Arty Warwick - a town of inspiration

PUBLISHED: 12:37 15 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:32 20 February 2013

Neil Astill at the Astill Gallery.

Neil Astill at the Astill Gallery.

The picturesque streets of Warwick have been a magnet for artists for centuries. And, of course, where there are artists there are galleries. We asked some of Warwick's artists and gallery owners what it is about the place that inspires.

Neil Astill Gallery
A self-taught abstract artist, Neil Astill opened his gallery on Warwicks Market Street 17 years ago.
Inspired by artists such as Jackson Pollock and Terry Frost, Neils colourful pieces in oil and acrylics are a sharp contrast to the traditional prints of Warwickshire by Ken Burton and some of the other work on display in his gallery.
Id always fancied my own gallery and I chose Warwick because I wanted the small town, village atmosphere. Everybody knows each other and we all help each other out whether were in the same or a different business, he explains.
Warwick does support a lot of art galleries for its size but were spread out, which helps. It is quite an inspiring place as an artist and we have all of the bases covered among the galleries. Ill send people to the other galleries if I havent got what they want, because it keeps the business in the town then. I always think some competition is good.
My custom base is quite wide and as well as those who live locally I have customers from Kent and a few from London. You cant get this sort of service in London, prices are good and I look after them.
I think the art galleries make the town look and feel good. Rather than just cafs and clothes shops they add a bit of colour and life into it.

Neil Astill Gallery
9 Market Street , Warwick , CV34 4DH, Tel: 01926 419 693

The Mitchell Gallery
Artist Tom Mitchell opened his gallery in Warwick two years ago. Alongside his own work, Tom exhibits the artwork and sculptures of other local artists including his son, Andrew.
I chose Warwick because it has a special feeling, theres a spiritual and emotional connection and I felt my particular style of art was suited to Warwick and Ive chosen the work of artists that complement my style.
Tom has collaborated with Leamington Spa-based artist Kevin Parrish to produce the Warwick Collection, a growing series of black and white scenes of the town.
I wanted to give something back into Warwick that is a little bit different and would be recognised by the people who live here,
explains Tom.
Having produced, so far, paintings of the Lord Leycester Hospital in moonlight, an evening reflection of Church Street, Smith Street in the snow and inside the towns historic Zetland Arms pub, on the suggestion of a visiting London barrister, Kevin is currently working on a painting of the historic Crown Court before court proceedings are moved to Leamington in June.
Self taught and specialising in black and white oil paintings, Kevin explains: I wanted to give a different angle on the typical sights of Warwick, using the moon or different weather conditions to create atmosphere and ambience.
The original oils and limited edition prints have attracted interest from visitors and local people alike. People find out about the art here and keep coming back, whether they are from Warwick, London or Manchester, adds Tom.
Warwick is a real hive of artistic ability and there are a lot of very talented people around. The fact the town supports so many art galleries for its size is, I think, just the nature of Warwick. They have an eye for art around here. People who come to Warwick arent really visiting just for the shops but for the whole feel of the place and art galleries fit in with that feel.

Mitchell Gallery
2 Church Street, Warwick, CV34 4AB, Tel: 01926 408 787

Art and Wine
Art and Wine is a combined art gallery and wine bar complete with 17th century wine cellar and Mediterranean-style courtyard. Opened two years ago by owner Ian Weatherby-Blythe, the gallery features work by established local and international artists.
Art manager and artist Yvonne Morris, explains why the concept works well: People can sit and admire the art while they are enjoying a drink, or have a drink while they are thinking about a purchase. It is combining two of mans favourite things: art and wine.
A lot of our custom is local. At the end of the day, I think people are excited about the art and we try to change it around as much as possible so that they can come in and see different pieces quite regularly and we can tell them about the artists.
As well as exhibiting the work of Warwickshire talent such as sculptor Jennine Parker, the gallery commissioned artists to produce original images of the town, including Warwick-based Leigh Lambert and the whimsical paintings of Alister Colley.
We commissioned paintings of Warwick because I find most paintings that are sold are because they are evocative to people in some way. Warwick is such a beautiful, historical place; there are some stunning buildings and I think its always a challenge as an artist to take a building and be inventive with it. Alisters paintings, for example, are really uplifting and fun and its like looking at the town through a different lens, says Yvonne.
We deal directly with the artists to make sure the art is as reasonably priced as we can make it. I know of a lot of very good artists locally and we have quite a few art galleries in Warwick dealing in differing genres of art that can help support them.

Art & Wine
8 High Street, Warwick, CV34 4AP, Tel: 01926 496 337

Warwick Gallery
A longstanding business in the town, Peter Forde took over Warwick Gallery art and gift shop in 1987.
Warwick used to have a lot of antique shops and I think the art shops have just taken over from the antiques, so its like the modern antiques really, notes Peter, who gained a degree in art from Manchester.
Including amongst his collection paintings of the local area and Warwick, Peter says that most of the gallerys customers is local rather than passing tourists.
When there isnt a recession on the people of Warwick are appreciators of art. People here generally buy unique and handmade things, otherwise we wouldnt have been here for nearly 35 years and there is a new gallery opening just a few doors up the road on Smith Street so there is a growing market for art here.

Warwick Gallery
14 Smith Street, Warwick, CV34 4HH, Tel: 01926 495 880

Help find a missing painting of Warwick Castle

Thirty four paintings that once hung on the walls of homes around Warwickshire and Birmingham are being hunted by experts from the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, including a nationally important painting of Warwick Castle. The paintings are by the Pre-Raphaelite artist John Brett, whose works are the subject of an exhibition at The Barber which runs until 4th July.
Brett spent his teenage years in Coventry, where his father, an army veterinary surgeon, was based, and returned to the area in 1860 for a six-month stay, sketching and working up a painting view of Warwick Castle. While a watercolour sketch of the view is known, the whereabouts of the painting itself sold in 1861 to Leeds industrialist Thomas Plint are not.
Professor Ann Sumner, Director of the Barber Institute and co-curator of the exhibition, says: Wed love to locate Bretts painting of Warwick Castle. While it is not known ever to have hung in the region, it obviously has a strong regional connection and also, from the watercolour sketch, it looks as if it might have turned out to be a very impressive painting.
The Barber is also keen to track down some intriguing sounding paintings including Icart Point, Guernsey, once owned by Joseph Chamberlain, and The Daisy Path, which was bought by J.H. Chamberlain.
It would be particularly fitting if this exhibition, in the heart of the precise area where Brett was once so popular, could help unearth more of these delightful paintings, adds Professor Sumner.

Objects of Affection: Pre-Raphaelite Portraits by John Brett is on show until 4th July at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston.
Visit or tel: 0121 414 7333 for details.

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