travel

3.    Heritage

Gainsborough exhibition

Compton Verney, Warwickshire

See 18th-century rural life captures in oils in this tranquil art gallery

Description: Gainsborough exhibition

Gainsborough exhibition

The changing fortunes of many the great English country houses are encapsulated at Compton Verney. From barons to billeted soldiers, suffragettes to secretive appeasers, and foxhunters to film stars, the house has been all manner of occupants and uses.

Though the estate has roots stretching back to medieval times, the house saw an Elizabethan and Stuart heyday when the Verney family had links with the Grevilles of Warwick Castle. The beautiful tombstone of Sir Richard Verney and his wife, Margaret Greville, found in the private chapel, is really the only remaining evidence of this period. Today, the house is the result of restoration of 18th-century designs by Robert Adam. An award-winning modern art gallery is carefully incorporated into this neoclassical architecture.

Description: Compton Verney, Warwickshire

Compton Verney, Warwickshire

You first glimpse the house through trees, then its entire splendour is revealed as you pass between the for sphinxes of the Upper Bridge. This impression is created thanks to the work of Capability Brown, the great landscape architect. Brown replaced the straight lines of formal gardens with more natural effects of changing views, framed by trees. For the first time, landscape became the focal point for, not just then backdrop to, grand country estates.

Gainsborough’s rural vision

So it is fitting that landscape is he subject of one of Compton Verney’s exhibitions (currently running until 10 june). Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1728) may be best known for the society portraits of his day, but his real inspiration lay in the English countryside. The exhibition explores the Themes and Variations of this aspect of his work – particularly the qualities of modesty, ease and humanity that he felt grew from nature and which he sought to capture.

Description: Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1728) may be best known for the society portraits of his day, but his real inspiration lay in the English countryside.

Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1728) may be best known for the society portraits of his day, but his real inspiration lay in the English countryside.

Gainsborough’s landscapes show influences from both Dutch naturalism and Italian classicism, but his drawing reveal that his key subjects were country people and their animals, often captured as they paused in their work. The pauses are full of movement. A gust of wind blowing at clothing, the twitch of the horse’s ear, water dripping from a cow’s mouth – each is captured and placed as a small moment within the framing structures of trees, rocks and watering places.

Description: Gainsborough’s landscapes show influences from both Dutch naturalism and Italian classicism

Gainsborough’s landscapes show influences from both Dutch naturalism and Italian classicism

This exhibition is just part of the vast range of work you can see at Compton Verney. Other highlights are the Folk Art and Northern European rooms. You will leave felling that an artist’s work is truly complemented by being displayed close to the outdoor world that inspired it.

4.    Singing ringing tree

Follow a haunting note across the Pennines and you’ll find a wind-powered musical sculpture.

Description: 4. Singing ringing tree

Singing ringing tree

High above Burney, a penetrating chorus drifts over the Pennines. The eerie sound emanates from the Singing Ringing Tree, a wind-powered musical sculpture atop Crown Point.

Made up from cunningly fashioned steel pipes, Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu’s award-winning sculpture takes the form of a wind-blown tree and harnesses the Pennines’ wind power to create a haunting choral sound. Completed in 2006, the unique landmark was one of four sculptures commissioned for East Landcashire Environmental Art Network’s Panopticons arts and regeneration project.

Description: Follow a haunting note across the Pennines and you’ll find a wind-powered musical sculpture.

Follow a haunting note across the Pennines and you’ll find a wind-powered musical sculpture.

You’ll find the Singing Ringing Tree if you walk the Wayside Arts Trail from Towneley Park, which takes in the enchanting Forest of Burnley and boasts spectacular views over east Lancashire, Pendle Hill and Burnley. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for roe deer, hares, stoats, short eared and little owls along the way.

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