Gainsborough’s House in Suffolk unveils international centre for the artist

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Gainsborough’s House, the childhood home of one of Britain’s most important artists, has reopened to the public following a transformational redevelopment to create an international centre for Thomas Gainsborough and the largest gallery in Suffolk.

The opening displays will present the world’s most comprehensive collection of Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), telling the full story of the artist’s life and work, as well as showcasing the widespread influence he had on his contemporaries, and succeeding generations.

For the first time, Gainsborough’s House will host major exhibitions in the new building’s Timothy and Mary Clode Gallery and in the Sudbury Gallery.

The £IO million transformational redevelopment, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and led by the acclaimed architectural firm ZMMA, comprises a new three-storey building, designed in locally made brick and flint, housing a new entrance and four innovative galleries. On the third floor, the new Landscape Studio provides a flexible space for learning and events, featuring a Camera Obscure and spectacular views across the Suffolk landscape captured by Gainsborough in his painting.

The scheme has also included careful restoration of the Grade I listed late medieval, Georgian and Regency townhouse, complemented by a rich palette of colours throughout the atmospheric galleries, and study centre. The reorganisation of the existing Weavers Lane Cottages has opened up access to the historical print workshop, the largest of its kind in Suffolk for established and emerging printmakers, offering traditional skills in printmaking to a new generation. The print workshop is a critical component of the transformation of Gainsborough’s House, creating an opportunity for printmakers to show and sell their work in seasonal exhibitions in the Sudbury Gallery.

In addition, the open glass-faced Watering Place café and terrace create a tranquil environment overlooking the walled garden with its new serpentine ‘crinkle-crankle’ boundary wall, at the centre of which is a 400-year-old mulberry tree.

Mark Bills, Director at Gainsborough’s House, said: “The physical transformation of Gainsborough’s House will fundamentally change this historic site, enabling it to become an international centre for Thomas Gainsborough and a cultural hub in the heart of East Anglia, all within the unique environment of the artist’s birthplace and home.

“We are extremely grateful to the National Lottery players, trusts, foundations, and individuals who have generously supported this ambitious transformation which will ensure that Thomas Gainsborough continues to be a relevant force in art history and an inspiration for generations to come.”

Adam Zombory-Moldovan, Project Director at ZMMA, said: “The powerful connection between the landscape surrounding Sudbury and its representation in Gainsborough’s work inspired us to create a new gallery building whose clay and flint materials are brought directly from Gainsborough’s Suffolk landscape. From the expanded Museum campus visitors will enjoy long views of that countryside beyond the town’s rooftops.

“Sudbury’s silk-weaving led us to make brickwork facades that appear woven, and to silk-line a new gallery for Gainsborough’s grandest canvasses. Gainsborough’s home has been reimagined and enriched to make complementary historic and modern settings for the Museum’s displays.”

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “I am delighted that we have been able to support the reimaging of Gainsborough’s childhood home, with a significant investment of US million, to tell the full story of one of our most important British artists. The sensitive architectural additions in local materials add to the original house, which has been delicately and beautifully restored, providing the perfect backdrop for works by Gainsborough, his contemporaries and those he influenced from across generations.

“The setting with views across the Suffolk landscape will also provide a magical place for visitors to enjoy in the very landscape Gainsborough painted and grew up in, providing a special destination in this beautiful part of the country.”

New Anglia LEP provided a loan of £250,000 from its Growing Places Fund to help kickstart the project, which will create job opportunities and apprenticeships, as well as attracting 75,000 additional visitors to the centre within three years of the reopening.

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