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European art of 19th-20th centuries in spotlight as one of Museum's major galleries reopens

Visitors now have the opportunity to experience one of the Museum's most popular collections in a new light, with the reopening of Gallery 1. Located in the original Founder's Building of the Museum, adjacent to the grand entrance hall, Gallery 1 presents paintings, sculpture, manuscripts and decorative arts produced in Europe between 1890 and 1940. The space has been transformed by a year-long refurbishment, during which time it has been closed to visitors.

Visitors can now rediscover this fine collection with a redesigned arrangement of artworks - in very different surroundings. The 2010-11 refurbishment has involved major restoration of this Grade I-listed building's fabric, notably to the glass domes above and scagliola (richly-coloured imitation marble inlay) columns. The gallery walls have also been transformed from their previous light hue to a darker shade, creating an atmospheric space in which visitors can experience the collections.

Highlights of the displays include: paintings by the 'Camden Town' group of Walter Sickert, Spencer Gore and Harold Gilman; French painting of the period by artists such as Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard, from landscapes to intimate interior scenes; work by Slade School alumni Augustus John, William Nicholson and William Orpen, including Nicholson's enigmatic Girl With a Tattered Glove; a group of Stanley Spencer's most controversial paintings, including Love Among the Nations, and sculpture by Auguste Rodin and Jacob Epstein.

This redisplay of familiar works also introduces visitors to the unfamiliar web of connections linking many of the artists, subjects and writers on show. These associations ranged from the artistic to the personal, such as Rodin's relationship with his model and muse Gwen John, whose brother Augustus enjoyed an uneasy alliance with Jacob Epstein. The arrangement of the gallery will also show how several British artists were inspired by their French counterparts; many trained and exhibited there, or - like Sickert and Gwen John - lived there for an extended period of their lives.

The reopening will be accompanied by a programme of free Insights events, allowing visitors to discover more about the artists featured, their lives and creative outputs.

Image: William Nicholson, The Girl with a Tattered Glove, 1909. © Desmond Banks. Photo © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

2 February 2011

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