Old master and contemporary work in Woburn Artbeat

Philip Blacker's Flanders Mud
Philip Blacker's Flanders Mud

A RE-discovered old master and the very best in modern paintings and sculptures feature in this year’s Woburn ArtBeat which began on Friday. Artbeat is an annual exhibition, now in its third year, which uses the entire village and the stately grounds of Woburn Abbey to showcase high quality contemporary artists.

This year the very new are joined by something very old. A newly authenticated Rembrandt masterpiece has gone on show for the first time at Woburn Abbey.

Renaissance by Maurice Bilk

Renaissance by Maurice Bilk

More than 100 artists have been selected to feature throughout the village until April 27 and exhibit in the gardens of Woburn Abbey from now until the end of August, to fund projects in local schools and sponsor a talented artist for a year of study.

The Abbey already houses one of the most important private collections of sculpture, porcelain, furniture and over 250 paintings by artists including Gainsborough, Reynolds, Van Dyck and Cuyp. The present Duke and Duchess continue their patronage by opening up the Abbey Gardens in support of the Artbeat project.

There are more than 70 pieces, by 28 sculptors, placed around the gardens giving visitors the opportunity to see work by established bronze sculptors like Maurice Blik, Kate Denton, and well known equine sculptor Philip Blacker.

Large scale abstract sculptures in cast aluminium by Jonathan Clarke appear in the gardens along with stone sculptures by Peter Randall-Page, Nicolas Moreton and William Peers.

“We are really excited and confident to create a truly unique and exciting experience for our visitors to enjoy, learn, interact and experience art and sculpture, in such a beautiful setting,” said creative director Johann Bester of Bedford Street Gallery, Woburn.

*Until recently an original oil painting entitled Portrait of an Old Man or The Old Rabbi had hung in a private room at the home of the 15th Duke and Duchess of Bedford until expert Professor Ernst Van De Wetering was invited to Woburn last year to study the portrait. His conclusion was that it could only have been painted by the Dutch old master.

Woburn Abbey general manager Jonathan Irby said: “This is quite a discovery and a fine addition to one of the greatest private collections of Dutch art anywhere in the UK.

“We are very excited about bringing this exquisite painting into the public eye, especially since visitors will be able to get within a few inches of it. The opportunity to discover a ‘new’ Rembrandt will provide an even more memorable day for our visitors in 2012.”

For more information about Artbeat go to www.woburnartbeat.co.uk