Patron - Arts Network Sutton
The existing museum collection has been acquired over the course of the twentieth century partly by the London Borough of Sutton and partly by its three predecessor authorities. At present the collection includes about 1,100 works, in the main part either local scenes or by local artists. While many of these are watercolours, this selection gives an opportunity to see those works in oil and acrylic paint.
The collection is based on a core of paintings acquired by the Urban District of Carshalton. These include many donated by former Councillor Miss Emily Winifred Madder, who was a pupil of the noted Victorian watercolourist William Tatton Winter. There are also works created by artist, craftsman and designer Frank Dickinson, whose self-built home in Carshalton Beeches is now preserved as a historic house museum. Some local views by Miss Madder herself are in the collection. In addition, prominent local residents have donated their own collections to the borough and paintings were amongst the items given by the Beddington, Wallington and Carshalton Archaeological Society in the 1930s, when the small museum based in Carshalton Town Hall was closed down. There are also a few paintings of local mayors by a variety of artists.
Between the 1970s and the 1990s the collection benefitted from an active collecting policy by the Borough Librarian, Roy Smith, who was instrumental in creating a lively Central Library in Sutton with an exhibition space on the ground floor. Those two decades saw a busy exhibition programme established with many shows both by local artists and groups as well as painters from further afield. Each show was viewed by Roy Smith himself and works depicting local scenes were regularly acquired, both for the collection and for a library picture loan scheme. Local pictures were also lent for display to the various Council offices around the Borough.
Some works by Frank Dickinson have been on view in Little Holland House, his former home, since 1974 when it first opened; and images of Cheam were hung in Tudor Whitehall from its opening in 1978. Since the formation of the Heritage Service in 1987 and the opening of Honeywood Museum next to Carshalton Ponds in 1990, there has been a regular programme of art exhibitions both at Honeywood and in other venues, and work has been carried out on the art catalogue to bring it up to modern standards. A book on artists in Sutton was published in 1989 and members of staff are continuing to research the artists and works contained in the collection.
Our acquisition policy states that the focus of collecting is on work by local artists and of local scenes. During the last two decades a number of paintings have been acquired by artists who have worked locally, including some by Frederick Yates (1922–2008) a northern painter who has been called ‘a happy Lowry’. Most of his bold and naïve depictions of local landmarks were painted during his stay in the area in 1990, while an exhibition of his work was held in Sutton Library’s Europa Gallery.
Both the Friends of Honeywood Museum and the Friends of Whitehall have helped towards the purchase and conservation of works, both historic and modern, for the collection, and we are grateful to them for their continued support.
The largest and one of the more unusual paintings in the collection is a romantic landscape attributed to the circle of Pieter Mulier the younger, a Baroque Dutch artist who worked in Italy, where he spent 16 years in jail for murder, and died in Milan in 1701. It was given to Carshalton Council in the 1950s by the late Rector of Carshalton, the Reverend W. R. Corbould, as a work by Salvator Rosa, another, more famous, Italian Baroque painter. Its size probably indicates that it originally hung over a fireplace or in a grand house. A Carshalton Council meeting in 1959 offered to loan the painting to the National Gallery for exhibition, but this was not taken up. Because of its size and condition, the painting has never been on public display.
As with most museums and galleries, only a small number of works can be on show at any one time, although annual in-house exhibitions permit us to show a number of items from the reserve collection. There are plans, however, with the help of Sutton Arts Council and the National Heritage Lottery Fund, to improve access shortly through the digitisation of the collection and subsequent publication on a website. Inclusion in this catalogue meanwhile provides us with a unique opportunity for some of the collection to be more widely seen and appreciated, for which we are grateful.
Lord Graham Tope
Text source: PCF / London Borough of Sutton Museum and Heritage Service
This description was originally written for a catalogue.