The exhibitions you must see this April

Published 21 March 2018

From the sun-kissed seascapes of Sorolla to the revolutionary fashion of Mary Quant, we round up some of the most energising exhibitions to see this April.

April showers the UK with some spectacular exhibitions.

From masters of the painted canvas like Sorolla, Turner and Van Gogh, to quirky exhibitions about excitable dogs and moon-struck Victorians, all our highlights are free or 50% off with a National Art Pass.

Remember, for even more inspiration you can check our guide to the biggest blockbuster art exhibitions this spring, and browse our full listings.

Kelly Wilson wearing tie dress by Mary Quant's Ginger Group, 1966

Mary Quant

It’s officially spring – time to shed the woolly layers and remember you once had a fashion sense, so why not take inspiration from Mary Quant’s radical and fun-filled designs? Mini skirts, colourful tights, tailored trousers... It could be said she dressed the 1960s. This major exhibition presents over 120 garments along with accessories, cosmetics and photos, many of which have never been on public display before.

Nicola Hicks, Rockets 6-1, 1987

The Dog: A Celebration at Chatsworth

It’s a dog’s life at Chatsworth – for generations the Cavendish family have lived and worked with many different breeds, lavishing love on their four-legged friends as only the British know how. This exhibition celebrates 400 years of this special bond through accounts of every kind of pooch, from naughty puppies to life-saving Red Cross dogs, with visual depictions in the form of portraits, jewellery, embroidery, painted ceilings and more. Visitors can also see modern and contemporary works by artists such Elisabeth Frink, Jeff Koons, Antony Gormley and Ben Long.

Joaquín Sorolla, The Return from Fishing, 1894

Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light

While the weather outside blows hot and cold, one place where you can be sure of sun-drenched ease is at the National Gallery. This exhibition of 60 works by Spanish Impressionist Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923) is the first significant look back at his work since 1908, and spans his entire career. As well as the beach scenes, garden views and seascapes that earned him the title ‘master of light’, the show brings to the UK for the first time his earlier major works tackling social issues, including The Return from Fishing (1894) and Sad Inheritance! (1899).

John Ruskin, The View from My Window, Mornex, 1862

Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud: Watercolours and Drawings

Two centuries after his birth, the artist, critic and social thinker John Ruskin still has much to offer as we address the urgent questions of our time. This exhibition, which explores Ruskin's artistic and critical response to the works of JMW Turner, also reflects on our relationship with our environment and mental health. Watercolours and drawings by both artists are on display, alongside work by their contemporaries and specially commissioned ink drawings by Emma Stibbon RA, who retraced Ruskin’s steps in the area around Mont Blanc.

Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night Over the Rhone, 1888

Van Gogh and Britain

Vincent van Gogh spent several years in London as a young man and loved it, finding inspiration in British artists and writers from John Constable to Charles Dickens. This exhibition explores the influence that this time had on his work and how, in return, his uncompromising art and life paved the way for many British artists. Van Gogh and Britain is the largest show of his work in the UK for nearly a decade, and a perfect opportunity to take in many of his most famous paintings

William H Rau, Full Moon (albumen silver print mounted to stereographic card)


It’s the 50th anniversary of the first moon landings this year and, to celebrate, Watts Gallery is taking a special look at the Victorians’ fascination with all things lunar. They might not have had the technology to get there literally, but recent inventions such as telescopes and stereoscopic photography – plus a vivid artistic imagination – launched a wealth of spectacular works, from the Pether family’s detailed moonscapes to the eerie atmosphere of the Pre-Raphaelites’ paintings, and the visionary creations of the Symbolists. Also on display are scientific tools used by 19th-century astronomers to explore the cosmos.

Edvard Munch, The Lonely Ones, 1899

Edvard Munch: love and angst

The biggest exhibition in the UK of Edvard Munch’s prints for nearly half a century, this show focuses on the art form that made him famous and which continued to preoccupy him throughout his life. Fans of The Scream won’t be disappointed: a rare black and white lithograph, the best-known version of the image during Munch's lifetime, is on loan from Norway’s Munch Museum, along with nearly 50 other works rarely seen in the UK and highlights from the British Museum.

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