The Gallery holds a Permanent Collection of over five hundred and fifty works of art, mostly two dimensional, but including some three-dimensional pieces. There are also holdings of Archive material.
The Collection has grown from the group of around one hundred pictures bequeathed by the painter Mary Elizabeth Stormont (1871-1962) to the Rye Art Gallery Trust she founded in 1957. These works include paintings and sketches of her own and others by her husband, the painter Howard Gull Stormont (1859-1935). Also there are some works that the couple had purchased and displayed in their home, the Ypres Studio.
The Trust was founded by Mary for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people of Rye. She would probably be delighted that the Gallery is now so well-established and appreciated, not only by those in Rye, but regionally and nationally. The Trustees, friends, supporters and donors, by gift, purchase and bequest, have continued to expand the Collection to its current status of over 550 works.
Over half of our holdings are works on paper – watercolours, prints, drawings and some photographs. We also, however, have an important collection of oils and acrylics and in the Catalogue you will also see listed some sculptures and ceramics. The majority are of early twentieth century British origin, including some by artists of national importance – Burra and Nash who lived in Rye, also Grant, Bell, Hitchens, Gill, Piper, Sutherland, Richards, Cuming and others.
We received a bequest in 1990 from the artist Margaret Barnard (1898-1992) of work by her and by her husband Robert Mackechnie (1894-1975), a member of the Seven and Five Group. This bequest also included the couple’s collection of etchings by Robert Austin and engravings by Giovanni Piranesi.
The Archives include the Stormont Archive of letters, photographs and documents. It includes documents relating to Rye Art Club (1920-37), of which the Stormonts were founder members. We also hold Summer Exhibition Catalogues of the Rye Society of Artists from 1952 to the present. The Society is a ‘descendant’ of the original Rye Art Club. Other archives are listed in the Catalogue.
The family of Edward Burra (1905-1976) has generously loaned some letters, studio ephemera and photographs by the artist, which add to our own holdings of paintings, designs, drawings and prints by Burra. The family of illustrator and designer John Ryan (1921-2009) has loaned a group of book illustrations and TV film designs and Rye Society of Artists has loaned their Collection of work by members. Other loans are recorded in the Catalogue.
As you can imagine, we cannot show all or even half of our Collection at once. We endeavour to meet Arts Council museum standards in our care and conservation of the Collection. A log is kept of the length of time a work has been exhibited and works are rested between showings to prevent damage, especially by light.
As funding permits, we have been re-mounting, reframing and re-glazing with UV-resistant glass or acrylic our most vulnerable works over the years. If you would like to sponsor the conservation and reframing of any outstanding pieces, please get in touch with the Curator, c/o Rye Art Gallery, to visit and choose a picture. You will be credited in the Catalogue and on the exhibition label of the work when shown.
The Collection is normally shown in themed Exhibitions in one or more rooms - usually Galleries 5 and 6. Information is published in the half-yearly Programme Brochure. Such exhibitions may relate to the theme of a show by contemporary selling artists elsewhere in the Gallery or be a complete contrast.
If you are visiting from afar and wish to see a specific picture from the Collection, please contact the Curator, c/o the Gallery, in advance to find out if it will be on show or to make the necessary research arrangements.
This is a work in progress! Not all the items in our Collection are listed here.
Bear with us as we hope to enter our newer holdings, photograph and upload remaining images and standardise the entry texts. This will be a huge data-entry task, the financial and staff resources for which we do not have at the moment.
The RAG Collections Group
Collection, Archives, Collection Development Policy, Exhibitions, Loans, Conservation.
Dr Fanny Baldwin, Trustee
Isabelle Sambrook, NDD ATC, Trustee and Hon. Curator