The exhibitions you must see this September

Published 27 August 2019

It's a bumper month for exhibitions – from William Blake to Cézanne, to a Linda McCartney photography retrospective. Here's our pick of what to see this September.

If September is giving you that back-to-school feeling, embrace it! Alongside the big names, our pick of the month's exhibitions is full of amazing artists you might not have discovered yet (but really should).

Félix Vallotton was one of the most influential artists and printmakers of his age, but he's not nearly as well known in the UK as his contemporaries Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard. The Royal Academy is putting that right with an exhibition of his work; while in Glasgow a Linda McCartney retrospective offers unprecedented access to her personal archive.

Elsewhere you can find out why the Scottish Colourists have become so popular, explore a major private collection of Cézanne's drawings, experience William Blake's frescoes on the scale he imagined them, and much more. Time to get your swot on.

Most of our must-sees are free or 50% off with a National Art Pass, and there's plenty more to discover with our full exhibition listings.

Planning ahead? You can also check out our guide to autumn's blockbuster exhibitions.

Félix Vallotton, Sandbanks on the Loire (Des Sables au bord de la Loire), 1923

Félix Vallotton: Painter of Disquiet

A member of the Parisian group of artists that included Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard, Félix Vallotton is now known as one of the most distinctive artists and greatest printmakers of the early 20th century. This exhibition – the first comprehensive survey of his work in the UK – presents over 80 paintings and prints, including landscapes, portraits, satirical prints and psychologically tense interior scenes. The Royal Academy is offering visitors with a National Art Pass a special 50% off this exhibition, as well as 50% off the Helene Schjerfbeck exhibition ('one of Finland’s best kept secrets').

Linda McCartney, Paul, Glasgow, 1970

Linda McCartney Retrospective

She photographed the biggest names in music during the 1960s; now, this major retrospective of her work puts Linda McCartney herself in the spotlight. From iconic images to intimate family scenes, self-portraits and social commentary, the exhibition reveals the full range of McCartney’s interests and achievements. It also includes revealing archive material that has never been on public display before, such as a personal diary from the 1960s, photographic equipment and contact sheets.

William Blake, Capaneus the Blasphemer, 1824-1827

William Blake

Read the name William Blake and the word ‘visionary’ won't be far away. His influence as a poet and painter extends throughout the arts, across the world and over two centuries. This exhibition, showcasing over 300 rarely seen works, focuses on Blake the visual artist and the ambitions he held for his work. It includes frescoes that have been digitally enlarged to the huge scale Blake intended, with the original works nearby. Other highlights include his illuminated books such as Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794), and some of his best-known paintings including Newton (1795-c1805) and Ghost of a Flea (c1819-20).

Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, Inner Hebrides, Scotland

Burning Bright: The Scottish Colourists

This exhibition focuses on four radical painters working in the early 20th century whose early independent experiences of the French avant-garde put them ahead of most of their British contemporaries. SJ Peploe, JD Fergusson, GL Hunter and FCB Cadell never classed themselves as a separate group, but the 40 plus works on display at the Lightbox show how their continental approaches to colour, light and atmosphere earned them an international reputation – and led to them being collectively known as the Scottish Colourists.

Magdalene Odundo: The Journey of Things exhibition, Sainsbury Centre

Magdalene Odundo: The Journey of Things

Immerse yourself in the work and wide-ranging influences of one of the world’s pre-eminent ceramicists, Magdalene Odundo. As well as 50 of her own works, including the 1,001 glass pieces of Transition II, which are rearranged for every installation, the exhibition presents a selection of objects chosen by the artist. Spanning 3,000 years and tracing Odundo's journeys across the globe, they include sculpture by Auguste Rodin, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Edgar Degas, modern and contemporary pottery by artists such as Lucie Rie and Yinka Shonibare, ancient Greek and Egyption vessels, and historic works from Africa, Asia and Central America.


Beazley Designs of the Year

This is the 12th year of the exhibition that brings together the most exciting and original designs of the past 12 months in fashion, architecture, digital, transport, product and graphic design. In celebration of the museum's 30th anniversary, it's also the first year that the public have been invited to nominate designs alongside the experts. Past winners include architect David Adjaye for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby for the London 2012 Olympic Torch, and Min-Kyu Choi for Folding Plug.

Paul Cézanne, The Bathers (Large Plate), 1896-97

Cézanne at the Whitworth

Thanks to a generous long-term loan, the Whitworth now holds the UK’s most significant collection of works on paper by 19th-century artist Paul Cézanne, and understandably wants to show it off. This major exhibition is the first in the UK since 1973 to focus solely on Cézanne’s prints and drawings – many of which were only discovered after his death – revealing his range and expertise as a draughtsman and his deep study of Old Masters.

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Box Factory Fire, 1948

Creative Tensions: The Penwith Society of Arts 1949-1960

In 1949, a group of artists including Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham broke away from the St Ives Society of Artists, which they thought too traditional, and founded the Penwith Society of Arts. The group became a powerhouse of modern and abstract art but was also known for the personal and creative conflicts that arose between its members. This exhibition presents a range of work produced by the society, and examines the group's impact as well as its internal tensions.

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