‘Journeys in Art’  An exhibition of paintings and sculpture by Alexander Hollweg

Released On 9th Oct 2023

‘Journeys in Art’ An exhibition of paintings and sculpture by Alexander Hollweg

The artist Alexander Hollweg (1936–2020) lived for many years on the Nettlecombe estate in West Somerset, home to a creative community of artists, musicians and writers. It inspired his most famous work ‘County Dance’ that depicts a bucolic and joyful scene of people rediscovering nature. A collection of discarded Edwardian toys, discovered in the stables there, were also to provide the inspiration for his seminal exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1971. Hollweg would later say that in leaving London the family ‘sold a house and bought a way of life’. A new exhibition, running at the Museum of Somerset from 14 November to 9 March, celebrates his life and work. ‘Journeys in Art’, will be the largest ever show of Hollweg’s art and will feature paintings and sculpture from across the six decades of his career. The museum has been working with the Hollweg family and The Court Gallery for over two years to uncover artworks and stories about the artist.

The exhibition will display watercolours of pastoral and industrial scenes inspired by Hollweg’s life in Somerset and London. Local depictions include the hamlet of Yarde, Willett Tower and Watchet, a place Hollweg loved. Portraits and still life paintings also feature, together with prints and archival material. Visitors will be able to see some of the 40 painted wooden sculptures that were exhibited at Hollweg’s first major exhibition, held at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 1971. It was this show which led to his work being exhibited internationally, including in Italy and New York. One of Hollweg’s largest and most ambitious commissions, a mural for the Charlotte Street Hotel in London, was completed in 2000. The mural is a remarkably assured technical and artistic achievement that draws on a lifetime of accumulated knowledge.

Sarah Cox, Exhibition Curator, said: “Hollweg worked for many years from his studio at Nettlecombe creating art that translates the ordinary and everyday into surprising, often humorous, reflections on modern life. In this quiet corner of West Somerset he and his wife, Geraldine, forged a life centred around family, community, music and art. As well as painting and sculpting he loved to play music with his band Dr Jazz, and was a member of the Watchet brass band.”

Hollweg was raised in a creative and intellectual family. His grandfather was the leading British modernist painter Edward Wadsworth, his mother the writer Barbara Wadsworth, and his father the German Olympic Ice Hockey player Joachim von Bethmann-Hollweg. Having studied languages at New College, Oxford, he arrived at Camberwell School of Art in 1960, and there began his long association with arts schools, first as a student and later as a teacher.

He married Geraldine James, a fellow Oxford student, in 1962. At first they lived in London while Hollweg was teaching at Maidstone College and also working as an artist. But soon their friendship with John and Pat Wolseley of Nettlecombe drew them to West Somerset where they became key figures in the artistic community that was developing there. By 1973 the family included their son Lucas and daughter Rececca, and Nettlecombe became their permanent home. It inspired Hollweg’s best-known work, the woodcut ‘Country Dance’, now in the collections of the Tate.

The Museum is also working with East Quay, in West Somerset, who are hosting an associated exhibition of new and existing work by Sam Francis. Using Hollweg’s ‘Country Dance’ as a starting point, Francis is taking a deeper look at the creative culture and mythologies of the Nettlecombe estate and surrounding area. In addition, Francis will display her film ‘In Here Dreaming’, a work commissioned by Arnolfini to respond to a performance piece ‘Somerset – A Year in the Life of a Field, by fellow Nettlecombe and Somerset artist Lizzie Cox. The exhibition ‘People Came For Tea and Stayed Forever’ is open 20 January to 12 May.

Admission to the Museum and exhibition is free, with donations welcome.

Visit museumofsomerset.org.uk for more information.