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Bewdley Museum to host major new art exhibition

Bewdley Museum is to stage a major new art exhibition next month, featuring works of national significance highlighting the lives of four extraordinary Victorian women.

The Macdonald Sisters, due to open on Monday 17 May, tells the stories of Alice, Georgiana, Agnes and Louisa Macdonald. Born into an unremarkable Victorian family, they went on to forge connections with some of the most celebrated artists and thinkers of their time including William Morris, Ford Maddox Brown and John Ruskin.

Alice was mother to Rudyard Kipling; Georgiana married the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones; Louisa was the mother of Bewdley’s own three-time prime Minister Stanley Baldwin; and Agnes married Edward Poynter, artist and President of the Royal Academy.

Although remembered by many for the men in their lives, the sisters were not only muses and mothers, but accomplished artists, musicians and writers in their own right – intelligent and talented women held back by the expectations of the era.

The exhibition tells the stories of the sister’s intertwined lives, taking the visitor from an itinerant childhood which included periods in Birmingham and Wolverhampton, to colonial India, and London high society. Paintings on display include: two of Edward Burne-Jones’ earliest watercolours, Sidonia von Bork and Clara von Bork; A Sweetmeat Seller of Lahore by John Lockwood Kipling; and Georgiana Macdonald’s Dead Bird – one of the few surviving examples of her work.

This is the first time that Bewdley Museum has shown artworks from national collections. The loans are supported by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund. Created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund, the Weston Loan Programme is the first ever UK-wide funding scheme to enable smaller and local authority museums to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections.

Sophia Weston, Trustee of the Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “The story of the Macdonald sisters is fascinating and provides a unique lens through which to look at Victorian society. We are delighted that our programme has enabled Bewdley Museum to display artworks from national collections for the first time, it is exactly the kind of project that it exists to support.”

Councillor Graham Ballinger, the Leader of Wyre Forest District Council, said: “This is a real coup for Bewdley Museum and will be the first time visitors will be able to see works from national collections on display in the town.

“Bewdley has such strong links with Stanley Baldwin, local man and former Prime Minister, whose statue now stands outside the entrance to the museum.  I’m sure this exhibition will prove to be a big hit with local residents and visitors from further afield.”

The Macdonald Sisters runs Monday 17 May to Sunday 15 August 2021. Entrance to the exhibition is £4 (free for under 16s and Friends of Bewdley Museum).  The exhibition will be open daily from 11am to 4pm. No booking is required, but social distancing will be maintained.