Works of art by renowned artists from the past century feature in the British Museum touring exhibition Living with art: Picasso to Celmins, now on display in the Burton at Bideford Art Gallery and Museum.
Spanning almost one hundred years of modern art, this exhibition showcases highlights from the wide-ranging collection of Alexander Walker (1930–2003), longstanding film critic for London’s Evening Standard newspaper, bequeathed to the British Museum in 2004. Covering the period from 1908 until 2002, Living with art includes 30 prints and drawings by prominent artists ranging from Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse to Lucian Freud, Bridget Riley, David Hockney and Vija Celmins.
The exhibition has been on tour in the UK for nearly two years as part of the British Museum’s National Programmes, giving those outside of London the opportunity to view these rarely displayed artworks. Themed sections ranging from early twentieth-century modernism and abstraction to relief printing and self-portraiture will demonstrate the astonishing quality and breadth of Walker’s collection. In addition, Living with art will focus on a running thread in the collection: transitional pieces that demonstrate well-known artists developing a new style, subject or technique.
In life, Walker surrounded himself with works from his collection on every inch of the rooms in his Maida Vale flat, including his kitchen and bathroom. A prolific collector of modern and contemporary prints and drawings, Walker generously left his collection of over 200 works on paper to the British Museum following his death, after developing an interest in the Prints and Drawing department.
Through displaying key pieces, the exhibition will demonstrate Walker’s interest in the working method of artists – he viewed the collection as a record of his own education in art history. Living with art will also demonstrate his own tastes, from the figurative to the abstract, and consider what motivates collectors like Walker, who bought for pleasure rather than financial gain, to surround themselves with works of art.
Catherine Daunt, Hamish Parker Curator of Modern and Contemporary Graphic Art says, “This exhibition reflects key moments in the history of art in Europe and America in the twentieth century. It also demonstrates the extraordinary range of the British Museum’s collection of modern and contemporary prints and drawings, which has developed largely due to the generosity of donors such as Alexander Walker. Walker had a wonderful eye and was able to assemble a remarkable collection despite his relatively modest budget. His collection gave him great pleasure during his life and it was his wish that it would be widely seen, studied and enjoyed by as many people as possible after his death.”
Generously supported by the Dorset Foundation in memory of Harry M Weinrebe.
On display at the Burton January 21 – April 24, 2022
Image: David Hockney (b. 1937) Jungle Boy, 1964, Etching and aquatint in black and red on mould-made paper © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt