Opening on Saturday, 3rd October 2015 and marking the centenary of George Dannatt’s birth in 1915, this new exhibition at Dorset County Museum will explore one of Dorset’s most significant and discerning art collections – that assembled by George and Ann Dannatt over a period of 50 years at their modernist home on the Dorset-Wiltshire border.
Left as a gift to the Pallant House Gallery, the collection includes a largely unseen and newly conserved group of paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints by key figures associated with the St Ives Group of Artists in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The featured artists include John Wells, Terry Frost, Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon, Ben Nicholson, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and John Tunnard. The artist Turner visited St Ives in 1811, and the modest Cornish fishing port has been a hub for artists attracted to the quality of light, mild climate and beautiful coastal scenery ever since.
The collection is one of the most significant private collections of its type, not least because Dannatt (1915 – 2009) was a friend of many of the artists, and was himself an abstract artist. Born in Blackheath, London he became a chartered surveyor and freelance music critic. From 1948 he started to visit Dorset taking photographs while roaming the coast with his old artist friend John Wells. The photographs proved inspirational to his work, and many of them are held at Dorset County Museum.
In 1993 Dannatt exhibited at Dorset County Museum in association with his book ‘One Way of Seeing’. In Dannatt’s Artist’s Statement for the exhibition he explained “Every artist creates through a process of abstraction from what he sees. One of the significant influences in my work is that of the form and pattern in landscape. This influence, more fully and more slowly
evolved in my later work, found its beginnings in my response to the Wessex and Cornish scene. Where the work becomes purely abstract, where colour and texture are intrinsic, the forms still derive from this same experience.”
Dorset County Museum is lucky enough to own two of Dannatt’s paintings, Ancient Landscape 1982 and Poundbury Landscape, Dorset 1997. These will both be included in the exhibition along with a wider selection of Dannatt’s works, as well as archival photographs of the Dannatts with their artist friends and rare artists’ books and illustrated volumes.
Dannatt also spent time in Wiltshire before heading down to Cornwall in the early 1960s where he began to paint seriously. From 1970 to 1983 he was a regular exhibitor at the St Ives Penwith Gallery and from 1973 he also exhibited at the Newlyn Art Gallery. In addition to the St Ives Group, the collection includes works by artists associated with a poetic strain of Neo-Romanticism in Britain, including Paul Nash, David Jones, Prunella Clough and Keith Vaughan, as well as interesting prints by international artists such as Jean Arp and Eduardo Chillida.
This exhibition at Dorset County Museum will run from 3rd October 2015 to 2 January 2016. Standard museum admissions apply.