News | Published: Tue 6 May 2008

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Forthcoming exhibition and conference explores Sir Sydney Cockerell, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum (1908-1937)

A new exhibition will celebrate one of the most enriching periods in the history of the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Directorship of Sir Sydney Cockerell.

'I turned it into a palace': Sydney Cockerell and The Fitzwilliam Museum (4 November 2008 - 17 March 2009) examines Cockerell's close relationship with leading artists, writers and collectors of the period, including John Ruskin, William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Thomas Hardy, and George Bernard Shaw. It will also explore his enormous impact on museum design and display in the early twentieth century.

This exhibition will bring together for the first time Cockerell's most spectacular acquisitions. Some of them, such as Titian's Tarquin and Lucretia or the ancient Greek vases, are among the Museum's iconic exhibits. Many more, however, are treasures rarely seen by the public, for instance the works of William Blake, William Morris' Kelmscott Press books, Keats' autograph manuscript of Ode to a Nightingale, and the superb collection of medieval illuminated manuscripts.

A number of these exceptional works of art were acquired by the Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum, a group founded by Cockerell in 1909. To mark their centenary, the exhibition will conclude with the Macclesfield Psalter: the acquisition which attracted their most generous contribution ever and the largest public support in the history of the Fitzwilliam Museum.

'I turned it into a palace' will also be accompanied by a major conference to be held at The Fitzwilliam Museum from 7-9 December 2008. Art, Academia, and the Trade: Sir Sydney Cockerell will explore the complex relationship between scholarship, the public display of art, private collecting, and the auction room in the early twentieth century, and create a forum for discussing the modern-day legacy of this relationship. Those wishing to attend are advised to book early, as places are limited.

More about the conference Art, Academia, and the Trade: Sir Sydney Cockerell

More about the exhibition 'I turned it into a palace'


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