Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich

Another wonderful discovery, not quite on the doorstep but just an hour away. The Sainsbury Centre houses the extensive and eclectic art collection of the Sainsbury family in a striking Norman Foster building on the Campus of the University of East Anglia.  Last weekend’s visit was a very welcome antidote to grey clouds and non-stop rain.

The centre has a wonderful, comfortable atmosphere (it was designed with living with art in mind) with plenty of informal seating in the midst of the permanent collection and an exceptionally nice cafe. A lovely place to go to think, read and draw.

The Masterpieces exhibition runs until 24 February 2014 and was staged to celebrate the reopening of the building following updating and refurbishment in the autumn of 2013. It was a must-see exhibition as far as I was concerned, bringing together a collection of artworks, treasures, fashion, furniture, fabrics and all sorts with a (sometimes tenuous!) East Anglian connection.

Some particularly special things for me were

The Elisabeth Frink statues of the Crucifixion (1983) and Birdman (1960). The raw emotion of these is still with me.

Maggi Hambling’s Big Sea (2005). Oh to be able to paint a a wave with movement, energy, dark strength and light frothiness…

John Virtue’s No 3 of Blakeney Point, Norfolk. The artist has walked and drawn this stretch of shoreline each week since moving to the area in 2009. His work is new to me so one to explore more when I get the opportunity.

Stanley Spencer’s The Month of August on the Beach (1927). I’ve been staring at a print of this picture on a friend’s wall for some time and marvelling at the detail and the joy in it, so it was a treat to see the real thing.

And so much more including works by Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Gainsborough, Constable and some fabulous treasures such as illuminated manuscripts, stained glass and wonderful carved altarpieces.

The Masterpieces exhibition was all rather a lot to take in, as there are 260 exhibits, but very rewarding. I particularly enjoyed seeing original works by some of the artists that I’ve read about during research projects such as Claude Lorrain, George Stubbs and Mark Gertler. The internet is a poor substitute for the real thing!

We spent at least three hours looking at the Masterpieces which left no time for the permanent exhibition but that leaves a very good reason to visit again and hopefully the grounds outside will be less soggy and the rain will hold off so we can hang out outside with the Henry Moore statues.

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2 thoughts on “Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich

  1. Love your work and your blog. Thanks for the information about this gallery. I’ve been meaning to take the trip from home (Stamford) for ages and wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. I’ll definitely be going now!

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