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William Simmonds' 'Puppets & Paintings' Exhibition in Gloucester

William Simmonds' 'Puppets & Paintings' Exhibition in Gloucester

Strings pulled to get puppeteer’s rare painting on display

A rare painting by a Gloucestershire puppeteer, artist and sculptor goes on display at the Museum of Gloucester next month.

‘Fairies Frolic’ is one of just a few of William Simmonds’ paintings in a public collection. Painted in 1907, it’s thought to have only been shown at the Royal Academy before disappearing for decades. It was only discovered 1985 after Simmonds’ death in his abandoned workshop. 

This newly conserved painting is a jewel in the crown of the enchanting exhibition, ‘The Magical World of William Simmonds: Puppets and Paintings’, being shown from next month at the Museum of Gloucester.

To see the exhibition is to step in to Simmonds’ mind, filled with magical woodland creatures and comical circus clowns, all created from his imagination. His diaries are full of references to animals and birds that he saw, drew and carved while living in Far Oakridge near Stroud.

‘Puppets and Paintings’ is an exhibition not only of Simmonds’ work, but that of his wife Eve and their many artist friends who lived in Gloucestershire. Loans from private owners and museums bring to life the vibrant artistic community that lived in the county during Simmonds’ life (1876-1968). The exhibition includes work by William Rothenstein, Charles March Gere, Phyllis Barron, Dorothy Larcher and others.

The exhibition curator, social anthropologist and photographer Dr Jacqueline Sarsby, says, “She’s really pleased this exhibition has come to fruition”.

“I started this exhibition of his work years ago, so it’s very exciting that it’s finally happening. His work is so very good and the puppets are particularly special: they’re exquisitely carved, painted and dressed, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to see them.

“This exhibition is also a showcase of important and successful female artists such as Barron and Larcher, Louise Powell, and her sister Therese Lessore, who all lived in Gloucestershire at various times.”

Cllr Steve Morgan, Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, says, “The exhibition is part of the county’s arts and crafts legacy”.

“The variety of work in this exhibition highlights how skilled the artists were in a number of areas, at a time when many skills had been lost as a result of the industrial revolution.

“It’s also a very intriguing collection of work, that I’m sure will captivate visitors of all ages. The puppets are full of character and so beautifully and carefully made, it’s fantastic that the Museum of Gloucester can display them.”

‘The Magical World of William Simmonds: Puppets and Paintings’ is on display at the Museum of Gloucester from Saturday 12 October 2019 to Saturday 18 April 2020. Tickets are £5 for adults, £3 for concessions.

Explore Gloucestershire
7 October 2019

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