Previous News reports

In June members of the U3A art appreciation group and friends travelled by train to Ely. On arrival at Ely station we had a lovely walk along the river towards the cathedral with views of the cathedral gradually unfolding.

On arriving at the cathedral we climbed the stairs to the stained glass museum. Our guide met us and gave us an introduction to the museum which was founded in 1972 as a repository to rescue stained glass windows under threat from destruction, much of the glass coming from churches and chapels but also from synagogues, hospitals and homes.

We started our tour round the museum looking at a piece from the middle ages which had vibrant reds and blues. Our guide told us how the piece had been made and why the colours were still so vibrant many centuries later. We were then guided through the collection progressing from the middle ages to the modern day and we could see changing fashions both in colours and style. The guide bought the works to life and gave us fascinating insights into the techniques used.

We then adjourned to the cathedral’s Almonry restaurant for a delicious lunch and a chance to chat about what we had seen. After lunch we returned to the cathedral for a guided tour of the cathedral. The guide entwined the story of the cathedral with the art works within, including sculptures and carving.

We all enjoyed a lovely day and left wanting to learn more about the uses of stained glass in artworks.


In April the Art appreciation group travelled by train from Corby to Bedford to visit the Higgins Gallery.

The Cecil Higgins Museum, as it was formerly known, opened its doors to the public on 25th July 1949, housed in the former Higgins family home. The Museum was founded by the philanthropic brewer, Cecil Higgins (1856-1941) to house his collection of ceramics, glass and objets d’art for the benefit, interest and education of the inhabitants of, and visitors to, Bedford. Cecil Higgins left a complex will to protect his collection which stipulated how the museum was to be organised. He also left a trust fund, to be used for museum purposes, but principally for acquiring works of art

From 1988, the focus has been on collecting prints, this time concentrating on the 20th century. The print collection now numbers over 400 pieces, including works by some of the finest British artists as well as internationally renowned figures such as Picasso, Lichtenstein and Dürer. The collection charts styles as well as print processes, from Whistler’s delicate etchings to Edward Bawden’s magnificent linocuts.

Recently the museum and gallery have benefited from a lottery grant and it is now a wonderful building to display works of art to their full advantage.

We enjoyed a tour of the galleries before adjourning for a lovely Italian lunch. After lunch we had time to visit the temporary exhibition “A celebration of horticulture in art” where different ideas of gardens are explored using works by major artists including Lucien Pissaro, John Everett Millais and Walter Sickert. In all a lovely day out.


In November 2018 the Art appreciation group travelled by VAR minibus to Welbeck Abbey near Worksop to visit the Portland Collection. We arrived in time to enjoy an excellent coffee in the welcoming cafe before being greeted by Sophie, the curator of the collection. She gave us an introduction to the Dukes of Portland who had amassed the collection before taking into the gallery and giving us an insight into some of the most significant works including paintings, furniture and the Portland Tiara.

The Portland Collection gallery, which opened in March 2016 has won numerous awards for its architecture and is a wonderful building to display works of art to their full advantage.

After the tour we had time to look at other exhibits and visit the adjoining Harley Gallery which displays modern art as well as enjoy lunch and stock up with Christmas presents in the craft shop. Another lovely day out.

In September 2018 four members of the art appreciation group travelled to Saffron Walden to visit the exhibition at the Fry Art Gallery of the works of Edward Bawden, described in the Times as “a genius Little Englander”.

Bawden, who was born in Essex was a prolific artist, illustrator, designer and print-maker. We had an interesting and entertaining introduction to Bawden by an art historian who runs their local U3A art appreciation group and volunteers at the gallery. She then walked us around the gallery showing us the different works and adding insight to the works we were looking at.

After the morning at the gallery we repaired to a local hostelry for lunch. The pub we chose, The Eight Bells is a grade 2 listed building with a magnificent carved bressummer beam supporting the upper floor.

After lunch we followed the town trail looking at the many listed buildings in the centre of Saffron Walden including the largest parish church in Essex. Outside the church we were delighted to find a new statue based on Rodin’s Burghers of Calais but called “The Unaccompanied Children of Calais” by Ian Wolter. As Wolter says: “The English King (Edward III) said he would spare the city if six burghers came out with nooses round their necks and the keys to the castle. They are shown walking to their death, resigned to their fate.”

The Unaccompanied Children are in similar attitudes to the burghers, some thoughtful, some resigned, some in torment, facing different directions,and there are six of them, too. It is a very thought provoking statue.
We concluded by visiting Bridge End Garden before getting our taxi back to Audley End station and enjoying a sit down and a talk on the train back to Oakham. A lovely day.


In August 2018 the art appreciation group enjoyed a visit to the Anthony Gormley exhibition “Subject” at kettles Yard in Cambridge. The five sculptures on display explored the concept of the body in space and the body as space. We spent time looking at the works especially the recent work “Infinite Cube 2” which was intriguing. We then had a talk from the curator who explained the work they had to do to strengthen the gallery walls before they could correctly position the sculptures and also talked about Gormley and the motivation for the different works.
The group then enjoyed an Italian meal before embarking on a sculpture trail around Cambridge seeing many of the works on public display in Cambridge including another Gormley statue “Earthbound” where a cast iron bodyform is buried upside down with only the soles of the feet visible.
After an enjoyable if tiring day we were happy to relax on our return train journey to Oakham.
Two more trips are planned, to the Fry Gallery in Saffron Walden on 27 September and to the Portland Gallery at Worksop on 5 November. U3A members not part of the art appreciation group are welcome to join us for the day subject to numbers. Contact Jill, for details.

April 2018
On the 12 April a group from the U3A art appreciation group joined up with another local art group to take advantage of the direct train from Oakham to Derby and visit the Derby museum and art gallery.
On arrival at the museum we had time for a coffee before being greeted by Jonathan Wallis, the Head of Museums. Jonathan is the co-writer with Lucy Bamford of a book on Joseph Wright of Derby. He gave us an interesting and enlightening guide to the Joseph Wright gallery telling us about social history and the different paintings. As well as his wonderful subject paintings such as the Orrery where Wright specialised in the effects of artificial light, we were also interested to hear about a painting of a widow of an Indian chief. This painting was a comment on the recent split with America following the War of Independence with the widow symbolising Britannia.
Jonathan also told us about their 2016 coup in obtaining a pair of Joseph Wright paintings by using an anonymous agent and a secret bid and we were able to see both paintings.
After our talk we visited the excellent exhibition “The art of Industry: from Joseph Wright to the 21st century.” The exhibition included Joseph Wright’s An Iron Forge painted in 1772 and in the Tate collection, which returned to Derby for the first time since the 18th century. Other artists whose work are exhibited in the exhibition include Ford Madox Brown, L. S. Lowry, Graham Sutherland and Sir Edwardo Paolozzi.
After a wonderful visit we went for an enjoyable lunch at a local French restaurant and talked about what we had seen before a brief visit to the cathedral and the train home.

November 2017
Following our failed visit to the Degas exhibition at Cambridge in October, 4 members of the art appreciation group finally made it in November. This time the train successfully made it to Cambridge without any unforeseen delays. We made our way to the Fitzwilliam Museum and went straight to the Degas exhibition entitled “A passion for perfection”. The exhibition was commemorating 100 years since the death of Degas and started by looking at works that had influenced Degas. There was then a remarkable range of Degas’s work including paintings, pastels, drawings, watercolours, prints and sculptures in bronze and wax. A final section examined Degas’s artistic legacy in the 20th and 21st centuries, notably in the work of Walter Sickert, Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, the artist we are investigating at our November/December meeting.
A group also visited Stamford Arts Centre to see the Exhibition on Screen showing of Canaletto and the art of Venice. We had a visual feast of Canaletto’s work and of Venice and learnt that he had not used a camera obscura to create his paintings.
We are planning a visit to Derby in March to see the works of Joseph Wright and hear from the curator of Derby Museum Lucy Bamford, an expert on Wright. The highlight will be seeing Wright’s masterpiece, “A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery” which was bought in 2016.
We would welcome any U3A members who wish to join us for this visit to Derby, even if they are not members of the art appreciation group.

October 2017 News
Our visit to the exhibition on 11 October started well with 7 members meeting at the station for the train to Cambridge despite traffic problems caused by the closing of the A1. However the day took a turn for the worse when on the train’s arrival at Peterborough there was an announcement that the train would not be progressing for the foreseeable future due to a fatality on the line. We soon decided that our visit to Cambridge would have to be cancelled, if we waited for a later train we would arrive too late to do the exhibition justice and would have missed the lecture on Degas. As the A1 was closed we decided that returning to Oakham by bus would be onerous although our Casterton and Cottesmore based members chose to return by that way. The four of us left decided to make the most of our enforced visit to Peterborough and adjourned to consider the day over coffee and cake. We decided to visit the beautiful cathedral and then move on to the museum. The visit to the cathedral was lovely but in line with our luck the art gallery at the museum was closed! Still we enjoyed each other’s company and made the best of our ill-fated day.

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