The Lake District Guide
The Lakes Top Ten Attractions
Abbot Hall Art Gallery, KendalHoused in a Georgian villa on the banks of the river Kent in the market town of Kendal, the galleries offer two floors of light-filled spaces in which to see art. The intimate rooms and tranquil setting are used to show British painting and sculpture, without pretention or overload, to uplift the spirits in an enjoyable and relaxed atmosphere.
As well as the fine permanent collection, Abbot Hall is widely acknowledged as having one of the most important and independently minded exhibition programmes outside London.
“Given its location, it would have been easy for such a gallery to have rested on its laurels, simply showcasing historic works with links to the area. But what has put Abbot Hall on the map has been its bullish policy of showing and collecting modern British art.” Sue Hubbard, The Independent, July 2007.
Here are some examples of what you can see in the Gallery:
The 18th Century
George Romney (1734-1802) served his apprenticeship in Kendal and went on to be one of the most sought after portrait painters in England. Abbot Hall has the most important collection of his work in the country.
Alongside works by several of his important contemporaries, Romney's paintings can be seen hung in the elegant historical settings for which they were painted, with fine 18th century furniture, and original Georgian colours decorating the walls.
Modern & Contemporary
The English Watercolours
Watercolours are a quintessential British phenomenon and yet are rarely to be found on display in public galleries. Abbot Hall has a superb collection from which it draws different groups in rotation throughout the year.
The watercolours are shown in a small gallery reminiscent of a collector's private room, where a Turner can be seen next to a Ruskin and a Constable oil sketch sits in a cabinet next to works by such figures as Cotman, Cozens and Edward Lear.
Changing displays from Abbot Hall's modern and contemporary collection are shown in the elegant galleries formed from the original Georgian rooms on the first floor. Key works are also used within some of the temporary exhibitions, to draw in major paintings and sculpture from collections throughout Britain and abroad.
Abbot Hall has been one of the most active galleries collecting British art in recent years and important works have been acquired, ranging from a Turner watercolour of Windermere to portraits by Stanley Spencer and Lucian Freud, and abstract paintings by Bridget Riley and Sean Scully.
Through its wide contacts with collectors, Abbot Hall has also secured some spectacular long term loans, including the largest collection of Lucian Freud etchings to be found in a public gallery.
Weekly Gallery Talks
Abbot Hall Art Gallery
Abbot Hall Coffee Shop
An appetising menu of locally produced food is freshly prepared daily, and a selection of wines and beers are available with meals. You can view changing selling exhibitions of artists' prints with a cup of fresh coffee or speciality tea. In summer you can eat outside the Coffee Shop and enjoy the view of Kendal Castle.
The Gallery Book Shop
Browse through the range of specialist art books in the Book Shop, which also stocks exhibition catalogues, postcards and fine art greetings cards.
There are picnic facilities in the adjacent park, as well as swings and slides for children.
Certain rooms may need to be closed when changing exhibitions. Please ring in advance if you are wishing to see a particular exhibit.
How to Get There
Follow signs to south Kendal and then for Abbot Hall. A 10 minute drive from j36 of the M6. Nearest train station: Oxenholme, the Lake District. Sat Nav LA9 5AL