After the AGM on 18 March Mark Bills, Director of Gainsborough’s House, gave a brief history of and a more detailed look at the future of GH. He began by showing GH’s on Brewer’s map of Sudbury of 1714 when the Carter family lived there. It was Thomas Gainsborough’s father John who later bought the house and had the Georgian façade built. It then became Thomas’ home before subsequent roles as a tearoom and a hotel. But in 1961 it opened to the public as an art gallery – the national ‘home’ of TG’s work. However, it is neither a ‘real’ at gallery nor a ‘real’ house despite period furniture being included to give a feel of period. It falls between the two.
GH has several unique selling points: TG is ‘international’; Sudbury is located in an area where its landscape has a strong sense of place; it has its own printmaking workshop; it is at the heart of a ‘silk’ town – which, said Mark, be exploited much more.
GH itself aims to be international and has right now loaned paintings to The Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede, the Netherlands. It also aims to attract visitors nationally and locally. Constable is well known as a landscape painter but it is less well known that TG greatly influenced Constable.
The future for GH is full of issues and opportunities. Better signage in the town in underway. The café and shop have already been refitted. A tearoom and kitchen will enhance visitor enjoyment and allow for social functions.
Envisaged for the not-too-distant future is taking the art gallery out of the house and displaying the pictures in a new, purpose-built gallery thus allowing the house to become a house once more furnished a la mid-18th century, as TG would have known it. The new gallery will have space for temporary exhibitions. A community gallery will house work by local and regional artists and be a place where these paintings can be sold. There will be a studio with balcony overlooking the rooftops of Sudbury to the countryside beyond.
But all that takes money and Mark Bills is having sleepless nights wondering whether lottery funding will be granted… let’s hope so because the future looks bright for Gainsborough’s House.