Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A very distant artist

I've just returned from a weeks trip to England. Visiting my elderly parents, who sadly are both battling various forms of cancer; and achieving this with huge fortitude.  While there I took the opportunity of visiting their local art gallery/museum in Kendal (Abbot Hall art Gallery). Considering the size of the town I'm always impressed by the exhibition the gallery manages to secure, and I have seen some wonderful instillation over the years. (They have one coming this summer called 'Francis Bacon to Paula Rego' which looks really good, it's a pity I'll be in the US)

Anyway, the current exhibition was works from their permanent collection, celebrated the galleries 50 years. Featuring works from many 'big' names in British art from the last century. The art  was a  varied medley, both in content, style, period and quality. At times I fear the fame of the artists had  eclipsed the quality of that particular piece, for example I felt their was an unremarkable sketch by Henry Moore, and I'd seen better paintings by Stanley Spencer. But this was balanced by fantastic works by Lucian Freud, Ben Nicholson, Paula Rego, to mention just a few; and of course a personal favorite Joan Eardley.

The last room in the exhibition had a surprise for me and really nice mountain painting by Howard Somervell. It turns out he was a second cousin of my grandfather (on my fathers side). So admittedly that's a pretty distant relation, but still interesting... Sommervell was actually a historical figure of some note -  a medical missionary in India, he was also an avid painter and climber. He was even part of the climbing party of Mallory and Irvines fatal attempt on Everest in 1924. It's believed Sommervell was the last person to see M&I alive, before their attempted final accent. 

H Somervill - 2nd from the left, seated on the bottom row

Of course I'm getting of subject. I tried googling for the painting that was in the Abbot Hall, but I couldn't find it.  I did however find another couple of his paintings, so these will have to suffice. Still it's nice to think there's other artists in my family tree, and I haven't even mentioned my talented Aunty!.... (But that's a story for another time)


  1. There are some amazing things to be found in smaller museums and galleries. It's always an adventure to explore such places. Thanks for sharing this, and hope your parents are faring ok.

  2. So sorry to hear about your ailing parents. Interesting about your family ties. Glad you had a good visit.