The well attended August visit was to view the current exhibitions at the Southampton City Art Gallery, which included paintings loaned from the National Gallery. We had a curator for an hour-long tour highlighting the major exhibits, part of which was entitled ‘Building a National Collection’. He explained how they approached the task of spending the generous Chipperfield Bequest Fund with which they were endowed at the commencement of the collection. With guidance from various famous Directors of the National Gallery they have managed to acquire thousands of post WW2 paintings from artists at an early stage of their careers who later became famous (and prohibitively expensive).
The modern works, both figurative and abstract, have been complimented by old masters, British School and Impressionist paintings which cater for all tastes. Our tour ended with a short visit to the separate Portraits exhibition, where they were showing in 2 galleries a selection of their collection of mostly living artists’ work. We then broke for a short lunch at the café in the adjacent Sea City Museum, and subsequently returned to the Art Gallery to have a more ‘in depth’ look at the many works unavoidably missed during the curated tour. The very high standard of paintings viewed tended to support Southampton’s claim that they have the best collection in the south.
The Classical style of the main gallery building, allowing much more light to enter, further enhanced the overall experience, which proved to be probably the best paintings exhibition we have visited to date. Certainly, all of our Group who attended found the visit to be most enjoyable. Whilst we all have our favourite painting, mine was probably Southampton’s own Monet which out classed the adjacent National Gallery loan.