Best Foot Forward for Shoe Capital's Gallery Offerings

by Cass Art

Northampton, a town globally synonymous with shoes, has a foothold in the best of Britain's art traditions too.

Northampton Museum & Art Gallery, Guildhall Road, pays homage to its shoe-making legacy with the world's largest collection of historical footwear. Designated as being of international significance, it is home to 12,000 shoes.

Fin de Siècle, which is being showcased until March 16, highlights some of the wonderfully elegant footwear from the Golden Age (1871-1914). This small display can be viewed in the Shoe Lounge.

But the museum is not just about shoes. Art from the Golden Age, which runs until March 23, complements Fin de Siècle by exhibiting portraits and landscapes from the same period. This is an era laced with growing affluence, scientific breakthrough and artistic freedom just before the start of World War One. It features pieces by Harold Speed, John Collier, Frank Brangwyn and Walter Greaves and sculpture by Paul Gauguin among others.

Landscapes and Townscapes, which art lovers can view until March 9, examines the work of Northampton artist Mark McMurdie. McMurdie nurtured a passion for photography which has helped shape his life as a professional lensman and a fine art teacher at Duston School. He has had his works displayed at the Royal Academy and the Barbican.

78 Derngate has deservedly won itself a glowing reputation as an uplifting, snug venue. As recently as 2009, it scooped the Enjoy England Excellence Award for Best Small Visitor Attraction in England. One of its main specialisms is contemporary craft. Saturday (February 1) sees the start of its exhibition of Tom Osborne Robinson's World War One posters, which runs until April 6. The same timespan also accommodates its Unguarded Moments display. This is a chance to view the inimitable sketches and small original oil paintings of local artist Chris Fiddes, who describes himself as a "social realist".

This exhibition is curated in conjunction with the Primrose Gallery, Harborough Road, Kingsthorpe, which calls itself the "region's premier art location". It exhibits exquisite local, national and international original art, fine limited editions and high-quality original prints and etchings.

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