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Gainsborough's House Museum opens this week after £5 million revamp

Above: exterior of extension to Gainsborough's House Muesum by ZMMA in Sudbury Suffolk (Helen Purkiss / Gainsborough's House)

The Museums Association reports that a camera obscura giving views across the Suffolk landscape and new gallery spaces are among the features that visitors will be able to experience at Gainsborough’s House, now the redeveloped museum has re-opened to the public this week.

It says the house, the childhood home of 18th-century painter Thomas Gainsborough, has undergone a £10m revamp and now offers temporary exhibitions for the first time. The Sudbury gallery has become the largest in Suffolk, with the redevelopment led by architectural firm ZMMA.

The project was supported by a £5m National Lottery Heritage Fund grant and comprises a new three-storey building, designed in locally made brick and flint, housing a new entrance and four galleries. The scheme has also included the restoration of the Grade I-listed late medieval, Georgian and Regency townhouse.

The opening displays will present the world’s most comprehensive collection of Gainsborough’s work, telling the full story of the artist’s life and work, as well as showcasing the widespread influence he had on his contemporaries and succeeding generations.

Mark Bills, director of Gainsborough’s House, said: “The physical transformation of Gainsborough’s House will fundamentally change this historic site, enabling it to become an international centre for Thomas Gainsborough and a cultural hub in the heart of East Anglia, all within the unique environment of the artist’s birthplace and home.”

Adam Zombory-Moldovan, project director at ZMMA, said: “The powerful connection between the landscape surrounding Sudbury and its representation in Gainsborough’s work inspired us to create a new gallery building whose clay and flint materials are brought directly from Gainsborough’s Suffolk landscape. From the expanded museum campus, visitors will enjoy long views of that countryside beyond the town’s rooftops.”

Gainsborough's House Museum has written about the development's aims:

'Reviving an Artist’s Birthplace seeks to attract visitors not only from East Anglia and London, but across England and abroad. Nowhere else in the world will such a wide collection of Gainsborough’s art and works by those he inspired, be seen in a single setting.

'The project will see the renovation and redisplay of the historic house to interpret, entertain and inspire around the artist, his family and social context.

'A new, landmark three-storey structure will replace an empty local authority building located on a brown-field site adjacent to the house. It will provide spaces for exhibitions, displays and learning with four new galleries –a showcase Gainsborough gallery, a landscape studio with panoramic views over Sudbury, a community gallery and a temporary exhibition gallery/performance space.

'The project will give more access to the entirety of Gainsborough’s work, including his highly original and innovative work as a printmaker. It will also showcase works after Gainsborough that illustrate the widespread influence of his work on other artists.

'A new orangery-style café overlooking the beautiful eighteenth-century garden, will enhance the visitor experience and boost venue hire, along with improved shopping facilities and a varied programme of talks and concerts. The project will highlight Gainsborough’s widespread influence on the next generation of landscape artists particularly John Constable (1776–1837). With the long-term loan of the Constable family’s collection on display, the museum will provide the only gallery space to see the landscapes of Constable in the vicinity of ‘Constable Country’.

About Gainsborough’s House

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88) was born in Sudbury and baptised at the Independent Meeting-House in Friars Street on 14 May 1727, the fifth son and ninth child of John and Mary


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