The Lytham St Annes Art Collection is a collection of over 240 paintings and works of art given by generous benefactors to the people of Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, in the hope and belief that one day there would be an art gallery to put them in. The Collection is held in Trust by Fylde Borough Council and, until a few years ago, there has been very little opportunity for people to look at all the beautiful paintings and objets d’art.
It all began in 1925 when John Booth (1899 – 1941), son of E H Booth who founded the local grocery business, presented to Lytham St Annes Corporation a painting by Richard Ansdell RA entitled ‘The Herd Lassie’, 1876. The lovely picture below records the event. It was recorded in the Corporation minutes that John Booth gave the painting ‘as a nucleus for the formation of an Art Gallery in the Borough at some future time, the picture in the meantime to be hung in the Council Chamber’.
It was significant that the gift was a painting by Richard Ansdell RA (1815 - 1885), who was a very accomplished Victorian artist and Royal Academician. He lived and worked in the area between Lytham and St Annes, which subsequently became known as Ansdell.
It is believed to be the only place in the country named after an artist.
Many pictures and works of art were donated over the years following John Booth’s generous gift, the most notable donor being Alderman James Herbert Dawson (1867 – 1963) who gave his first picture to the Collection in 1931, ‘Partridge Shooting’, 1879, another painting by Ansdell. He also gave a marble statue. From then on more and more people gave more and more paintings, many because they were persuaded to or encouraged by Alderman Dawson who gave the greatest number - over fifty items - he loved art and worked hard to make the dream of an art gallery become a reality.
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There are twenty-seven paintings by Richard Ansdell in the Collection, the most significant collection of Ansdells anywhere. The most valuable painting and the star of the Collection is the one by Henry Fuseli called ’The Vision of Catherine of Aragon’, first exhibited in 1781 and donated by Alderman Dawson in 1950. It had been on loan to the Collection for the previous twenty years when it was withdrawn by the family in 1950 to be sold. Not wanting to lose this wonderful picture, Alderman Dawson bought it and gave it back.
The Lancashire County Museum Service who are the curators of the Collection restored the Fuseli in 1973 – it took 200 hours. When the Tate Gallery put on an exhibition of Fuseli’s work in 1975 there was an engraving of ‘The Vision’ but the original painting was described in the catalogue as missing. The Lancashire County Museum Service were pleased to be able to contact them and tell them it was safe and well in Lytham St Annes. In the intervening years it has been loaned for display to galleries all over the world.
In 2007 a small but beautiful gallery was created as an intrinsic part of the Lytham Branch of the Booths Grocery chain. The descendants of the man who gave the first painting to the Lytham St Annes Art Collection nearly eighty years previously provided the means by which everyone now has the opportunity to see regular displays of the Collection.
Many paintings belonging to the Collection are still in storage and in need of skilled restoration work often costing thousands of pounds just to restore one painting to its former glory. The hope is that they will now slowly see the light of day and be exhibited, helped by money from the Conservation Fund set up by the Friends of the Lytham St Annes Art Collection.
Help the Friends
The Friends of the Lytham St Annes Art Collection are a not-for-profit organisation.We would be very grateful for any donations that will help to conserve, restore and renovate the artworks within the Lytham St Annes Art Collection.