the exhibition and Curator of Prints and Drawings, Royal Collection Trust, to share her favourite artwork from the exhibition.


#ThrowbackThursday: Wedding Edition

  It looks like a day for a white wedding, so let’s have a wedding throwback to the 1950s!   Our summer exhibition, Britain in the Fifties: Design and Aspiration, explores post-war Britain through the perspective of a young couple. We have been kindly loaned objects from the British Motor Museum, Southend Museums, and the V&A. But what makes this exhibition steeped in nostalgia are the objects the local community have lent to us.   Take for example, the wedding dress. It is perhaps in itself the most important dress a woman will wear in her lifetime.  The many questions going through the bride’s mind: what colour? What length?  Sweetheart neckline or something with sleeves? Do I look good in it?   So what’s the story behind the wedding dress in this exhibition? It belongs to Jackie Nash and here is her story: ‘We were married on Easter Tuesday on March 31st 1959. It had to be on a Bank Holiday because a lot of my husband’s family could not close their shops. And we had to be married before the end of the tax year. In those days, if you married before April 5th, you received a tax refund […]


Spoon Lovers

Hello everyone, I thought this recent addition to our British Folk Art collection might be of interest to some of the spoon lovers amongst you. We acquired this piece in late 2015 and installed it during our Winter closed period, ready for Compton Verney’s Spring opening.

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Six questions with the Curator of Shakespeare in Art

Antonia is one of our experienced exhibition curators and has been responsible for some of the most successful exhibitions in recent years, for example the Arts & Crafts House: Then and Now exhibition from 2015. She was lead curator on the Shakespeare in Art project which means that, working with other members of the team, she researched the works of art, shaped the exhibition, decided on the hang (what artworks went where), wrote the interpretation, liaised with the RSC and worked with our internal teams (front of house, learning and marketing) to develop their plans for the show.  1. Tell us why you’re doing this exhibition now? 2016 is the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare (coincidentally, Shakespeare died on the same day that he was born, the 23rd April) and we felt that this was a good moment to produce a brand new art exhibition related to his work, and to join in the national celebrations of his achievements.  2. How did the collaboration with the RSC come about? The collaboration came about around three years ago when our Director, Dr Steven Parissien met with Gregory Doran, now the Artistic Director of the RSC, to talk about the […]


The Social Media World of Compton Verney

Let me first introduce myself, I’m Kiran Compton Verney’s Digital Marketing Intern. With an iPhone firmly in my right hand, a camera around my neck and a selfie stick hiding in my bag, it’s safe to say no day is ever the same as I help the Compton Verney team shape and maintain our online presence. The world of digital is forever changing, with an abundance of social digital platforms to choose from. Arts organisations have been working hard, innovating and experimenting to find different ways to reach audiences. We’re extremely lucky here at Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park to have such diverse content potential right on our doorstep, ranging from arts collections to the behind the scenes of exhibitions, beautiful images of our ‘Capability’ Brown landscape to fun coverage of our events. Being a newbie Digital Marketer but having been brought up on social media, I wanted to share the challenges, tips & tricks I’ve learnt whilst working here: Keeping it Visual Let’s start with some easy statistics; Image posts on Facebook gain roughly 39% more engagement than text posts, Instagram users on average are 4x more engaged than Facebook and Twitter users. Audience love visual-led content, which […]



The drawings of Albert H. Barnett are currently on display at Compton Verney next to the Folk Art Collection. We recently received a message from David Mason about these drawings and wanted to share it with the public. My father Stan Mason worked in the Transport Department of the Gasboard in the 1970s. He was based at the Lord Street Depot in Birmingham. Albert Barnett worked there as a Yardman, keeping the yards tidy.Albert produced numerous biro drawings of old Birmingham, many relating to transport . He also drew a series of obituaries of well known people who had just died.These drawings were made on the backs of company order slips, envelopes and whatever he could lay his hands on. Albert would give these drawings to staff members , often noting on them ,how long they took to complete. Most of these drawings were  thrown away. Dad thought Albert’s drawings were of great interest and kept them untill he died in 1987.In all there were about 200 drawings that he kept, they are now with Compton Verney Art Gallery. After the British Gas Pensioners News Magazine  published an article on Albert I was able to contact a few of the retired […]


Technical Interlude pt. 2: Good housekeeping

As promised, here’s an update on one or two developments within the programming department at Compton Verney. Last time, I said I would go in to a bit more detail about our regular programme of conservation cleaning of the artworks in the permanent collections. At this stage it is probably worth pointing out that the cleaning of artworks is a specialist task that should only be attempted by a trained conservator. As such we do not attempt to clean the surface of paintings, many of which can be rather delicate – we leave that to the pros who carry out any necessary remedial work.       Instead, we focus on regularly cleaning the frames and sculptures. No absolute rule can be given as to the frequency for cleaning  as this will vary depending on the location of the work within the building. Generally speaking, we only do it when an obvious layer of dust has developed. It is estimated that a frame will require dusting every 6-12 months in an average property. In order to do this, we methodically work our way around every 2D and 3D artwork in the building with a soft brush and a backpack vacuum cleaner, […]


Meet Artist Rosa Nguyen

On Tuesday 21 July artist Rosa Nguyen visited Compton Verney to talk to members of the public and start off a family workshop in the studio space. In the morning visitors were shown Rosa Nguyen’s new commission Gardening with Morris located in the Arts & Crafts House: Then and Now exhibition. Gardening with Morris is funded by Arts Council England. Rosa Nguyen started to talk about her practise as a trained ceramicist and glass blower. She would use scientific glass used usually used for labs and experiments, she sand blasts and engraves through the process of making the glass. The shapes for her 3D objects relate to seeds pods, bulbs and natural forms, incorporating the objects into the environment. The idea behind Gardening with Morris came from working with holistic view of nature. Rosa Nguyen has previously visited Japan and been influences by the Buddhist art of flower arranging being regarded as high art. In Japanese artists explore the ideas around the use of spaces and create environments which can be assembled and taken down, moved and reassembled to another location. This piece will be removed and travel to another touring venue later on in the year. Gardening with Morris […]

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Technical Interlude pt.1: John Crossley, Head Technician

  The nature my role takes me in to the galleries perhaps more than any other member of the permanent staff at Compton Verney. I check all of the lighting to ensure the exhibits are displayed to their full potential and use the time before opening to perform a condition check on the artworks. I also see to any maintenance tasks that require attention such as repairing the oak floorboards on the ground floor. The main focus of my work is associated with the planning of the temporary exhibition programme. This includes the fabrication of plinths for 3D artworks – like the fireplace currently supporting the Andrew Wicks vessels in the Arts and Crafts House exhibition (pics below immediateley after I finished fabrication and once the installation in the space was complete). I also install audio-visual projections such as the short film currently on show in the Harts Silversmiths exhibition. I work closely with the Exhibitions Manager and the Curators at Compton Verney to arrange and manage the installation of temporary exhibitions, liaise with builders and painters, hire technical art handlers and oversee contractors working on-site. Compton Verney’s temporary exhibition installations are the most thrilling (and often nerve-racking) part of […]

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In response to The Non-Conformists Photographs by Martin Parr exhibition, members of the public was invited to submit parresque images to twitter and facebook using #ParrWall. Each week the photographs were printed off and placed on the atrium wall at Compton Verney in the public area in-between the café and The Lawn Restaurant. Many people viewed these photographs and a few twitted their responses. In third place: Done Roaming by Margaret Jackman, 17 April 15 Second place: Posing by Mart Kelly, 13 March 15 First place: Cheltenham Gold Cup 2015 by Claire Rosser, 1 April 15


Many heads are better than one

Day in the life of John Bishop, Learning deliverer I had a busy couple of days at Compton Verny last week the 14 and 15 May. I turned up as a volunteer as usual on Thursday 14 May ready for a steady cutting card and preparing classrooms and items for the learning team. Alice Kirk, Learning Programmer greeted me with “O John Boy thank goodness you have arrived!” Vix Powell, Forest School leader is off on sick leave and it was raining hard. It was the day and night of Martin Parr’s talk. He is a famous documentary photographer who’s attending Museums at night. Jo Essen, Learning Programmer was busy with Imogen Morris, OYAP organiser putting the rooms together for his talk, book signing and performances by OYAP musicians. I quickly set about helping Alice put together some items for the forest school then I was sent on an errand to collect some items we needed for the children for them to make bird feeders. This meant me driving to Wellesbourne and the CO-OP store to hunter gather Cheerios, lard and Vaseline. (Yes, I know strange brew?) Still chucking down with rain, I headed off to the store. I quickly […]


Internationally renowned artist Yinka Shonibare MBE

Compton Verney is delighted to be shortlisted by Yinka Shonibare MBE to host Museums at Night event at the end of October 2015. Staff will work with Shonibare to turn the idea of an elite supper club for the few into a sensory cultural feast for the many Contemporary reflections on the issues and ideas raised by particular works in Compton Verney’s collections will be provided through performance, food and costume. Including Reynolds, Sir Joshua (1723-92) Mrs Baldwin in Eastern Dress. Party goers will dress flamboyantly and enjoy sensory treats, specially created canapés and a range of performances by young creatives. Shonibare’s work explores issues of race and class through the media of painting, sculpture, photography and film. His trademark material is the bright ‘African’ batik fabric he buys at Brixton market. The fabric was inspired by Indonesian design, mass-produced by the Dutch and sold to the colonies in West Africa becoming in the 1960s a new sign of African identity and independence. Biography: Fine Art at Byam Shaw College of Art (now Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design) and then at Goldsmiths College, where he received his MFA, graduating as part of the ‘Young British Artists’ generation. Following […]


Compton Verney loans

As Collections Manager, part of my role involves managing works from our permanent collection which are requested on loan by other galleries in the UK and in Europe.  I often travel to the gallery borrowing to oversee installation there, which is always really interesting, especially as it’s always helpful to see how other galleries and museums work and meet their staff.  In 2014, several works in our collection traveled to Europe. When a loan request letter is first received by our director, it is passed on to me to ask for information from the gallery, since we need to ensure we are satisfied with the temperature and relative humidity in the gallery and how the object or painting will be displayed. Myself and the Director then make a recommendation, and the final decision is by our trustees.  Once agreed, the museum or gallery borrowing make detailed travel arrangements with Compton Verney. Compton Verney’s Canaletto: View of the Grand Walk, Vauxhall Gardens was on loan last year to the Niedersachasiches Landesmuseum in Hanover where they had an exhibition about Hanover’s Rulers on the British Throne 1714-1837.  Compton Verney had never loaned to this gallery before, so as is common museum practice, […]


Merry Christmas from the Programming Team at Compton Verney!

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and all the best for an exciting new year from us all in Programming. It’s a little quiet in the offices today, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to post a pic of this beautiful blingy gold festive reindeer currently sitting on our office Christmas tree. The lucky new owner of ‘Chuffin’ the reindeer is Learning Programmer Alice Kirk – the result of the secret Santa which took place during our departmental Christmas meal last week! Annelise Hone, Collections Manager and Morgan Jones, our Chinese expert, are working on the Chinese re-display in the galleries today, which opens in spring 2015; John Crossley, Technician and Verity Elson, Exhibitions Manager are finishing de-installing the British Folk Art exhibition from Tate which came down on 14 December; and the rest of us are trying to catch-up on what we can before Christmas! We have decorated our office to the max. this year, including gorgeous hand-made crafty decorations made by the Alice, Jo and Moira from the learning team. It will be a shame to take it all down in the new year! Anyway, that’s it from me this year and we hope to see you at Compton Verney in 2015! Penny Sexton, Curator


Our Curator visits Exeter and attends REMIX

This is the first time I am posting on our blog, having after few months returned from my yearlong Clore Fellowship. I am now back in the full swing of things here at Compton Verney, mainly in the curation of my future exhibitions ‘The Non-Conformists: Photographs by Martin Parr’ and ‘Periodic Tales: The Art of the Elements’ (working title). However, I am not going to blog about these exhibitions today (I will do at some point, I promise!), but instead I am reporting on my trips last week to Exeter and London. My colleague, Chris Rice and I went to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter (RAMM) for a meeting with Julien Parsons, Senior Collections Officer. Having previously worked there from 2004-2011 as Curator of Exhibitions, I had delight in seeing my old galleries again and the artworks I had commissioned at the museum. Julien was kind enough to show us around the galleries and talk about RAMM’s impressive HLF redevelopment project. The museum looks as good as it did the day it reopened in December 2012. I would recommend you take the opportunity to visit their current exhibition ‘Art & Soul: Victorians and the Gothic’, a […]


Volunteering with the Learning team

I am a volunteer in the Learning Department at Compton Verney. My duties include helping out shepherding school children around the galleries, checking and restocking the children’s backpacks, cleaning and preparing equipment ready for schools and families, overseeing the tasks which are given to the children and help with the admin side of the department when needed. I have helped out with many tasks over the last few months, with the forest school by providing support and this was interesting to me as it involved being outside and helping out with the student teachers and learning how to manage schoolchildren with outdoor activities. During the summer I helped out with the families, the task set over the summer period was to encourage children making and observing the Moore-Rodin exhibition and creating their own clay sculpture from what they saw. I got involved by making my own clay sculpture piece of a hand. Recently, I helped out a small group of year 5 schoolchildren while Culture Street team came to film the children learning all about Compton Verney and what the gallery has to offer. They went into the British Portraits, Northern European, Naples and China Collections. Director Steven Parissien also […]


Arts Award Discover

Do you know about Arts Award? Compton Verney has issued a new Arts Award Discover booklet for families. Discover is an introductory level to Arts Award and is aimed at age 5+. We want them to recognise different art forms all around them. We have invited parents/ guardians to encourage their children to discover the arts through purchasing a booklet from Compton Verney shop at just £3. This is a guide to parts A & B of Arts Award that helps your child achieve their Arts Award certificate. The more information you provide the better. It encourages children to take part in projects and find out about artists. They can document and record their findings through drawing, writing and photography. They can even provide films through social media sites. These activities can take place at Compton Verney, home or at school. Compton Verney provides many opportunities to take part in arts and craft workshops or even pick up one of our back packs to take into the collections. We are looking for around 20 hours of art activity and want to see lots of different art forms covered. After they have completed the booklet, all you need to do it […]


12th plinth

The programming team first visited the Moore Rodin exhibition at the Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green, Hertfordshire. When we realised 11 sculptures will be placed around the Compton Verney grounds an idea formed to create an intervention for visitors to make living sculptures and pose on a 12th plinth. Since the opening of the exhibition at Compton Verney the exhibition has had an amazing response to the figures situated in the landscape. We have witnessed many families, individuals and groups such as schools using the 12th plinth while they were here at Compton Verney. We invited our visitors to tweet or facebook their images to us. It was very exciting to see a new post of someone standing on a grey plinth out in the grounds and pretending to be one of the sculptures or creating a new stance. We had over 90 images sent to us on social media. Here are some of the images shared with us via facebook… Here are some of the images shared with us via twitter.. We also had them emailed to The programming team each chose three favourite images and by popular response we have selected a winner to receive a […]


10th Birthday Party

Fun at the Fair After months of preparation the big day had finally arrived- Compton Verney turns 10! It was an early start for the Programming Team as they ran around the grounds setting up the stalls – from setting the ducks afloat to assembling a mini Compton Verney for the Hoop-La. The staff then gathered in the Adam Hall to officially start the festivities with the cutting of the cake (very important – we do like our cake here at Compton Verney!). We were absolutely over-the-moon to welcome so many visitors to Compton Verney to celebrate the special day with us – our busiest day in all of our ten years! We even managed to spot a few famous artists among our party-goers: See if you recognise some of these familiar faces from the Programming Team too:       And the fairground fun didn’t stop there! Roll up, roll up – we had stalls, activities, rides, BBQ, music and more…     The soundtrack to the day was provided by a fab mix of musical and dance performances from In2Cultures, Startled Ferrets, Rock Choir and marvellous Nigel.  Our thanks again to them! And, it goes without saying, the day would not have been complete without Moira […]

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Welcome to our brand new blog: The Curators’ Diary

Hello from Programming on the ’12th Plinth’ at Compton Verney (though missing a few of the Team in this picture!) Welcome to our blog and to the Programming Team. We are a ten-strong team supported by brilliant volunteers and learning deliverers, and between us we create exhibitions, care for the (six) collections and organise an active programme of events and activities for all ages. This year, our tenth anniversary, is a particularly exciting one. As part of our birthday celebrations we are having a crack at the longest line of bunting world record attempt (contributions welcome – we need seven miles of it!) Following the Moore Rodin show, and hot-foot from Tate Britain, we have a major exhibition of British Folk Art, to which we are a key lender. In the summer we refresh the collections with a display of trench art, by which time our plans for a complete redisplay of the Chinese collection in 2015 will be well under way. So, lots to look out for and follow in the coming weeks and months, Alison

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