Star-studded new Edward Bawden exhibition opens at the Higgins Bedford

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Sussex Lustreware are among the featured artists at the Edward Bawden & Me exhibition at the Higgins from 17 February. Image: The Higgins Bedford
Edward Bawden & Me is on at the Higgins from 17 February. Image: The Higgins Bedford

Brand new work by some of the biggest names in contemporary British art, illustration and textiles will be on display at a new exhibition opening at the Higgins Bedford this month in celebration of the work of one of Britain’s most inventive and influential artists.

Entitled Edward Bawden & Me, the exhibition opens on Saturday, 17 February and has been curated by Bawden’s good friend, illustrator and printmaker, Chris Brown and also features work by local artists’ collective, the Circus of Illustration.

The Higgins Bedford is the home of the Edward Bawden Archive, a collection of over 1,000 pieces that printmaker, illustrator, watercolourist and designer Bawden donated to the gallery in the 1980s. 

“My own wish, would be for all the jigsaw pieces of my life’s work to be together…I must say I should feel immensely happy if I could be allowed to leave my remains to Bedford.” – Edward Bawden

The archive housed at the Higgins Bedford contains work Bawden made while he was a student at the Royal College of Art in the 1920s, through to commissions he received in the 1980s.  It includes prints, watercolours, ceramics, wallpapers, murals, posters, advertising designs, book illustrations, and even a garden bench

Edward Bawden & Me brings together work by 30 artists, including Lulu Guinness, Mark Hearld, Vicky Lindo & Bill Brookes, John Broadley, Rob Ryan and John Lawrence. The exhibition features their artistic response, alongside the Bawden work that inspired it. 

Chris Brown. Image: Allun Callendar.
Chris Brown. Image: Allun Callendar.

Curator Chris said: “I think Edward would be amused to see that so many artists, printmakers and designers are paying “homage” to his work. Selecting the group has been enormous fun and the work produced in response to Edwards will reflect his broad interests.

“Some of the participants knew him personally, whilst others know him only by his work. What links them all is their obvious admiration for the man and his output. Work gave him great pleasure and the work itself has given and continues to give great pleasure to others.”

Artists, illustrators and printmakers involved are Angie Lewin, Bonfield Block-Printers, Brian Webb, Chloe Cheese, Chris Corr, David Gentleman, David Ivie, Drusus Tabor, Jane Housham, Hugh Ribbans, Jeff Fisher, John Booth, John Broadley, John Lawrence, John Montgomery, Jonny Hannah, Klara Gryglicka, Lorna Ryan, Marion Elliot, Mark Hearld, Morag Myerscough, Nilesh Mistry, Olu Oke and Rob Ryan, fashion designer Lulu Guinness, ceramicists Sussex Lustreware and Vicky Lindo & Bill Brookes, textile artists Drusus Tabor, Nicola Bailey and Lu Mason, stone carver Matt Loughlin.

Edward Bawden & the Circus of Illustration

Bedford artists’ collective, The Circus of Illustration, have also collaborated on a body of work for the exhibition.

The artists have worked alongside eight other Bedfordshire creatives as professional mentors. Each work is inspired by a selected piece from the Higgins’ magnificent Bawden archive and the artwork ranges from digital prints to traditional watercolour, linocuts to animation.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be involved with Edward Bawden & Me!” said printmaker (and former Clanger designer), Marisa Straccia.

“We’re extremely grateful to The Higgins for their generosity in opening the archive and gallery space to us. Edward Bawden’s influence and significance to us as illustrators is huge. 

“Thanks to The Higgins, his legacy now has a very special connection to Bedford and will inspire future artists from the town. We are honoured to be a part of this show and can’t wait to see the whole celebration with some of the most prominent British artists working today. It truly has been an incredible experience for us.’

This free exhibition opens on Saturday 17 February and runs until Sunday 13 October. The exhibition is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

This article previously appeared in the February issue of the Bedford Clanger.