Five exhibitions to see this December

From Alfred Munnings’ war horses to a celebration of ice skating, our December must-sees wind up the year with a stocking full of delights.

December is a hectic month for many people, so whether you want to embrace the wintry fun with a show about ice skating or run away to the coast, our top exhibition picks offer everyone a chance to take some ‘me’ time – all are free or 50% off with a National Art Pass.


1
Alfred Munnings, Lord Strathcona’s Horse on the March, 1918

Alfred Munnings: War Artist, 1918

Before he was accepted into the Royal Academy in 1919, Alfred Munnings was working as a war artist on the Western Front, recording the work of horses and men in the Canadian Expeditionary Force – often at work within a mile of the fighting. Displayed together in England for the first time in a century, over 40 works show the vital role played by the cavalry in the First World War, while also capturing the startling beauty of military horses in the fields of France.


2
Adriaen van de Velde, Winter scene with a group of golfers on a frozen river, c1656-72

Skating

If wobbling around an ice rink is an essential part of your festive fun, don’t miss this exhibition exploring the history of ice skating. Long before the sequinned athleticism of indoor figure skaters, people were taking to the frozen waterways as the most practical means of winter transport. From 17th-century Flemish paintings and Victorian lantern slides to 20th-century film and photography, this exhibition shows how skating evolved into a sport and then an art form, while always remaining a source of fun.


3
Melvyn Evans, Fishing Boats on Hastings Beach

Coast

With its unique atmosphere, geography, wildlife and communities, the coast has always drawn artists of every discipline. This is the first in a series of exhibitions where leading contemporary artists are invited to present their responses to a common theme and explore how it inspires their individual practice. Here the British coastline is celebrated through a range of media by artists including Angie Lewin, Pine Feroda and Michael Porter.


4
Albert Irvin, Almada, 1985

Albert Irvin and Abstract Expressionism

If you’ve had enough of the dark nights already, let a riot of bright colour into your life with this major retrospective of abstract expressionist Albert Irvin. Irvin himself was hugely inspired by the 1959 exhibition The New American Painting at Tate, and this show celebrates its 60th anniversary with works by US artists including Jackson Pollock, Grace Hartigan and Adolph Gottlieb. It’s also a chance to immerse yourself in the work of other UK abstract artists such as Gillian Ayres, Peter Lanyon and Sandra Blow.


5
Fernand Léger, Two Women Holding Flowers, 1954

Fernand Léger: New Times, New Pleasures

Painter, sculptor and filmmaker Fernand Léger took everything the first half of the 20th century could throw at him and put it into his work. Technologies and techniques including photography, typography and graphic design were all incorporated and this exhibition includes collaborations with architects Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand. This is the first major UK show of Léger in 30 years.


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