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Sheffield's Millennium Gallery opens exhibition of works made during the Second World War
Kenneth Rowntree, Grainfoot Farm, Derwentdale, Derbyshire, 1940 ® Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
SHEFFIELD.- A new exhibition opening at the Millennium Gallery today hosts a remarkable collection of work depicting the changing face of Britain during the Second World War. On tour to Sheffield from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Recording Britain represents a remarkable visual record of lives and landscapes under threat.

The Recording Britain project was initiated by Sir Kenneth Clark at the start of the Second World War. Funded by the Pilgrim Trust, the initiative saw more than 90 artists – renowned professionals and gifted amateurs alike – commissioned to make inspiring pictures which would be ‘sympathetic records’ of vulnerable buildings, landscapes and lifestyles. By the time the scheme ended, the collection, now cared for the by the V&A, comprised over 1500 pictures, representing almost every English county, and much of Wales.

Made between 1939 and 1943, these evocative pictures of quiet villages, bustling market towns, ancient parish churches and vanishing rural industries embody the ideals that Britain was fighting for. However, these striking works reflect a nation facing not only the potentially devastating impact of bombardment and invasion, but also the equally transformative effects of progress and development.

The exhibition will feature over 70 highlights from this unique collection, which includes work by some of the country’s finest watercolour painters. Amongst the examples on display will be John Piper’s The Tithe Barn, Great Coxwell, Berkshire, 1940, Barbara Jones’ Savage’s Yard, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, 1942 and Olive Cook’s Disused Tin Mine, St Agnes, Cornwall, c1940. Also on show will be Kenneth Rowntree’s Grainfoot Farm, Derwentdale, Derbyshire, 1940, depicting the village on the borders of Sheffield which was about to be drowned by the creation of new Ladybower reservoir.

As a vivid account of local and regional identity and an exploration of the sense of place, Recording Britain has found echoes in the work of many artists and photographers from the 1940s to the present day. The exhibition will feature a host of contemporary works which exemplify the ambitions of the original initiative, including paintings and photographs by artists such as Conrad Atkinson, Richard Long, David Nash, Laura Oldfield Ford, Keith Arnatt, Ingrid Pollard, and more.

The exhibition will be complemented by a series of works from Sheffield’s Visual Art collection exploring the tradition of landscape watercolours from the 1700s through to the 20th century. Works on show will include J.M.W. Turner’s Brinkburn Priory (c1832) and Cement Works no.2 (1934) by Eric Ravillious.

Visitors to the exhibition will also have the opportunity to access additional interpretative materials, including British Pathé footage and poetry by John Betjeman, via a new mobile app developed by Sheffield-based agency Llama Digital.

Lucy Cooper, Exhibition Curator at Museums Sheffield said: ‘What’s incredible about Recording Britain is not only its ambition and scale, but its success. The collection is a fascinating, moving insight into a nation on the brink of change, and we’re thrilled to be able to share so many of these wonderful works here in Sheffield.’

Recording Britain will open at the Millennium Gallery on Thursday 3 April and continue until 2 November 2014 – entry to the exhibition is free.

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