Tribute display for Alfred, 100 years on

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There is a certain poignancy about the latest exhibition at Kettering’s Alfred East Gallery.

Because the show is an exact replica of the first exhibition the venue ever staged, when it opened 100 years ago. Yet the gallery’s namesake, the English painter who masterminded the gallery as a showcase for his own work, never actually got to see it.

Sadly, Sir Alfred East died before he had the chance to see this grand exhibition of his work, and his body lay in state at the gallery before his funeral, close to the paintings of which he was so proud.

The current three-room exhibition, which recreates that first showcase of Sir Alfred’s work, marks the centenary of the gallery’s opening. Launched yesterday, the display is simply entitled Alfred East: 100 Years, and will continue until August 31, although the Long Gallery will remain open until September 28.

Katie Boyce, gallery officer, said: “The East Gallery contains the original memorial collection of Alfred East and this is the exact hang of how it would have been in 1913. The Long Gallery is full of his etchings, as it would have been in 1913, and the West Gallery was empty in 1913 but we have done something on 100 years of the gallery, with a combination from the collection as a whole.”

But how difficult was it to recreate an exhibition from 100 years ago? As it turns out, archive material from 100 years ago helped curators tremendously.

Katie said: “It wasn’t hard. We had photos and newspaper cuttings describing what it was like.

“We have gone from the original material, we have the original catalogue of all the paintings. The newspaper reports explained exactly what it was like, even the purple walls were in the report as well.”

The 54 Alfred East works on display show images of romantic English landscapes. They include the first painting he ever donated, Midland Meadow, which shows a flock of sheep in a village near Oundle.

Born in Kettering, Alfred East was a well-known painter who was fond of depicting landscape images. He was the brains behind Kettering’s art gallery, which would act as his own memorial.

Katie said: “He said to Kettering ‘I will give you all these works if you build a gallery to exhibit them’ and, in 1913, on July 31, the gallery was officially opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire.

However, Alfred East was too ill to attend the opening and he passed away on September 28.”