The Armada Portrait © Tyrwhitt-Drake Collection

West Country to World's End

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter (RAMM) is to host an exhibition devised and curated by Professor Sam Smiles, Programme Director for Art History and Visual Culture, on the theme of the South West in the Tudor Age.

The exhibition celebrates what is known colloquially as the golden age of the South West. Spanning the dates of Exeter's most famous artistic son, Nicholas Hilliard, once the royal court artist, the exhibition combines a local perspective with the contribution of individuals from Devon and Cornwall to national and international contexts. During the Tudor Age Devon and Cornwall were famed for the innovation and endeavour of their people. Devonians Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh sailed to ‘World’s End’ in their pursuit of treasure and glory; Hilliard produced exquisite miniature portraits of courtiers; while fellow Exonian Thomas Bodley re-founded Oxford University’s library, later named the Bodleian in his honour.

Professor Smiles, who is a Tate Research Fellow and has curated a number of art exhibitions including ‘Flight and the Artistic Imagination’ (Compton Verney, 2012) and ‘Into the Light: French and British painting from Impressionism to the early 1920s’ (Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, 2011), is the Programme Director of the College’s new Art History and Visual Culture course, which is launching in September 2013.

Speaking on the exhibition, Professor Smiles comments “I am very pleased that the RAMM will be putting on this exhibition, which has been many years in the making, from my original outline proposal in 2007 to its realisation this winter. Our ambitions for the exhibition are to say something about the significance of this region for 16th-century English history and culture and, in doing that, to offer an alternative perspective to a London-centric view of the period.

“It's the product of a great deal of work, including new research on the lives of local craftsmen, whose work will be appropriately showcased. Thanks to the generosity of the major UK museums and galleries we are also able to exhibit highly prestigious items, especially paintings, that will bring the Tudor age to life.

“West Country to World's End opens at the moment the first cohort of Art History and Visual Culture students start their degree programme here. I hope this will help confirm Exeter as a great place to study art and to see work of international significance.”

Items on display will include gold and silver ware, ornamental carving, portraits, miniatures, ethnographic records, documents, maps and plans. Both of RAMM’s main exhibition galleries will be used to display the exhibits, many of which have been lent from collections in this region and from major national collections. The research was funded by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

An illustrated catalogue with essays by Sam Smiles, Susan O’Connor, Karen Hearn and Stephanie Pratt will be published shortly by Paul Holberton Publishing.

The exhibition will run from 26 October 2013 to 2 March 2014 and is free to all members of the public. For more information on the exhibition, please visit the RAMM website.

Date: 9 July 2013

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