Bedford artwork that will make you want to 'look up'

Published
Image source, The Higgins
Image caption,
The museum is displaying an engraving of JMW Turner's Bedford, based on the landscape artist's original painting of 1831

A new exhibition that showcases a "beautiful" town over 200 years is encouraging people to "look up and at" its buildings and landmarks.

Going to Town, at The Higgins museum in Bedford, aims to show how it has inspired artists, including world famous British landscape painter JMW Turner.

The layout of art aims to take people on a "walk" through the town, from one street to another.

Image source, The Higgins Bedford
Image caption,
The town's statue of John Howard, the penal reformer, painted by Roberta Hart

Victoria Partridge, keeper of fine and decorative arts at the museum, said: "People forget to look up.

"We've got great buildings if you just looked up and looked at the shops; those buildings are still there and beautiful.

"I didn't want the exhibition to be about how Bedford looked and how it has changed for the worse, when it hasn't, but how it has changed dramatically, but really well thought-out and for the better.

"There's so much you can still see, you can look at the pictures of 1850 and those buildings are still there."

Image source, The Higgins Bedford
Image caption,
John Ross Cormack painted The White Horse pub in Harpur Street in the 1920s

She said she wanted to depict the work in the gallery space as if you were "walking through the town".

"You start at the top at Foster Hill cemetery and you walk down St Peter's Green and Goldington, then the High Street and past Bedford market," she said.

"There's a scenic part coming into town along the river, where you start in Bromham, going through different paintings until you end up at Cardington lock."

Image source, The Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery (The
Image caption,
Bedford Market in 1911 as depicted by Dora Carrington
Image source, The Higgins Bedford
Image caption,
Emily Stannard painted Newnham Bridge
Image source, The Higgins Bedford
Image caption,
Shire Hall and Town Hall by Marianne Norman

A painting by Marianne Norman called Shire Hall and Town Hall "is a scene that was about to change".

The piece was created while she was at her easel in her family's restaurant, which is now McDonalds on the High Street.

It shows "when Shire Hall was about to be extended and the cottages were about to be demolished".

"It's seeing the town as it used to but next to familiar site," said Ms Partridge.

She said one the biggest inspirations was the River Great Ouse and the regattas that have been held on it.

"We have 200 years' worth of paintings of the town's bridges, as they're still some of the loveliest places in the town."

Image source, The Higgins Bedford
Image caption,
Bedford Regatta, in 1928 by Frank Percival Thomas
Image source, The Higgins Bedford
Image caption,
An unknown artist painted the Bedford Regatta in 1851

The free exhibition runs from 10 July to 20 March.

All pictures provided by The Higgins.

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