7 September – 27 October 2013
Free to all
The exhibition is the first to feature pieces spanning both the full length of the artist's career and all the genres that he worked in.
Landscapes, townscapes, still lifes, book design and illustration, prints, wallpapers, sketches, and portraits; John Aldridge was an artist of many talents.
Although he is best known for paintings of rural country scenes, the exhibition draws on examples from Fry Art Gallery's substantial holdings, as well as a series of loans from private and public collections, to illustrate his true diversity as an artist.
With no formal art training, he travelled widely in Britain and Europe from a young age, absorbing a range of styles and techniques while 'teaching [him]self how to paint'.
From the 1930s he designed many of the jackets for Robert Graves's books – a friend he met while studying at Oxford University – while also producing the covers for the Shell Guides to Britain, surrealist illustrations for poems by Laura Riding and contributing to a popular series of lithographs.
Later projects included the Bardfield Papers, which saw Aldridge creating high-quality wallpaper and prints, several failed attempts to gain designated official war artist status and a career as a teacher at Slade School of Art.
With examples from across the realms of Aldridge's artistic practice, this is the first retrospective to address the multi-faceted nature of the Academian's career.
Fans of his rural landscapes will not be disappointed as, while there is an effort to highlight his work in other media, the display also pays tribute to Aldridge's enduring love of painting nature.
Moving to the Essex village of Great Bardfield in the early 1930s, he continued to live and practice there until his death in 1983.
As a result, trees, plants and flowers feature extensively in his drawings and paintings, whether in views of the garden, in floral arrangements, or as studies of individual specimens.