Art is a splendid thing, encapsulating and expressing feelings and emotions like no other medium. Plus a lot of galleries are free and make for a great day out, whilst expanding the mind at the same time. Whether you’re a lover of the Impressionists or sucker for contemporary art the galleries in the UK hold works of both national and international importance.
National Gallery, London
You cannot miss the National Gallery, which stands behind Nelson's Column in London's Trafalgar Square. Home to works by worldwide famous artists such as Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Turner, Monet, Titian, and Caravaggio. The Gallery has over 2,300 pictures ranging from the mid-13th century to 1900, encompassing everything from Early Renaissance to Post-impressionism.
The Tate Galleries
Tate Britain concentrates on artistic works from 1500 to the present day. The gallery houses works by Francis Bacon, William Blake and Nash, Tracy Emin, George Stubbs, John Constable, and Henry Moore. Tate Britain is also linked by speed boat from Millbank Millenium Pier, which runs down the Thames to the Tate Modern.
The Tate Modern is housed in the striking building of the former Bankside Power Station. This gallery deals with modern, post-modern and contemporary art and is home to works by Picasso, Kapoor, Lichtenstein, Emin and Rothko. You can see some of the most spectacular installations of recent times in the five-storey Turbine Hall. Visitors can play games, watch films and read about art in the interactive areas, or sketch in the gallery. There are free daily tours of the galleries and multimedia and audio guides are available.
Tate Liverpool deals with much the same subject matter as Tate Modern but on a much smaller scale. There is currently an exhibition on Turner Monet Twombly at Tate Liverpool, open until October. Upcoming winter and Spring 2013 exhibitions include Glam, a visually extravagant pop style which exploded across Britain during the years 1971–5, embraced high and low culture. On show this winter is the Sky Arts Ignition Series: Doug Aitken - The Source, a film asking the questions: What is the source of a creative idea? Where does it start and how is it realised? Musician Jack White, British actress Tilda Swinton, artist Mike Kelley and many other celebrated cultural figures discuss the root of their creativity with leading contemporary artist Doug Aitken.
Tate St Ives
The Tate St Ives does not hold a permanent collection of work in the gallery but presents special exhibitions which change three times a year. Exhibitions for winter include Peter Fraser, a contemporary photographer who has been at the forefront of colour photography as a fine art medium since the early 1980s and The Far and The Near: St. Ives and International Art, which reinvestigates the histories of the St Ives colony in the contexts of international modernism and contemporary practice. This gallery showcases works by artists from the west of the UK, most notably Barbara Hepworth and Tate manages the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden which it opened in 1980.
Victoria Art Gallery, Bath
Artists past and present are featured in the Victoria Art Gallery, from big names such as the Impressionists to up and coming regional artists. Exhibitions change every couple of months so there are always new and exciting things to see. Their permanent collection includes works by artists who have lived and worked in the area, such as Thomas Gainsborough and Walter Sickert. In the 18th century Bath was an important centre for portrait painting, in the 20th century it again became famous with the innovative works produced by artists working at Bath Academy of Art and the gallery reflects this artistic history.
The Royal Academy of Arts, London
The Royal Academy is an art institution based in the grand Burlington House in Piccadilly. Its role is to encourage British art, and it does this by showing exhibitions, running an art school and by holding all sorts of events and lectures for its members. Running to the end of September the exhibition From Paris: A Taste for Impressionism showcases major works from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. This exhibition illustrates the Clark Art Institute’s holdings of French 19th-century art, with particular emphasis upon Impressionism. For winter The Royal Academy presents Bronze, an exhibition that takes visitors on a journey of 5,000 years across three continents, revealing the stories behind the world’s greatest bronze masterpieces.
Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester
The Manchester Art Gallery has extensive collections of fine, decorative and costume art. There is a large collection representing the English school of art, with works by Thomas Gainsborough and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The gallery houses several works by the French impressionist Pierre Adolphe Valette who painted and taught in Manchester in the early years of the 20th century. Valette taught the young L.S Lowry and their works hang side by side. You are spoilt for choice for the great masters in this section of the gallery as a Cézanne hangs in the same room. There are also works from the Dutch, Flemish, Italian, and German schools.
Lowry Centre, Salford
This gallery concentrates on the works of early twentieth century artist L.S. Lowry, who painted industrial life in pre-war northern England. The Lowry houses the largest collection of paintings by the Manchester-based artist (1887 - 1976) whose famous and accessible works depict life in the industrial North in the first half of the 20th century. The Lowry was opened in 2000 in Salford, Manchester and is a master-class in futuristic design which showcases a constantly changing an varied program of events and exhibitions in its galleries, theatres and studio space.
Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds
Leeds Art Gallery boasts one of the most impressive collections in the UK. The museum’s collection of 20th-century British Art is recognised by the British government as a collection "of national importance". Its collection also includes 19th-century and earlier art works by artists such as J.W. Waterhouse, Graham Sutherland, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Jacob Epstein, and Francis Bacon. The gallery has frequent temporary exhibitions and for information on winter 2012 forthcoming exhibitions it is a good idea to sign up to their mailing list.
MIMA- Middlesbrough’s Institute of Modern Art, Middlesborough
MIMA's collections contains works by Frank Auerbach, Ben Nicholson, Stanley Spencer, Elizabeth Blackadder, Ken Currie, Gwen John, Dame Elisabeth Frink, Eduardo Paolozzi, Peter Howson,David Bomberg, L.S. Lowry, Anne Redpath, Paula Rego, Sir Jacob Epstein, David Hockney, Jeremy Deller and Tracey Emin. Phew, long list. Rather than being on permanent display, works from the collection are drawn upon throughout the exhibition programme. MIMA's collection also shows beautiful jewellery, ceramics and drawings. Jewellery Workshops are available and the public the chance to work with MIMA artist Jackie Steven and experiment with a range of materials and techniques to create beautiful and bespoke jewellery inspired by MIMA's amazing collection.
Graves Gallery, Sheffield
The home of Sheffield’s visual art collection since 1934, this gallery currently exhibits work by Andy Warhol: Late Self Portraits. Permanent galleries include Abstraction and Art Now in Gallery IV which features work by artists including Bridget Riley, Marc Quinn, Hew Locke and Sam Taylor-Wood, as well as a recent work by Damien Hirst kindly lent to Museums Sheffield by Jarvis Cocker. In Gallery VI: 400 Years of European Art works on show include religious art works and 18th and 19th landscape paintings.
Millennium Gallery, Sheffield
Permanent exhibitions at The Millennium Gallery include The Ruskin Collection, which is an interesting collection both for the works the collection contains and the original purpose of it. The collection was created by John Ruskin, a Victorian writer, for Sheffield’s workers over 130 years ago and was designed to inspire creativity and to be a haven from the busy working world. The items in the collection are changed twice yearly and continue Ruskin’s ethos of inspiring people through beautiful things. You can also explore the history of the light metal trades in Sheffield in the Metalwork Collection and discover this nationally important gathering of metalwork art.
The Westside Contemporary Fine Art, formerly known as Fifiefofum is an award-winning gallery. Situated in the glorious Northumberland countryside, this gallery showcases and sells original artworks as well as running creative workshops in traditional and contemporary crafts. This is a great place to buy works of art from local artists and soak up the Northumberland countryside.
The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle.
Britain’s biggest original art store, The Biscuit Factory, offers a fun, relaxed way to buy contemporary paintings, drawings, prints, photography, sculpture, ceramics and glass. Like FiFieFoFum this is more of a place for art buyers than a public gallery but it’s free to look around!
Laing Gallery, Newcastle
The Gallery's collection focuses on British oil paintings, watercolours, ceramics, silver and glassware. Highlights include pictures by William Holman Hunt, Edward Burne-Jones, Paul Gauguin, and Victor Pasmore, together with an important group of paintings by 19th-century artist John Martin, who was born and brought up in the North East. 20th-century artists include Laura Knight, Ben Nicholson, David Bomberg, and Gillian Ayres, and there is a growing contemporary collection.
The Laing's watercolours are of national importance, and include pictures by Thomas Girtin, JMW Turner, Edward Lear, JF Lewis and Elizabeth Blackadder. There is also a small collection of sculpture, which includes pieces by Albert Toft, Henry Moore and Anthony Caro. Maling ceramics from the 19th and 20th century form an important part of the North East pottery collections. There is also a fine collection of Japanese decorative arts and prints.
The Hatton Gallery, Newcastle
This Gallery has an impressive permanent collection covering painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. The Hatton Gallery is Newcastle University's art gallery and is a part of the Great North Museum. It is based in the University's Fine Art Building and claims to be the birthplace of Pop Art; Richard Hamilton's seminal Man, Machine and Motion was first exhibited at the Hatton in 1955. Other important artists represented in the collection include Francis Bacon, Victor Pasmore, William Roberts and Paolo di Giovanni, Palma Giovane,Richard Hamilton, Thomas Bewick, Eduardo Paolozzi, Camillo Procaccini, Patrick Heron and Richard Ansdell. If you’re into your watercolours then you’re in luck, works by Wyndham Lewis, Thomas Harrison Hair and Robert Jobling are also on show here.
BALTIC: Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead Quayside
Housed in a converted flour mill BALTIC is an international centre for Contemporary art. Currently BALTIC presents SITE, Mark Wallinger's largest exhibition in the UK for over a decade. Forthcoming exhibitions include For The Encampment of Eternal Hope, by artists Zoë Walker & Neil Bromwich which will create a colourful sculptural garden with hybridised inflatables and tent like structures, to be presented alongside a campfire of TVs and an artist film. The exhibitions at BALTIC are ever changing and push the boundaries of Contemporary art.
The National Galleries of Scotland
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh
On show in the permanent exhibitions are masterpieces by Jacopo Bassano, Van Dyck, Boticelli, Degas, Monet, Raphael, Cezanne, Constable, Gainsborough and many more world famous artists. Currently on show as a temporary exhibition is Van Gogh to Kandinsky: Symbolist Landscape in Europe 1880-1910.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
The collection includes work by Picasso, Braque, Mondrian, Matisse, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, The Scottish Colourists, Peter Howson, Levannah Harris, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, and Douglas Gordon. Surrealist and Dada art are kept at the adjacent Dean Gallery. The Sculpture garden at the front of the building contains work by Henry Moore, Rachel Whiteread, Tony Cragg and Barbara Hepworth. Currently on show is the Picasso and Modern British Art exhibition.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
All the portraits in this gallery are of Scots. The museum's collection holds 3,000 paintings and sculptures, 25,000 prints and drawings, and 38,000 photographs. The collection begins in the Renaissance, with works by mainly foreign artists of Scottish royalty, nobility, and mainly printed portraits of clergymen and writers. The oldest work in the collection is a portrait of James IV of Scotland from 1507. The collection includes two portraits of Mary Queen of Scots and portraits by Bronckhorst and Vanson of James VI and I.
Art galleries all across the country, not just in London, are waiting to be explored. With changing contemporary exhibitions as well as permanent galleries of the old masters, there is always something new to explore in the art gallery of your choice.