BBC's Art That Made Us festival explores creativity and history in museums

Visitors to Charleston which
Visitors to Charleston which reopened with support from an Art Happens campaign, June 2021

From treasured artefacts to intriguing spaces, explore the rich creative history of the UK's museums with the BBC's celebratory arts festival.

We’re so pleased to partner with the Art That Made Us Festival – brought to you by the BBC, the festival will explore creative history in some of the UK’s amazing arts and heritage spaces throughout April.

Peek behind the doors of museums, libraries, archives and galleries, plus explore a major new BBC television series alongside festival events.

Kicking off this week, each episode of the series will explore different objects, works of art and locations, from precious gold and silver treasures to the creative hub of the 20th-century Bloomsbury Group of artists.

Thanks to the support of our members and donors, Art Fund has been able to help a number of these museums to collect important works and raise vital funds for their organisations.

Marking 40 years of Art Fund's partnership with the Wolfson Foundation, 'Transforming Collections' profiles four key acquisitions made possible through our joint funding.

Episode 1: Featuring the Staffordshire Hoard

Arguably the most valuable treasure ever found on British soil, the dazzling Staffordshire hoard is a collection of over 1,500 pieces of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver, transforming our understanding of Anglo-Saxon people and their vital role in history.

Art Fund led the campaign to acquire the treasure for Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent in 2010.

English School; French School, The Wilton Diptych, 1395-1399, National Gallery, Art Funded 1929.
English School; French School, The Wilton Diptych, 1395-1399, National Gallery, Art Funded 1929.

Episode 2: Featuring the Wilton Diptych

Comprised of painted wooden panels by an unknown artist, the Wilton Diptych depicts Richard II being presented with the Virgin and Child, funded by Art Fund in 1929 for the National Gallery.

The date it was completed and where it was created is undetermined, as is the event that inspired it – some attribute it to a date early on in Richard II’s reign while others connect it with later occurrences such as his marriage to Isabella of France.

See the Wilton Diptych here and explore its mysterious origins.

Unveiling the Armada portrait, 2016.
Unveiling the Armada portrait, 2016.

Episode 3: Featuring the Armada portrait of Elizabeth I

This spectacular portrait of Elizabeth I was painted by an unknown artist, likely to commemorate the 1588 defeat of the Spanish Armada.

This beautiful painting was Art Funded in 2016 and features Elizabeth’s signature porcelain skin, red hair and poignant choices of black and white clothing to symbolise both purity and authority.

Learn more about it here.

Episode 5: Featuring an Abolition Medallion

This important object is one of thousands of medallions, brooches and snuffboxes that were made and distributed across Britain in 1787 to support the abolition of slavery. The motif was made by famous potter Josiah Wedgwood and depicts an enslaved man in chains.

Thanks to the support of our members of donors, Art Fund has been able to help a number of museums obtain these medallions following a major campaign in 2014 – one such example featured in a project between the V&A and young people in Stoke-on-Trent, reconnecting them to an important part of their history.

Episode 6: Featuring Julia Margaret Cameron’s Idylls of the King

This episode features a collection of photographic prints by 19th-century British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.

Albumen prints were particularly popular in the late 1800s, named due to their egg-white paper coating. These particular prints were printed with the famous narrative poems, Idylls of the King (1859-85) by the 19th-century English poet Alfred Tennyson and demonstrate Cameron’s masterful portrait photography.

Explore the 22 miniature prints Art Fund helped Dimbola Museum & Galleries to buy in 2001.

The studio at Charleston
The studio at Charleston
© The Charleston Trust; photograph: Lee Robbins.

Episode 7: Featuring Charleston

Thanks to our members and donors’ support we’ve helped Charleston in East Sussex obtain a number of works for their collection, including multiple pieces by members of the 20th-century Bloomsbury Group of artists such as painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.

In 2021 a major campaign to reopen Charleston following the coronavirus pandemic was a staggering success on our crowdfunding platform Art Happens, raising over £180,000 for this historic venue.

Explore all that Charleston has to offer.

For more information visit the Art That Made Us Festival via BBC Arts. For listings see Museum Crush

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