Funding for multi-million pound centre dedicated to Suffolk artist Thomas Gainsborough
PUBLISHED: 16:11 06 July 2018
A multi-million pound national centre and gallery dedicated to the work of celebrated Suffolk artist Thomas Gainsborough is set to go ahead after the National Lottery awarded £4.5million towards the project.
The five-year scheme to renovate Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury will see the labour exchange building next to the museum, in Weavers Lane, demolished and replaced with a three-storey gallery that will house a permanent collection of the world-famous 18th century artist’s work.
The revamped museum is expected to contribute around £5.4m to the local economy through an increase in visitors and the creation of 90 jobs - 60 temporary and nine permanent.
The Lottery award comes after a long fundraising campaign which has received backing from profile supporters including Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Griff Rhys Jones and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Gainsborough’s House supporter and sculptor Nicole Farhi, who created a bust of Gainsborough funded by Anna Wintour, said: “Gainsborough’s House is a perfect National Lottery project. Not only will it help disseminate the work of a great British artist, its ambition will bring both people and prosperity to Sudbury, the town of his birth.”
Once completed the centre will examine why Gainsborough and his friend, John Constable, took huge inspiration from the Suffolk landscape. This narrative will be illustrated through the museum’s impressive art collection, with works by Gainsborough, Constable and other important artists with links to the area.
Mark Bills, director of Gainsborough’s House, said the Lottery funding was “tremendous news” not only for Gainsborough’s House, but for Sudbury, Suffolk and nationally. He added: “We will be able to reach more people and be a regional hub for heritage and culture, offering nationally important exhibitions as well as serving the local community. The Suffolk landscape has inspired and continues to inspire artists and our project celebrates this heritage and culture and will drive the regeneration of Sudbury.”
Ros Kerslake, of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “Once completed, the National Centre for Gainsborough will be a landmark tourist attraction, bringing a significant amount of income into Sudbury and beyond.”
Famed for his portraits of the late 18th-century’s ‘Great and The Good’, Gainsborough was the son of a clothier who was brought up in Sudbury.
He lived at his Grade I listed family home from his birth in 1727 until 1740 and returned to the town for another three years after his father’s death in 1748.
The new centre will tell the story of Gainsborough’s meteoric rise from merchant’s son to high society portraitist and a founding member of the Royal Academy.
Sudbury and the Gainsborough family were also intrinsically linked to the wool and silk industry; a spectacular 400-year-old mulberry tree in Gainsborough’s House garden pays tribute to this connection. It is also next door to Vanners Silk Weavers, who have produced silk since 1740. They have woven silk for royal weddings, Liberty of London and work with a number of international textile designers.