Items acquired with the help of the Friends
One way that the Friends of The Bowes Museum can help and support the Museum is with financial assistance for projects such as acquisitions, conservation, publishing and the purchase of essential equipment for display.
The first acquisition, made in 1959, was the magnificent chandelier, bought for the princely sum of £400, which still draws the eyes of visitors as they enter the Museum. The two beautiful Canaletto paintings, displayed on loan from 1972, were purchased with the help of the Friends in 1982. In subsequent years, other paintings have been acquired with their help, including watercolours by Turner and paintings depicting race horses owned by John Bowes. The latest of these was the painting of Daniel O’Rourke, which won the Epsom Derby in the 1850’s, bought at auction in 2011, for £18,000 with grants and the support of the Friends.
Other collections have also been added to throughout the years, sometimes through the purchase of large collections, like the Enid Goldblatt porcelain collection and library in 1985, or more recently a Sevres saucer, purchased at auction and reunited with its matching cup, already on display in the Museum. Sculptures, bronzes, items of furniture and many more acquisitions have been made with the Friends support. To mark the 60th Anniversary of the Friends, an Art Decor stained glass panel by Jacques Gruber was purchased at auction and cleaned, restored and displayed in a purpose-built wooden case. It stands on the second floor as a beautiful reminder of the support the Friends have given to the Museum through the last 60 years and that they aim to continue to give in the years to come.
As well as helping with acquisitions, the Friends have also supported renovations and improvements to the building, such as the refurbishment of the main gates, the development of the Streatlam Gallery and the award winning Fashion and Textiles Gallery which draws admiring visitors from all over the world. The acquisition of three stunning dresses by the Parisian couturier Madeleine Vionnet was made possible by the Friends support of The Bowes Museum’s purchase in conjunction with The V & A and the Fashion Museum, Bath, saving a total of nine items from export. Individual exhibitions receive the support of the Friends, most recently the very popular exhibition of shoes by Vivienne Westwood.
In keeping with their aims to support education, the Friends have developed close links with the Education department, housed in the refurbished vaults and support their special events and exhibitions, such as the Egyptian event in the Summer of 2011, which saw more than 1,000 children enter the Egyptian Trail competition.
Work on the restoration and conservation of individual items also receive the Friends’ support, including keyboards from the 18th and 19th centuries which are now not only displayed, but also played at Friends’ Music Group concerts in the magnificent surroundings of the Music Room. And what would The Bowes Museum be without the iconic Silver Swan, which has been restored and stands proudly in the newly refurbished picture galleries.