Fine art

Fine Art collection image

The fine art collection is made up of over 3,500 works dating from 1100 to the present. Making up the majority of the collection are 2D works in a wide range of media including oils, watercolours, drawings, prints and mixed media.

The collection is also home to stained and engraved glass as well as a comprehensive sculpture collection of over 140 works. The sculpture ranges from classical to contemporary style pieces, in a range of materials including bronze, plaster, wood, metal, terracotta, paper, stone and marble. 

The collection’s strength lies in its range, with portraits, landscapes, still life, genre and history scenes, as well as abstract works all well represented. The collection is mainly by British artists, though an important portion of works are by international artists. Significant sub-collections include the Italian Renaissance and Baroque paintings, and works by key members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Additionally, the fine art collection has a strong Northamptonshire connection with a large portion of works depicting local landscapes and people or created by local artists. Local artists include Chris Fiddes who is the focus of one of our opening exhibitions, Chris Fiddes-Challenging Perspectives.

How the collection started

Fine art has been collected since the museum's creation in 1865, with the initial focus on collecting fashionable Italian art. Active collecting of Italian art continued from the 1950s with support from the museum's friends group and key figures like local artist and designer, Tom Osborne Robinson.

There have been many significant donations to the art collection over the years. Amongst these is the bequest of Walter Hussey, who donated part of his art collection to the museum which included works by John Piper, Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland. Many of these works connect to St Matthew’s Church in Northampton, where he was once the vicar. A few of these works can be seen on the Art UK artist areas. The museum has also actively collected more modern and contemporary works including a large collection of signed artist prints from the 1960s onwards. 

The collection is open to donations. Our collecting is governed by a policy, which helps to ensure that the collection is relevant to visitors.

Donate to the collection

Key objects from the collection

This was the first painting to be added to the fine art collection in 1868. It was a gift from Reverend F. G. Watkins from Brixworth and shows the Biblical figures of Jacob and Rachel. It was painted by the Italian Baroque artist, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione in around 1640.

An oil painting by Castiglione showing Jacob and Rachel

 

One of a series of drawings by Italian illustrator and engraver, Bartolomeo Pinelli. The series was the first purchase made for the fine art collection by the museum committee in 1865. This particular drawing shows the story from Greek mythology of Apollo slaying the Python.

A drawing showing Apollo slaying the Python by Bartholomeo Pinelli

 

An unusual double-sided portrait of Sir Christopher Hatton from the studio of William Segar c. 1580, purchased for the collection in 1929. Hatton, from Holdenby in Northamptonshire, was a powerful political figure in Elizabethan England being a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I.

The front of a double sided portrait of Sir Christopher Hatton
The back of a double sided portrait of Sir Christopher Hatton

 

Gloria in Excelsis created by Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt in 1892 is a retelling of the Bible’s vision of the shepherds. Holman Hunt also designed the decorative frame for the picture. It  was donated to the collection by Miss E. Middlemore in 1947.

Picture shows the shepherds below and the angels above declaring the birth of Jesus to them. Scene taking from the Bible

 

The collection contains a small bronze Madonna and Child by Henry Moore from 1943, which was one of the works donated by Walter Hussey. It was cast from one of the original clay maquettes for Moore’s large stone ‘Madonna and Child’ at St. Matthew’s Church in Northampton. The sculpture can be viewed on the Art UK Henry Moore sculpture section.

Where to see the Art Collection

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is home to two art galleries which display a series of temporary art exhibitions. These will showcase our collection, whilst also providing space to bring in loans and external exhibitions.

Art Gallery 1 and 2

Several artworks, particularly portrait paintings, are also on display at Abington Park Museum. Also, examples from the fine art collection are often on display in the museum’s temporary exhibition spaces.

Abington Park Museum plan and information

Our online art resources include key objects on display in Art galleries 1 and 2

Key objects from Art Gallery 1

Key objects from Art Gallery 2

Art collections are also included in our online resources.

Online resources Northampton Museum and Art Gallery

Online resources Abington Park Museum

Our art collection is also accessible online through the Art UK website where our oil painting and sculpture collections are represented.

Northampton Museum and Gallery on Art UK

Research or enquire about the fine art collection

We welcome access to the collection through research visits, viewings and correspondence.

Research or enquire about the collection