In late 2017, a significant collection of over 100 works by the renowned artist Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris (1889–1982) was gifted to Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury, Suffolk. These rich holdings – representing the largest single collection of the artist’s work in existence – include landscape, still life and portrait paintings, as well as drawings, prints and even the artist’s paint palette. Uniquely, these works remained part of Cedric Morris’s private studio until his death in 1982.
Now, Gainsborough’s House is celebrating the acquisition of these important works with the first exhibition curated from this very personal collection, developed in association with acclaimed painter and sculptor Maggi Hambling CBE. Cedric Morris at Gainsborough’s House (10 February–17 June 2018) will present a selection of paintings and works on paper covering Morris’s early ‘Paris Years’ (1920–1926); the poetic landscapes he painted during extensive worldwide travels; and the striking, avant-garde portraits he created of famous friends, patrons and fellow artists.
Cedric Morris was born in Sketty, South Wales, and came from a wealthy background of iron and mining industrialists. After briefly studying singing at the Royal College of Music, Morris enrolled in the Académie Delacluse in Montparnasse, Paris to train as a painter. The early years of his career were spent in first Cornwall and then Paris, before Morris returned to London. Between the two world wars, he became well known and successful as an artist, exhibiting with the Seven & Five Society from 1926 to 1932. In the late 1930s, however, Morris turned his attention to teaching, founding the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham, Essex in 1937 with his lifelong partner, Arthur Lett Haines (1894–1978). Following a fire at the property in Dedham, the school moved to Benton End, a 16th-century house and gardens on the outskirts of Hadleigh, Suffolk. The school ran for over forty years until the death of Lett Haines in 1978, and counted prominent artists such as Maggi Hambling (b. 1945) and Lucian Freud (1922–2011) as former pupils.
Alongside his work as an artist, Morris was also a lifelong plantsman, earning international fame for his horticultural achievements. He established rare species of plants collected overseas, and won national acclaim as a breeder of irises, several of which now grow in the walled garden at Gainsborough’s House.
As a painter deeply rooted in the story of East Anglian art, it is fitting that this private collection of Cedric Morris’s work now resides at Gainsborough’s House, forming an important part of the museum’s permanent collection and future exhibition programming as it continues to celebrate Suffolk’s many great artists, both past and present.
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