British Folk Art

Exploring the incredible story of Folk Art of Britain, drawing on nearly 150 paintings, sculptures, textiles and other objects.

In our video – filmed at the original exhibition at Tate Britain – broadcaster and folk-lover Verity Sharp tells the stories behind some of the objects in the show.

While folk art is a well established genre in many countries, it has struggled to find any serious recognition in Britain. Rarely considered in the context of art history, it is more often defined a subset of social or folklore studies. This exhibition brings together examples by a number of prominent individuals, such as George Smart the tailor of Frant, embroiderer Mary Linwood, and Cornish painter Alfred Wallis in order to reevaluate the important role folk art has played in shaping British culture.

Spanning the 17th to the 20th century, objects on display range from rustic leather Toby jugs to brightly coloured ships’ figureheads. Jesse Maycock's thatched figure of King Alfred from 1960 is joined by maritime embroidery by fisherman John Craske, a pin cushion made by wounded soldiers during the Crimean war and shop signs in the shape of over-sized pocket watches and giant shoes. These items are used to explore the distinctions historians, artists, curators and collectors have used to separate art and artefact.

British Folk Art was originally shown at Tate Britain earlier in the year.

Don't miss

The exhibition reveals the astonishing wealth of Britain's regional collections, including many items which have never been on display in an art gallery context before. 

Venue details

Compton Verney Compton Verney Warwickshire CV35 9HZ 01926 645500

Entry details

£6.80 with National Art Pass (standard entry £13.60)

£6.55 with National Art Pass (standard entry £13.10)

What the critics say


"It is refreshing when the worst thing you can say about an exhibition is that it ends too soon. Tate Britain's sweep through the lost history of British popular art opens a door on a lost world of flying fish, mighty figureheads and bold quiltmaking. The art here is hilarious, beguiling and mysterious by turns..."


"An exuberant sprawl of an exhibition that engaged my attention from start to finish. Curator Jeff McMillan respects the integrity of folk art by not trying to pin it down or overthinking it."


"A glorious array of fabulous things without pretension, side or subtext."