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Two National Trust exhibitions kicking off the year in style

PUBLISHED: 16:39 20 January 2014 | UPDATED: 16:39 20 January 2014

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Two fascinating - and very different - National Trust exhibitions open to kick off 2014 in style. Petworth House plays host to an extraordinary group of paintings by British landscape artist, John Constable, whilst Pallant House in Chichester unveils the wartime memories of British painter Stanley Spencer, in this centenary year of the First World War

Constable at Petworth

The works of art in this exhibition at Petworth House have never before been shown together as a group. They include more than 40 outstanding watercolours and drawings made by Constable around Petworth and Arundel during his visits there in 1834 and 1835.

House and Collections Manager at Petworth House and Park, Andrew Loukes has played a pivotal role in organising the exhibition. “It’s really exciting to be bringing such a remarkable body of work back to Petworth,” he says: “As the exhibition’s curator, and a great admirer of Constable’s work, I am thrilled to see so many pictures reunited, especially in the place that provided their inspiration.”

Andrew continues: “Petworth is perhaps best known for its links with JMW Turner. However, what many people don’t realise is that Constable – his great contemporary – also spent time here. This exhibition gives us the perfect opportunity to celebrate this important but little-known connection between Petworth and another truly great national figure.”

In addition to the temporary exhibition, visitors will be able to see two major rooms of Petworth House, redisplayed to highlight the paintings that Constable would have enjoyed as a guest, including several not usually on display. There will also be guided tours to the Old Library, a room rarely open to visitors, where major artists of the early 19th century, including Constable and Turner, were invited to socialise, study and work.

Constable at Petworth runs from 11 January to 14 March. Booking is advisable, at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworthhouse or by calling 0844 249 1895. Adult £12, child £6. Lunch in the Audit Room Restaurant can also be booked in advance – visit the Petworth House website for menu and prices.

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Heaven in a hell of war

Stanley Spencer’s poignant memories of war, which have drawn such praise as ‘Britain’s answer to the Sistine Chapel’, are to be displayed in a temporary exhibition at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester.

Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War features a series of large-scale canvas panels from one of the most original and acclaimed British painters of the 20th century. The panels, which took six years to create and were completed in 1932, depict the banal daily wartime chores that for those in the battlefield, like Spencer, came to symbolise a form of ‘heaven’ amidst the hell of the First World War’s front line. The exhibition comes at a poignant time as Britain prepares to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

The paintings have been temporarily loaned to Pallant House from their permanent home at the National Trust’s Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire – a building designed specially to house the paintings. Considered by many to be the artist’s finest achievement, the artworks focus more on the ‘domestic’ wartime chores than the combative, and evoke everyday experiences, such as inspecting kit, sorting laundry, scrubbing floors and taking tea.

Amanda Bradley, Assistant Curator of Pictures and Sculpture for the National Trust, says: “Stanley Spencer’s masterpiece is arguably one of the greatest Modern British artistic schemes ever conceived. We are excited to be taking 16 of his paintings to Pallant House; it offers a rare opportunity to reconsider them in terms of their art historical importance and to view them in a gallery setting, just as Spencer had wanted.”

Simon Martin, Head of Collections and Exhibitions at Pallant House Gallery, says: “The First World War centenary provides a timely opportunity for us to present Stanley Spencer’s remarkable and visionary series of paintings alongside our significant collection of Modern British art, which includes so many of his artistic contemporaries. The exhibition also showcases Spencer’s preliminary studies from the University of Chichester for the first time, giving our audiences a unique insight into the artist’s working processes.”

Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War runs at Pallant House Gallery from 15 February to 15 June. For details visit www.pallant.org.uk or call 01243 774557. The gallery opens Tuesday to Saturday, 10am until 5pm.

To find out about other National Trust events in the region, visit www.nationaltrust.org/southeast

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