A Question of Guilt: A Crime Writer’s Collection at the Russel-Cotes Museum and Art Gallery Bournmouth

13th January 2018 – 15th April 2018

‘A Question of Guilt: A Crime Writer’s Collection’ features the private collection of crime writer Frances Fyfield, and asks the audience to look at each painting without prejudice, considering it through the eyes of a storyteller and imagine the character and motives of the person portrayed. The audience is invited to meet victims, charlatans, detectives, murderers, witnesses as well as mere onlookers.

Award-winning crime writer, Frances Fyfield, has written 24 novels featuring accidental murder, dental horrors, art theft, family feuds and other atrocities, leading to books of visual scenes which also emphasise the essential goodness of human nature.

In the meantime, she has been an assiduous collector of oil paintings, portraits and drawings by British artists, from 1890 to 1950. Based around her eclectic private collection of Bloomsbury/ British Modernist Art, including many anonymous painters, this exhibition is a show case for British twentieth century art, but it is also styled as a ‘Who dunnit’.

Each painting has its own potential story, while each character or scene may play a part in a wider story. Fyfield has written the captions for the exhibition, inviting the audience to become the detective too. So visitors are invited to come along, either to see fine British paintings from the Fyfield and Russell-Cotes Collection in their own right, or step back in time to an apparently gentler age of calling cards, cocktails, intrigue, fine hats and enmity. They can don their Sherlock Holmes style deer-stalkers and imagine themselves either Upstairs or Downstairs at a party that may go horribly wrong.

The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to see work by well-known artists including Walter Sickert, Frank Dobson, Duncan Grant, Evelyn Dunbar and Gwen John alongside less well-known and many unknown artists. Frances Fyfield has also selected out some paintings from the Russell-Cotes collection and devised the commentary in her own inimitable style.