About Us

The Friends supported Bristol Art Gallery from 1947 to 2018. In that time, we helped with the acquisition of more than 350 works of art including paintings, watercolours, drawings, sculpture, rare pottery, glass, antique and modern silver, and contemporary jewellery. One of the gallery’s most popular paintings — Lady Honywood (b.1763) and her Daughter by Sir Joshua Reynolds came to Bristol courtesy of The Friends.
Frank Dicksee’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Major contributions to the improved presentation of the city’s collections were made in 2006, when The Friends grant of £40,000 funded the refurbishment of Gallery 7 now full of fine glass, silver and beautiful paintings of the Bristol School. More recently, a grant of £50,000 by The Friends enabled the refurbishment of Gallery 6 now rehung with paintings from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, with Frank Dicksee’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci as its centrepiece.

From January 2014 to December 2015 alone, The Friends gave over £80,000 to Bristol Art Gallery.

Red Gate
In the field of applied art, the range is from early Bristol porcelain to the Lazarus collection of almost 200 items of antique glass. The Friends are proud also to have enabled the acquisition of many fine items of porcelain and stoneware from the Far East. In 2013 The Friends helped acquire Red Gate, one of a series of City Gates sculptures by the Chinese artist Guan Donghai 关东海.

The Historic Houses have also benefited: in recent years the Friends have assisted with the restoration of the statue of Sir Charles Wetherell, now standing in an alcove in the Red Lodge garden; the makeover of the Georgian House garden; and restoration of a splendid carpet from the House.

Fruits of My Life
The Friends also supported Art in M Shed. The Galleries here contain 50 paintings, all related to Bristol, many of which were either fully or partly funded by The Friends. We also funded two commissions by internationally renowned artists with Bristol roots – Kate Malone’s Lady Gourd, ‘Fruits of my Life’ in the People gallery, and Richard Long’s very large, eye-catching ‘River Avon Muddy River  Walk’ covering a lobby wall.

Bristol has a flourishing number of street artists, and they too have not been overlooked: for example, The Friends helped with the purchase of the dramatic ‘Concrete Form II’ painting by Ziml in 2010.

Crucially, the funds The Friends were able to help secure further funding from larger organisations including Arts Council England, Victoria & Albert Museum’s Purchase Grant Fund or The Art Fund. Having local financial support for an acquisition is now vital before approaching national institutions for further funding. So our ability to even partially fund a purchase or project was key to it happening at all.

Collectively, the art which the Friends have helped Bristol Art Gallery acquire over the years would today cost millions of pounds to purchase.

Bristol Museums and Art Galleries were also supported by a sister Charity, Friends of BMGA, and in 2018 the two charities merged.

The Friends was run by a volunteer committee and was a non-profit, registered charity.