Welcome back , you are logged in

Happy Christmas from RAMM!
World Cultures Galleries are closed for redevelopment
Café will be closed Christmas Eve

The Fair Toxophilites, William Powell Frith

The Fair Toxophilites, a painting from RAMM's Fine Art collection

Fine Art

RAMM’s Fine Art collection comprises over 8,000 objects in an eclectic mix of paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints and sculpture, representing important British artists and also celebrating the Museum’s location in the South West.

The collection is strong in portraiture and has a large collection of landscape paintings, primarily of Devon and Exeter by local and national artists. Later the collecting policy broadened to take in other British and European art, including Victorian. There is also a collection of 20th century artworks.

Explore RAMM’s Fine Art Collection on Collections Explorer

Paintings

RAMM’s painting collection ranges from 16th to 20th century portraiture, landscapes, genre and Modern. Before the photograph, painting alone offered recorded evidence of what people or events looked like. Categories of paintings are very varied from portraiture to landscapes, still life to genre pictures, to modern British abstract paintings. RAMM’s painting collection covers all these areas across many periods. The collection contains works by Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Patch, Francis Hayman, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Benjamin Robert Haydon, Francis Danby, William Powell Frith, William Etty, Stanhope Forbes, Terry Frost, Duncan Grant, amongst others.

Portraiture

Portraiture (or ‘portrait painting’) in England has a long history, and this is represented in RAMM’s collection. In the making of a portrait, the relationship between artist and sitter is a complicated one, in which physical likeness is affected by the artist’s style and the sitter’s intentions.

In the eighteenth century, portraits were a staple of artistic production, even in the provinces. Although the aristocracy and gentry dominated the ranks of sitters, artists were also keen to make self-portraits. In addition artists also wanted to record the likenesses of their families, friends and colleagues, along with writers, actors and fellow artists. Although the invention of photography threatened the portrait industry, it remained an important artistic genre and is still significant today.

The significant portrait collection at RAMM features works by early 17th century artists to well known artists such as Pompeo Batoni, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Hudson and Richard Crosse.

Landscape and Locality

The landscape pictures in RAMM’s collection encompass wild moorland and wooded river valleys, spring orchards and ships on the shore.

The images in the collection are primarily of places removed from industry and urban growth. Whereby most of the pictures are of rural or coastal landscapes rather than their urban counterpart. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries this was to be expected; Devon was attractive to artists for its picturesque appeal at a time when landscape art was dominant. However, when twentieth-century artists chose to paint rural Devon they were working away from the preoccupations of the advanced art of their time.

After a successful exhibition on early Devon painters in 1932 more emphasis was placed on collecting works by local landscape artists. Paintings by artists born in or associated with Devon form a core of the Museum’s collection of paintings. The collection contains works by important artists from the mid 18th to the early 20th century. Included are works by Francis Towne, John White Abbott, Francis Hayman, Thomas Luny, John Gendall and a significant collection of works by William Widgery and Frederick John Widgery.

As well as the local artists and scenes, the Museum also holds a collection of landscape painting, in which are works by Richard Wilson, Joseph Wright of Derby and Thomas Patch.

Discover the landscapes on Collections Explorer

Victorian Paintings

There are superb examples from the Victorian period in RAMM’s collection which include works by William Powell Frith, Frank Holl, and Edward J Poynter (1836-1919). These paintings were acquired by the Museum via gifts and bequests and offer a unique insight into Victorian picture-collecting practice.

The paintings are primarily British and range from ‘sentimental’ paintings by Kate Greenaway and John Wainwright; to a post Pre-Raphaelite painting by Poynter; to Landscape and Portraiture by Danby and Frith. Frith’s work The Fair Toxophilites is of the artist’s children and is one of RAMM’s most well-known Victorian paintings.

Twentieth Century

RAMM also has a collection of early-to-mid 20th century paintings, prints and drawings. The Fine Art collection holds paintings by members of the Camden Town Group such as Walter Sickert, Harold Gilman and Lucien Pissarro. The collection also contains works by members of the St Ives School together with individual paintings by John Nash, William Roberts, John Minton, Duncan Grant and William Walcot.

The collection also holds works by Barbara Hepworth and the groups and schools with which they were associated (e.g. Bloomsbury School, Euston Road School). We also have a small selection of works by war artists acquired via the War Artists Advisory Committee by artists such as Paul Nash (1889-1946), William Lionel Clause (1887-1946) and Albert Charles Bown.

Watercolours

The Museum’s superb collection of watercolours consists of around 1500 works and shows the range and breadth of this very popular British medium. Watercolour has been prized by artists for its delicacy and luminosity. Effects of brilliancy and clarity are achieved by the layering of semi-transparent washes of pure colour on white or tinted paper.

Browse the watercolours on Collections Explorer

Watercolour is a versatile medium, allowing a number of different effects to be produced through the use of various techniques. This versatility, alongside the medium’s small scale, and relative cheapness compared to oil paint, has added to its popularity.

Over the centuries, a wide range of artists have used watercolour. Medieval artists in Britain used the medium to illuminate manuscripts. Later in the 17th century watercolour was used by artists painting portrait miniatures. It was not until the 18th century, however, that a particularly British watercolour tradition began to develop.

The collection of watercolours features work by John White Abbott, Francis Towne, Samuel Prout, William Payne and George Townsend, as well as work by John Constable, Benjamin Robert Haydon, Frederick John Widgery and Edward Burra.

The Golden Age of British Watercolours

The period between 1750 and 1850 is known as the Golden Age of British Watercolours. At the beginning of this period, watercolour was used to represent topographical views, mainly picturesque views of town and country. At first, artists used watercolour to add colour to line drawings. Still working within the ‘tinted drawing’ tradition, Francis Towne and John White Abbott explored the more painterly effects which could be achieved with watercolour.

As artists began to explore the possibilities of the medium further, drawing became less important. By the 1800s, the British watercolour tradition was at its peak. Artists John Constable, Joseph Mallord and William Turner exploited the full potential of the medium to realise atmospheric effects of light and weather conditions.

Devon and Exeter in Watercolours

As well as reflecting the development of the medium, the Museum’s watercolour collection tells the story of its use in representing Devon and Exeter from the 18th century to the present day. The works demonstrate the special and long-lasting relationship of watercolour artists with the unique Devon landscape.

Drawings

Drawing is the most immediate form of artistic expression. It is often the first step in most painting, sculpture and architecture. Some drawings are independent works in their own right. The Museum’s collection of drawings contains fine examples showing a range of drawing practices and techniques.

Browse the drawings on Collections Explorer

A large number of drawings in the collection tell the story of the importance of drawing to artistic training. Academies of art expected artists to have mastered the technique of copying from casts, followed by life models, before they were allowed to progress to paint.

Learning from life and the Old Masters

Artists not trained in the academy also drew from life and the antique as a means of understanding anatomy, or copied the works of the Old Masters to help them understand composition and technique. The collection contains works by Samuel Cousins, John Constable, Benjamin Robert Haydon, Philip Henry Gosse, Frederick John Widgery, Barbara Hepworth and Paul Nash. Drawings can also serve as a note or study for further work in the studio.

Collections of drawings

Benjamin Robert Haydon, Frederick John Widgery and John Constable are artists who used drawings as memory aids for later works. Bound volumes of over 100 drawings by Constable and Haydon were bequeathed to the city of Exeter in 1897 and entered the Museum’s collections in 1978. Frederick John Widgery donated a large selection of his own work to the Museum in 1931.

Prints

Prints are valued for their mechanical and technical aspects, as well as aesthetic merits. This collection contains a wide and fascinating range of subject matter and techniques in works dating from the 16th to the mid 20th century.

Explore a selection of prints on Collections Explorer

One of the largest groups represented in the collection is of topographical interest with subject matter relating to the buildings and landscapes of Exeter and Devon. They allow us to visualise the changing landscape through time. Some prints depict historic events in both city and county. Many of these prints date from the 18th and 19th centuries, when they were issued in book or folio form.

Commercial engraved portraits

Engraved portraits also form a second group of several hundred works from both Britain and Europe. These prints were produced for sale in large numbers during the 18th and 19th centuries. They depict an extensive range of subjects from the worlds of royalty, politics, science, literature and the arts, to eminent military and naval figures.

Modern printmaking

This collection contains outstanding examples of modern printmaking contained in the collections include late 19th century commercially-produced prints such as those by London Transport and Empire Marketing Board posters from 1910 onwards and 20th century limited edition lithographs such works by artists like Graham Sutherland and Paul Nash.

Sculpture

The Museum has a small sculpture collection which contains work ranging from Medieval to Modern.

The oldest piece is an impressive carved-oak altarpiece from the Netherlands, which dates from the late 15th century. There is a selection of works by John Angel (1881-1960) and other early late 19th and 20th century classical pieces by sculptors such as Antonio Canova (after), Frederick J Halnon (1881-1958) and Henri Fonderie (attrib.).

Other highlights include sculptural works and reliefs by such prominent modern British artists as Mary Martin, Barbara Hepworth, Michael Ayrton and Peter Thursby.

Contemporary Art

Without active acquisitions future generations soon become denied access to ideas and material culture from their past. To complement the 2007-11 development project a role for contemporary artists was created in the design process for the new build and the interpretation of the museum collections.

RAMM commissioned three artists whose work is an integral element to the museum now it is open. The works will remain as a permanent contemporary art legacy in the new life of the museum.

The artist selection has been made on quality of work and ambition of ideas, proven ability to execute commissions and collaborate with others. It was important also to select artists whose practice is not principally making site-specific commissions of this kind and that the group reflected a range of artistic traditions and possibilities found in contemporary art.

The artists we worked with on the three commissions were Maria Lalic (b.1952), Nicky Hirst (b.1963) and Michelle McKinney (b.1977).

Terms & Conditions

These terms and conditions (Terms) apply to the entire contents of this website. Please read these Terms carefully before using this website. Using this website indicates that you accept these Terms. If you do not accept these Terms, please do not use this website.
  1. These Terms shall constitute an agreement between you and us and shall set out the conditions upon which you may access the information available on this website
  2. We reserve the right to change these Terms, at any time and to notify you by posting an updated version of these Terms on this website, at which point they will become immediately effective
  3. Your continued use of this website after any changes referred to in clause 2 shall constitute your consent to such changes
  4. Access to this website may be suspended temporarily and without notice in the case of system failure, maintenance or repair, or for reasons beyond our control
  5. We reserve the right to, without notice, withdraw the availability of this website or any of its content and/or any of its functions, information or services
  6. We cannot guarantee uninterrupted and/or reliable access to this website and we make no guarantees whatsoever as to its operation, functionality or otherwise
  7. You are allowed to view, download and print out content from this website for personal use only in accordance with these Terms. All other copying whether electronic, hard copy or other format is prohibited and all other rights are reserved
  8. You shall only use this website in a manner that is consistent with these Terms and in such a way as to comply with all applicable laws and regulations and in particular, that you shall not (or not attempt to):
    • seek unauthorised access to our network or computer system
    • insert or knowingly or recklessly transmit or distribute a virus into our network and computer systems
  9. All copyright and all other intellectual property rights existing in this website (including, but not limited to, all design, text, graphics and the selection or arrangement thereof) are and remain our property
  10. The expression 'copyright' shall include the entire copyright, design right, rental right, right to authorise or prohibit lending and data right subsisting now or created at any time
  11. While we endeavour to ensure that the information contained on this website is accurate, complete and up-to-date, we make no representations or warranties, whether express or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for purpose of such information
  12. We make no representations or warranties, whether express or implied, that this website or any software of any nature available on, downloaded or otherwise obtained from it, will be free from defects or viruses. Your use of this website is at your own risk
  13. We make no representations or warranties as to whether the information available on this website complies with the regulatory regime of countries from which the pages of this website may be accessed
  14. We may log your IP address (which indicates the location of your computer on the Internet) for the purpose of systems administration and troubleshooting.
  15. If you provide your e-mail address in order to submit an enquiry, comment or request for further information, we may contact you regarding your enquiry, comment or request. We may also send e-mails to you about the services that we offer.
  16. From time to time we may provide your information to our marketing or IT departments for research and analysis purposes so that we can monitor and improve the services we provide. We may occasionally contact you by post, email or telephone to ask you for your feedback and comments on our services.
  17. The failure by us to insist on any occasion upon performance of these Terms shall not thereby act as a waiver of such a breach or an acceptance of any variation of these Terms
  18. A person who is not a party to these Terms may not enforce any of its terms or conditions under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999
  19. These Terms shall be governed by, construed and enforced in all respects in accordance with the Laws of England