Absolutely Bizarre ! Exhibition

Strange tales from the Bristol School of Artists (1800-1840). June 10th-October 17th, 2021.

Gallery of Fine Arts

Both located in the south-west of their respective countries and sharing a history as colonial ports, Bordeaux and Bristol were twinned over 70 years ago. While the two cities have pursued numerous exchanges over the years, the Bristol School of artists, which has gone largely unexamined in France, has never been celebrated to date this side of the English Channel.

This exhibition then promises the first collective showing, in France, of the singular artistic phenomenon that was the Bristol School. The School was an independent artistic movement, but even more so an informal group of artists, mostly portraitists and enthusiasts including critics, patrons and writers, a reflection of the artistic realities observed in the first half of the 19th century. From sketching parties in the Bristol countryside to gatherings in the homes of the various members, the unity of the group was well cemented during the period 1820-1830. The Bristol School explored and indeed revived a wide range of genres: paintings of city life and genre scenes, seen through the prism of the social transformations of the time; landscapes, inventing a highly original form of idyllic and suburban views, and fantastic art, tackled with a hitherto unseen passion. From 1800 to 1840, Bristol was a breeding ground for high-value talent who, in the case of some, would earn a reputation as far as London and to the point of influencing the development of artistic creativity in the British capital. Artists we can cite include Edward Bird (1772-1819), Francis Danby (1793-1861), Edward Villiers Rippingille (1798-1859), Samuel Colman (1780-1845), Samuel Jackson (1794-1869), Rolinda Sharples (1793-1838) – a female artist who enjoyed a brilliant career to the point of earning a living from her craft - and William James Müller (1812-1845). Müller, who produced a gripping painting recording the riots that erupted in Bristol in 1831, will be shown for the first time alongside a well-known contemporary, William Turner whose powerful watercolours depicting the English Houses of Parliament on fire, an incident that happened three years later, will be on show to admire.

The Museum of Fine Arts will receive around 80 artworks most of which are on loan from the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery (65 watercolour and oil paintings), shown alongside several loans from the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath, the Tate Britain in London and the Louvre in Paris.

The show will be punctuated by entertaining and educational exhibits along the visitor journey, including a presentation of the tools required and the steps involved in producing a watercolour painting; a game area where visitors can play a round of Painters ‘Pursuit, a board game about British culture, and a reading area stocked with British publications, in English and in French, for adults and children

Francis Danby, Une scène à Leigh Woods (A Scene in Leigh Woods), 1822, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.
William West, The Israelites Passing through the Wilderness, Preceded by the Pillar of Light, 1845 © Bristol, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.
About the British Year
These two exhibitions will be accompanied by two scientific publications, including a catalogue for the exhibition Absolutely Bizarre! You might also be interested in the international colloquium on Portrait Art in English Painting (1750-1900) co-organised by the universities of Toulouse and Bordeaux in collaboration with the Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts, running in September 15-17, 2021.
A programme of concerts, organised in partnership with the Opéra and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine PSEMD (Dance and Music Teacher Training School), talks, themed tours and educational projects held as part of the Le musée sort de ses murs [The museum goes beyond its walls] contribute to making this Fine British Season a rare occasion to understand the culture of our British friends and admire this wealth in a complex geopolitical context. Bordeaux Mériadeck Library will also be one of our season partners, hosting numerous events on its premises in connection with exploring English literature.
NEW An online exhibition created by Bristol Museum : here 
Exhibitions curated by:
Sophie Barthélémy, director of the Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts
Sandra Buratti-Hasan, deputy director of Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts, conservator of the 19th and 20th century Collections
Guillaume Faroult, conservator of French 18th century and British and American art, Louvre and, for Absolutely Bizarre !, Jenny Gaschke of the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.
Exhibition edition: under the scientific direction of Guillaume Faroult. Translation in English : Benjamin Aguilar Laguierce, 9h05 International.
Exhibition design: Sandrine Iratçabal, Atelier SIGMAS, Bordeaux.
Lighting: Géraud Périole.




William West, <i>The Israelites Passing through the Wilderness, Preceded by the Pillar of Light/i> © Bristol, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

William West, The Israelites Passing through the Wilderness, Preceded by the Pillar of Light/i> © Bristol, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery