Gallery Girl visits Bath

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that art world treasures can be found outside of capital cities. Often though, some of the most prized gems are waiting to be discovered beyond the confines of a metro system and a major international airport. Bath, the British city famous for Jane Austen, its Georgian architecture and of course, the Roman-built baths, is home to a number of museums, which Gallery Girl recently took a day trip to visit.

Our first stop was the Fashion Museum, which is housed in the beautiful Bath Assembly Rooms. The museum boasts a collection of over 100,000 objects that include everything from shoes and gowns to hats and undergarments. Moving chronologically, the display presents its audience with a history of fashion in 100 objects, spanning 400 years from the 1600s to today. These garments include styles worn by both men and women including the Regency fashion worn during the time of Jane Austen as well as Nike Air trainers worn by trendsetters today.

Memorable pieces amongst the display include the exhibition of dozens of delicately embroidered gloves. The Fashion Museum has the largest collection of historical gloves in Britain, many of which has been leant to them by the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London. In addition to these, the spotlight is shone on artist Rozanne Hawksley (b. 1931) in a mini exhibition of her work. Gloves became a signature motif of Hawksley’s work and the artist is even cited to have said that her eyes were opened after first visiting the Fashion Museum in Bath. A standout piece is a work titled I’ll Be Seeing You (2012), where a “Lover’s eye” is attached to a white glove on top of a diary. The “lover’s eye” trend in jewellery occurred in the late 1700s when aristocratic men and women would often wear a miniature portrait of the eye of their lover, with the small size of the pendants meaning that their lover’s identity could be kept a secret.

Artwork by Rozanne Hawksley

As well as highlighting their gloves, the Fashion Museum also demonstrates the breadth of their collection in the Collection Stories gallery, where objects from their archive are displayed in front of actual storage boxes. Behind bonnets, wedding dresses and hats lay piles of treasures that the public can request to view.

Finishing off the walk through history is a gallery of ultra-modern looking mannequins. These models are dressed in the finest garments straight off the runway in cases marked Dress of the Year. Each year, a member of the fashion world is asked to nominate their favourite look of the past year, with their pick being showcased in Bath. The winning looks include creations by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen and both Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior.

Pump Room

And, whoever said food and fashion doesn’t go together was wrong, since our next stop was the Pump Room Restaurant. Situated within the Roman Baths, the Pump Room is famous for its afternoon tea so of course, we had to oblige. The Pump Room didn’t disappoint, serving us a delicious array of finger sandwiches, scones and sweet treats, proving that they can even cater for vegan gallery girls too.

With a very happy tummy, we finished our day at the Victoria Art Gallery, which has an impressive collection of works of art made by artists from Bath. During our trip we were taken behind the scenes to the art store, where we were able to see oil paintings up close by painters that include Walter Sickert and David Inshaw. We were also lucky enough to stumble in on a photo-shoot for Art UK, who were taking photographs of the sculpture in the gallery’s collection for their website, where they are digitizing works of art from public collections across Britain, enabling global audiences to learn more about the UK’s national art collection.

The gallery’s permanent collection includes works from such artists as Thomas Gainsborough and Howard Hodgkin. Our standout work was a screen made by George Frampton in 1954, which includes portraits of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary and Saint Dorothea, the patron saint of florists. The screen also includes delicate depictions of fruit and roses. And, to finish off our tour of Victoria Art Gallery, we wandered around the Bath Society of Artists Summer Exhibition, which was full floor-to-ceiling with paintings, sculptures and drawings.

Bath Society of Artists Summer Exhibition

Gallery Girl’s trip to Bath allowed for the discovery of the best of fashion and art history, and even a break in between for lunch a stone’s throw away from the original Roman Baths.

AD This trip was organised by Bristol and Bath Cultural Destinations Project #GoBathBristol

You can find more about my itinerary here

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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