Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Curator Sophie Cummings at the new exhibition at the Civic Offices. Here, she is standing beside a painting by Harold Dearden (1888-1969), who was the Head of Swindon School of Art for more than 30 years. The piece depicts a rural scene on the Marlborough Downs.

The Council’s Civic building has become a new home for a selection of items in Swindon’s prized art collection.

The new pop-up art exhibition, which represents the second phase of the Council’s Art on Tour project, officially opened at the Civic Offices today (21 Oct) and features art by some of Britain’s most important painters, as well as artists with a strong connection to Wiltshire and Swindon.

The Art on Tour project, which kicked off at the STEAM Museum in September, sees the Council displaying Swindon’s art collection at various locations around the town, bringing the work to a wider audience.

The collections are currently housed at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery on Bath Road, but the museum’s potential for reaching a wide audience is generally considered to be quite limited, with space at a premium and school visits not being easy to accommodate.

The success of the STEAM exhibition has convinced the Council to display more artworks at another location – and the Civic Offices on Euclid Street have been deemed the perfect place.

Eighteen paintings are currently on show at the Civic and include work by, among others, Claude Francis Barry, Roger Fry, Sylvia Gosse and Desmond Morris, whose abstract portrait of Swindon actress Diana Dors is on display.

Also featured is David Bent’s contemporary digital collage, ‘Mr & Mrs Aerobot and Babybot’, which was acquired by the museum in 2017 as part of a project to celebrate Wiltshire artists, not to mention a colourful seascape of Studland Bay in 1911 and Claude Francis Barry’s striking wartime painting of Tower Bridge silhouetted by search lights, which was presented to Swindon in 1946 by local business man Frederick Charles Phelps.

The pieces will be on display for the next six months and are free to view when the Civic is open.

Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Curator Sophie Cummings at the new exhibition at the Civic Offices. Here, she is standing beside a painting by Claude Francis Barry (1883-1970). It depicts Tower Bridge during the Blitz. The painting was given to Swindon by Frederick Phelps, who helped fund Swindon’s Garden of Remembrance in Queen’s Park.

Cllr Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Town Centre, said: “I have always said that art should be seen and it’s a real shame to think that these important pieces aren’t reaching the audiences they deserve.

“I would like to issue a massive thank you to everybody who has been involved in putting these travelling exhibitions together and I would encourage as many people as possible to head down to the Civic, free of charge, to see the paintings.”

The Art on Tour project will continue to share Swindon’s collections in new and creative ways. If local residents would like to learn more about the project, or have suggestions for civic and public buildings in Swindon where collections could be displayed, please contact swindonmag@swindon.gov.uk.