Back in 1945, HJP Bomford gifted fifteen works of art to Swindon. This generous gift founded Swindon’s collection of modern British art and established the themes, context and quality which still guide collecting today.
Donations and gifts have continued throughout the 20th and 21st century and now an anonymous donor has given fifty works of prints, paintings and drawings to Swindon Borough Council’s, Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, in appreciation of Meryl Ainslie’s services to the Arts.
Meryl Ainslie MA is founder of Rabley Drawing Centre a gallery and drawing school located near Marlborough which specialises in drawings, works on paper and original prints. She worked at Swindon School of Art between 1993 and 2004 and was instrumental in the development and delivery of the successful higher education programme in Fine Art Drawing.
The gift includes works from artists Duncan Grant, Allen Jones, Michael Ayrton and Basil Beattie and Adrian Heath, and also includes artists with a strong association to Wiltshire and the West Country, such as Nicholas Monro, Adrian Heath and Peter Joyce. It also contains contemporary artists including Nana Shiomi, Alison Lambert and Lin Jammet.
The works are given to the Museum and Art Gallery to enhance the already established collection and as an expression of support for the continued work towards a proposed new Museum and Art Gallery for Swindon.
Meryl Ainslie says: “Drawing, printmaking and works on paper bring an energy and immediacy to the visual arts. This gift generously shares a wonderful collection of contemporary artist’s work as a resource for the people of Swindon and Wiltshire and its visitors. It also recognises the importance of education as a path to our rich visual culture. Several of the artists represented in this gift live or have worked in Wiltshire including Martyn Brewster, Katherine Jones, Sara Lee and Sandy Sykes.
Acknowledging the importance of works on paper, the Royal Academy of Arts elects ‘Engravers, printmakers and draughtsmen’ alongside painters, sculptors and architects, and that these form a significant cohort of 16 out of the 80 elected Royal Academicians, many in the collection of the Swindon Museum and Gallery Including Leonard McComb, Eileen Cooper, Allen Jones, Christopher Le Brun, Tom Phillips, Joe Tilson and Grayson Perry. This gift adds to this prestigious presentation with Emma Stibbon RA’s dramatic intaglio print the ‘Eldfell Heimaey (White House), 2013 from the artists’ Terra Infirma Series. Emma Stibbon notably taught at Swindon College of Art on the Fine Art Drawing programme for several years. She lives in Bristol.”
A selection of the gifted works will feature in a summer exhibition, The Lie of the Land, which opens on Tuesday 19 July at the Museum and Art Gallery. The rest of the collection will be displayed in the gallery from November onwards.
Swindon holds one of the most significant collections of modern British art in the country. Since 2014, regular changing exhibitions mean that two thirds of the collection has been on public display.