“ Address: Nature in Art / A38 / Twigworth / Gloucester / GL2 9PA „
Nature in Art is a small museum in Twigworth, which is a couple of miles to the North of the town of Gloucester. I find it is always a bit of a gamble on the first visit to small local museums, with some you can discover a little gem of place and others can simply be dusty and dull. Nature in Art is a museum that solely focuses on any form of art that has something to do with nature, ranging from fine art oil paintings to odd iron sculptures in the garden in the form of various birds, this weekend was our second visit and whilst it is not my favourite museum of all time, it is very interesting and is one I will always consider if I have a couple of hours spare.
The museum is on the main Twigworth road, which is very easy to get to by car or a number 71 bus from Gloucester bus station. I've just noticed a lovely little paragraph on their website that says that the drive is half a mile long and if you can't manage it, give them a call and they will arrange transport up the drive. They also have a couple of wheelchairs available and there is a lift to the second floor.
The drive is indeed long, it is a small single track drive with a few passing places and you catch glimpses of the imposing Georgian building that goes by the name of Wallsworth Hall. There is a small car park on the left and the building always looks closed as you walk up to it, mainly because the big English front door is usually closed with a 'please come in' sign on it, as it must get a bit draughty inside. The seen is set as you walk up the path with a wood carved owl greeting you.
The entrance fees are fairly reasonable, currently:
Under 8's Free
Closed Christmas and Monday's
There are several permanent exhibits within the house section of the museum, a huge lion which I think is in stone in one of the downstairs rooms, a beautiful wood carved fireplace with a painted freeze of the house above it, the fireplace having things like bulrushes and running water. Then several paintings like an amazingly detailed, very sad looking old lion oil painting, some prints by Tunnicliff, who was famous for some of his illustrations of the original print runs of Williamson's Tarka the Otter. There are all sorts of mediums and several paintings by ornithological illustrators, even some really big pencil drawings, not what you would expect at all. The amount of detail that some people are able to get into a water colour painting never ceases to amaze me, mainly because painting was something I was advised to give up at the first possible opportunity at school. These exhibits are all very nice but certainly not worth the return visit, however what every good small museum needs to do, especially in these austere times is to offer good variations of things to see, and this is why I am happy to come back to Nature in Art again and will be returning again in the autumn.
The Special Exhibits
Throughout the year the museum always has something different going on, the reason for our first visit at the beginning of last year was they had the prize winners from the annual wildlife photographer of the year awards. These took up the whole of the upstairs 3 rooms and corridors. Each photograph showed the category, age groups, there are some phenomenal young wildlife photographers out there, showing an amazing degree of patience waiting for the right shot, which in some cases must have taken weeks or they were very, very lucky. The photographs also gave details of which camera and lens had been used for the shot, Nikon and Canon definitely coming out favourites. The yearly books of this competition are also very popular.
This weekend they had a display of 'stamp' art. Every year, to raise money, the Wildlife Habitat Trust commissions a prominent wildlife artist to create a picture to be used as a postage stamp. The exhibition was fascinating as there were all of the commissions from recent years, the finished articles in the form of the stamps and in some cases the pencil sketches that the artist worked from.
The garden isn't particularly big, but is a very peaceful place to walk around. I must admit I'm not a big fan of modern sculpture and that is what is mainly here, there are some pretty garden ornament things, such as bird bath with bulrushes and a very impressive whale tale. The most famous piece in the garden does offer a small sense of nostalgia, as I walked past it every working day in my first job from school and anyone familiar with Cheltenham will recognise the huge Golden Eagle that once stood outside the Eagle Star insurance company building.
Artist in Residence
There is a small artist studio in the garden that always has an invited artist who uses it for a week as an outlet to demonstrate to the public and sell their own wildlife pictures. I'll be honest I thought it was just one permanent guy as we had the same one there as on our previous visit, Carl Thompson who is an airbrush artist so fascinating to talk to and watch as it is not a medium you see used very often. They do however change throughout the year.
The Shop is a usual museum shop with gift cards and books etc. There is a natural leaning towards art books and prints. There are a number of prints there by Joy Adamson of Born Free fame with proceeds going to the Elsa Conservation Trust, but they were all flower ones, no lions.
Now this is where I'm not quite sure the museum gets it right. Throughout the year they hold a number of courses for adults and kids, which I'm sure are brilliant, but for a museum that focuses on art I do feel there could be more hands on things, especially for the kids, I'd happily go along more often if I could sit and paint for an hour and get a bit of guidance, rather than have to plan to go and spend a day there.
Nature in Art is a nice museum, not in the least dusty and old because there is always something new going on. It's not somewhere I would make more than an annual visit to but is definitely worthwhile for anyone interested in wildlife art. The next photography exhibition is the first showing of the 2011 competition in October this year so I will be making another visit then.
Thank you for reading
Digbycat aka MaryanneH