From Lowry to Piper: 20th century art

 © John Piper estate


Open for six months until April 2014, the exhibition in Upton’s Squash Court Gallery showed work by eight British artists who painted from the 1930s to the 1950s. Artists like L.S. Lowry, Prunella Clough and John Armstrong were just emerging at that time. Others represented were Duncan Grant, Ivon Hitchens, Keith Vaughan, William Scott and John Piper, whose haunting churches are quite unique.

Viscount Bearsted lived at Upton throughout the 1930s and became involved with these artists as chairman of the board of trustees of the Whitechapel Gallery in London. His father came from the East End of London and founded the company that became Shell Oil, from which the family fortune emanated.

Echoing Viscount Bearsted's support of contemporary artists
As well as being a huge collector of fine art Viscount Bearsted was passionate about making art accessible to people. This exhibition was inspired by recent discoveries of his involvement with the Whitechapel Gallery after the war. As well as paintings, the display included archive material and personal statements written by the artists for an exhibition in the 1950s at the Whitechapel called 'Painters Progress'.

Enlisting volunteers
The Lowry to Piper exhibition was an important experiment for Upton House. Rather than carrying out all the work themselves Upton’s art experts entrusted the necessary research to their volunteers. A group of six, some with no particular knowledge of art, spent the middle of the year poring over art books and visiting key locations to get to grips with the exhibits.  It resulted in a very successful exhibition, and a template for harnessing the talents of volunteers for future exhibitions at Upton House.