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DATE: 30 May 2023

Exploring the importance of nature for enjoyment, creativity and wellbeing.

Flowers, plant life and gardens have fascinated and inspired generations of artists. York Art Gallery’s upcoming exhibition ‘Bloom’ will bring together more than 100 botanical artworks from its collection, alongside key loans, to explore the importance of nature and green spaces for enjoyment, creativity and wellbeing.

‘Bloom’, open from 23 June – 8 October 2023, will showcase flora through paintings, works on paper, ceramics and contemporary installations. The exhibition will highlight the story of the Museum Gardens in York through art, from its early beginnings through to its activities today, before exploring a wonderful range of still life paintings from the Gallery’s own collection as well as a series of loans. In the final space, featured works will show how gardens and flowers are able to reflect and draw on themes of identity. The exhibition will encourage visitors to think about the significance of our natural world and how best to enjoy, cherish and protect it.

York Art Gallery houses a range of beautiful floral-themed works, including paintings by leading artists such as Henri Fantin-Latour, Charles Ginner and Jan van Os, all of whom are known for their interest in flowers, nature and landscapes. The display will be further enhanced by an installation commission by York-based artist Jade Blood, as well as contemporary loans from two collections: Richard Saltoun Gallery and the Intoart Collection.

Becky Gee, Curator of Fine Art at York Art Gallery said: “We’re lucky to have such a stunning collection of botanical art in the collection, so it’s been a pleasure curating this exhibition – we hope people enjoy the exciting range of works on display! The combination of our works, external loans, and a new commission by York-based artist Jade Blood, will create a reflective show for visitors to learn from and enjoy.

“Flowers, and nature as a whole, are so important for our wellbeing. We hope visitors feel a sense of tranquillity when experiencing this show, as they take a break from the bustling world outside. We’re thrilled to be working with York Museum Gardens, a free-to-visit space located just outside the gallery, to further enhance the visitor experience. Through trails and activities within the gardens, visitors will be able to draw connections between our exhibited artworks and the surrounding nature, plants and wildlife as they walk through this historic outdoor space.”

Kathryn Blacker, Chief Executive of York Museums Trust said: “York Art Gallery and the Museum Gardens are a central cultural and green lung within the city. Through our gallery collections, loans and our gardens we have been able to tell the story of how gardens and nature should be cherished and cared for given their importance to our individual, social and planet’s wellbeing. The Art Gallery sits directly in front of the gardens and we do hope that visitors will take the opportunity to enjoy and learn about the connections between them in both spaces.”

The exhibition will be presented over three galleries. The first space explores the history of the much-loved York Museum Gardens, opened by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society in the 1830s. The gardens were established with an ambition to create a botanical garden in the centre of York, promoting the study of horticulture and to house the Yorkshire Museum. Using York Art Gallery’s collection as an illustrative tool, visitors will learn about the gardens’ approach today, and the links back to its history as the site of St Mary’s Abbey, built in 1088.

The connection with York Museum Gardens will continue outside, through a major commission by Jade Blood, titled ‘Gardeners World’, which will be on show in the Artists’ Garden behind the gallery. Blood’s installations utilise reclaimed and recycled materials and aim to create an accessible platform for visitors to consider their role in climate change.

The second space within the exhibition will be dedicated to the gallery’s notable still life collection, ranging from the 17th century to the 20th century, including significant floral pieces by Henri Fantin-Latour. Works by Charles Ginner and Auguste Herbin will be joined by pieces with similar stylistic qualities from the Intoart Collection by Christian Ovonlen and Clifton Wright. The third and final room will have a primary focus on flowers and the body, covering themes such as gender and sexuality and symbolism in art.

Nature and botanical subjects feature heavily in the Intoart Collection. Paintings and works on paper by Dawn Wilson, Philomena Powell, Christian Ovonlen, Stanley Galton, Clifton Wright, Aysen Aktu and Ntiense Eno-Amooquaye show how traditional observation techniques remain relevant to contemporary artists today. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery London and Rome, seminal works will be included from Helen Chadwick’s ‘Wreaths to Pleasure’ series as well as photography by Penny Slinger and Jo Spence, alongside paintings by Shelagh Wakely, Jan Wade and Everlyn Nicodemus, which explore the conceptual use of the flower motif, often through a feminist lens.

Throughout the duration of ‘Bloom’, there will be an exciting array of creative activities for all ages, including family friendly artist led workshops, under 5s storytelling, and fun trails around the exhibition. Adults will be able to enjoy life drawing, still life drawing and a chance to explore the exhibition after hours in a special late event!

This exhibition is supported by the Friends of York Art Gallery.

York Art Gallery’s new exhibition, ‘Bloom’, opens on 23 June 2023. Adults £8, Concessions available. To find out more about the exhibition, its events programme and how to book tickets please visit York Art Gallery.