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Final countdown to major new art exhibition

Photo of museum staff preparing exhibition space

Staff at Bewdley Museum are just a week away from launching a major new art exhibition of national significance.

For the first time ever the museum will be displaying works from national collections to tell the story of The Macdonald Sisters.

The exhibition opens on Monday 17 May, celebrating the four sisters Alice, Georgiana, Agnes and Louisa Macdonald.

Born into an unremarkable Victorian family, they went on to forge connections with some of the most celebrated artists and thinkers of their time including William Morris, Ford Maddox Brown and John Ruskin.

Alice was mother to Rudyard Kipling; Georgiana married the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones; Louisa was the mother of Bewdley’s own three-time prime Minister Stanley Baldwin; and Agnes married Edward Poynter, artist and President of the Royal Academy.

Although remembered by many for the men in their lives, the sisters were not only muses and mothers, but accomplished artists, musicians and writers in their own right – intelligent and talented women held back by the expectations of the era.

The exhibition tells the stories of the sister’s intertwined lives, taking the visitor from an itinerant childhood which included periods in Birmingham and Wolverhampton, to colonial India, and London high society. Paintings on display include: two of Edward Burne-Jones’ earliest watercolours, Sidonia von Bork and Clara von Bork; A Sweetmeat Seller of Lahore by John Lockwood Kipling; and Georgiana Macdonald’s Dead Bird - one of the few surviving examples of her work.

This is the first time that Bewdley Museum has shown artworks from national collections. The loans are supported by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund. Created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund, the Weston Loan Programme is the first ever UK-wide funding scheme to enable smaller and local authority museums to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections.

Councillor Helen Dyke, Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration, Planning and Localism, said: “Our staff have been very busy preparing the space for this exciting first for Bewdley Museum and look forward to welcoming visitors from far and wide.

“This is particularly special for Bewdley with our obvious strong links with Stanley Baldwin, local man and former Prime Minister, whose statue now stands outside the entrance to the museum.  I’m sure this exhibition will prove to be a big hit!”

Sophia Weston, Trustee of the Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “The story of the Macdonald sisters is fascinating and provides a unique lens through which to look at Victorian society. We are delighted that our programme has enabled Bewdley Museum to display artworks from national collections for the first time, it is exactly the kind of project that it exists to support.”

The Macdonald Sisters runs Monday 17 May to Sunday 15 August 2021. Entrance to the exhibition is £4 (free for under 16s and Friends of Bewdley Museum).  The exhibition will be open daily from 11am to 4pm. No booking is required, but social distancing will be maintained. www.bewdleymuseum.co.uk

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