The Jerwood Gallery, housed on the historic beachfront in Hastings, East Sussex, was home to the Jerwood Collection of twentieth- and twenty-first-century British art until 2019, when the Gallery was renamed Hastings Contemporary.
The 2014 exhibition 'Jerwood Collection: Revealed' explored the history and personal stories of the collection's development. Liz Gilmore, the gallery's Director, selected some of the exhibition's jewels to share in this story.
Alfred Wallis worked as a fisherman, and turned to painting after his wife's death. Having no formal art training, he painted on scraps of cardboard, often using ship paint. Wishing to capture a fading way of life, he said: 'What I do (mostly) is what used to (be) out of my own memory – what we may never see again'.
The Jerwood Collection features many works by artists – including Wallis – who worked in St Ives, on the coast of Cornwall. The gallery's coastal location makes the perfect setting to enjoy these works.
This painting by Frank Brangwyn is where the story of the Collection begins, as it was the first work purchased by the Jerwood Foundation. The foundation was created for John Jerwood, a successful jewel and pearl dealer, to promote excellence in education and the arts.
Bought in 1993, it shows a view of the South Downs at Ditchling, not far from the gallery in Hastings. This is one of many works in the Collection with links to the local area. It is a joy to be able to display them so close to their point of creation.
John Bratby lived in Hastings from 1979 until his death in 1992. His house was located just a few minutes' walk from the gallery.
There are three works by Bratby in the collection. This work, painted in 1961, shows Bratby's interest in British post-war life. The exotic fruit reminds us of a time when buying imported goods was a new experience for many people.
This painting by Stanley Spencer of his niece is one of a number of wonderful portraits in the collection. He painted it during a visit to his brother's home in Belfast.
These family visits were a joy to Spencer. He wrote of one: 'Having a lovely time. I think all the time about my brother Harold; he is delightful. He has played quite a lot to me – preludes and fugues. The cat runs after his undone bootlaces...'
Michael Ayrton is associated with the English Neo-Romantic movement and, at the time of this painting, he was preoccupied with religious subject matter and nature.
It's based on the biblical story of Susannah, who was falsely accused of adultery by lecherous elders. Ayrton has depicted the characters as the trees themselves. During the Second World War, he worked from a studio which became popular with many artists featured in the Jerwood Collection.
There is a lovely luminosity to this portrait that should be experienced close up.
Walter Sickert was very interested in theatre, having started his career as an actor. Perhaps this is why he was so drawn to such interesting characters. The sitter is unknown, but his curious expression makes him a captivating presence, and his eyes follow you around the gallery. This painting is one of the earliest works in the Collection.
This is a vibrant, exciting example of Modern British painting, which is a key focus of the collection.
Alan Davie was a poet and jazz musician and, from the late 1940s, focused his creative energies on painting. This work includes a number of symbols that hold both Christian and ancient Egyptian references, which often feature in Davie's work.
This large-scale painting won Craigie Aitchison the first Jerwood Painting Prize in 1994, and has been on long-term loan to Hereford Cathedral. The exhibition 'Jerwood Collection: Revealed' provided the first opportunity for this work to be displayed at the gallery itself.
When asked about the subject's significance, Aitchison said, 'The Crucifixion is the most horrific story I've ever heard. They were all ganging up against one person. As long as the world exists one should attempt to record that. It was so unfair.'
'Jerwood Collection: Revealed' was the most extensive display of the Jerwood Collection to date and included works previously unseen at the gallery, such as this piece by Rose Wylie. Complementing the exhibition were displays of works by the British Constructivist artist Marlow Moss and the St Ives painter Alfred Wallis.
Liz Gilmore, Director, Jerwood Gallery
Editor's note: This story first appeared on the BBC Arts website