We’ve selected seven of the best rural art galleries from around the UK, from the foothills of Snowdonia and the Cornish coast to the far-flung islands of Orkney.
Our top seven includes paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, Barbara Hepworth and George Barret, along with a number of inspiring exhibitions.
Tate St Ives, Cornwall
The Tate St Ives dominates this small seaside town of winding alleys and fishermen’s cottages; the recently doubled-in-size museum making a big statement on the site of the old gasworks overlooking Porthmeor Beach. Inside, the galleries showcase the best of the avant-garde St Ives School, including Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson.
MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), Machynlleth, Powys
‘The Ancient Capital of Wales’ sits on the edge of Snowdonia National Park. Along with its soaring clock tower, the market town is known for its gallery of Welsh art and artists housed in an old Wesleyan chapel. Look out for Ann Arnold, champion of the countryside and member of the Brotherhood of Ruralists. Learn more about MOMA.
Gainsborough House, Sudbury, Suffolk
Gainsborough’s handsome Georgian home and historic gardens lie at the heart of the Suffolk market town and are filled with his manuscripts, prints, etchings, portraiture and artefacts. Linger in the entrance hall and parlour Gainsborough House, with its canvases of rural Suffolk painted in the 1750s, to appreciate this master of the 18thCentury landscape.
The Harley Gallery, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire
The Dukeries, including Welbeck, are a rich vein of parkland, forest and stately homes slicing through the Nottinghamshire coalfields. Catch an exhibition in the purpose-built Harley Gallery.
Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Merseyside
Entrepreneur and philanthropist, William Hesketh Lever, commissioned this grand classical museum – Lady Lever Art Gallery – to house his ever-burgeoning art collection in the model village of Port Sunlight. Among the internationally recognised pre-Raphaelites and Wedgwood jasperware there are some fine British landscape paintings, including Constable and Turner.
Kirkcudbright Galleries, Dumfries & Galloway
Kirkcudbright’s town hall, grand and self-important on the outside but bright and welcoming inside, was recently converted to house the growing works of this historic ‘artists’ town’ on the River Dee. The Kirkcudbright Galleries collection includes nationally important paintings from the nineteenth-century Scottish Colourists, also known as the ‘Scottish Impressionists.’
Pier Arts Centre, Stromness, Orkney
The converted merchant’s house, stores and offices – a bold mix of glass, metal and rustic stone – jostle for position on the waterfront of this mainland Orkney town. Inside Pier Arts Centre, a small but impressive collection of twentieth-century art sits side-by-side with local work depicting the wild Orkney sea-and-landscapes beyond the sheltered harbour.