The largest art exhibition in the history of a Kettering gallery is currently under way to mark the venue’s centenary celebrations. The Alfred East Art Gallery, in Kettering town centre, was originally established in the summer of 1913, when its namesake artist donated 70 of his paintings, on condition that a display space be created.
To mark the gallery’s special birthday year, the grand total of 384 paintings – some donated and some from the museum’s collection – has been put on show in the biggest display ever mounted by the venue.
Among them are a selection of those original works which Alfred East donated all those years ago.
Katie Boyce, gallery officer, said: “This exhibition, which is called Gilty Pleasures, starts the year off with a bang. It is called Gilty Pleasures because of the gilt frames, a pun on the word. It is the biggest one we have done in the 100 years of the gallery’s opening.
“Alfred East started it all off by donating 70 pieces and the idea was to open up a gallery to hold these paintings, so it became a memorial to his work. But he never saw it open. It opened in July and he died in September 1913, never having seen it.”
Today the site is believed to be the oldest purpose-built gallery in Northamptonshire.
Katie said: “Alfred East was an artist who started life working in the boot and shoe factory, but he decided he wanted to do art and persevered with that.
“He went all over the world and stayed in Japan for six months, much of his work was done in Japan. But he also loved the British landscapes.
“We now have the biggest collection in the UK of Alfred East paintings. In our summer exhibition we will have the gallery set up just as it was in 1913, so that is when all of the paintings will be on show.”
Among the items on display are contemporary pieces donated by local artists as well as the older items in the museum’s own collection.
One popular piece is called The Connoisseur and is by Walter Bonner Gash.
Katie said: “The Connoisseur is of a gentleman who used to own a curiosity shop in Kettering and a lot of locals knew the gentleman in the painting.”
The exhibition will run until March 16. As part of the event there will be a lunchtime talk by Delia Thomas on February 22 in which she will be discussing the permanent collection and how it has developed since 1913.
Tickets for the talk cost £5 or £2.50 for Leisure Pass holders. To book, call 01536 534275.