Top Exhibitions to catch before the end of 2016

From the themes of Jeff Koons to ancient cities discovered beneath the sea, there is a wealth of art to see this year

By Nicholas Yiannitsaros

The year flies past. We are already half way through, but there is so much still to see in the art world before 2017 begins. Read our list of the best exhibitions to see this year around the country, from York to London.

‘Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War’
York Art Gallery, York, until 4 September, 2016Anna Airy Women Working
The newly refurbished York Art Gallery, which only reopened its doors to the public last summer, is playing host to this enormously successful exhibition from the Imperial War Museum.

The show features many artists who painted from experience, including John Nash and C.R.W. Nevinson, as well as official war artists, including, Anna Airy. Her work celebrates the contribution of women working in wartime Britain, but her genderless and faceless figures focus on a determined and hard working patriotic force regardless of gender. This exhibition brings together a range of materials and points of view on the First World War in this, one of its centenary years.
(01904 687687;

‘The English Rose: Feminine Beauty from Van Dyck to Sargent’
The Bowes Museum, County Durham, until 25 September, 2016

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The subject of women in art is one that runs through art history, and the discussion continues into today as more and more female artists break into the mainstream art world. The Bowes Museum in Country Durham has put together a collection of works from between the 17th and 20th centuries to explore the idea of feminine beauty, and the ever sought after ideal of the ‘English Rose’.

This show highlights individuality, such as in the personalities of sisters Elizabeth and Mary Linley, as well as Mary Beale, one of the few female artists from this period who are well known today.

(01833 690606;

‘Noble Prospects: Capability Brown & the Yorkshire Landscape’
Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate, until 11 September, 2016

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of one of the most recognisable names in English garden design history. Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-1783) is best known for his campaigning of the picturesque, ‘Arcadian’, gardens with their sprawling, lush landscapes and water features.

The Mercer Art Gallery has brought together materials surrounding the designer and his world, including portraits of the man himself and his high–profile clientele. The exhibition highlights Brown’s works in Yorkshire, curated in collaboration with the Yorkshire Gardens Trust, which include the original plans and drawings of the gardens.

(01423 556188;

‘Celebrating Charlotte Brontë: 1816 – 1855’
National Portrait Gallery, London, until 14 August, 2016

2016 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the eldest of the famous Brontë sisters, and author of the evocative Jane Eyre. The National Portrait Gallery brings together important items and artworks on loan from the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth, such as letters, journals and even clothes, as well as first editions of Jane Eyre.

The display also includes the enigmatic group portrait of the three sisters by Patrick Branwell Brontë, as well as portraits of Charlotte’s own friends and associates like Elizabeth Gaskell, Lord Byron, and the Duke of Wellington. The exhibition presents an insight into the life, work, and relationships, of one of Britain’s most famous writers.

(02073 060055;

‘Inspiring Impressionism: Daubigny, Monet and Van Gogh’
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, until 2 October, 2016Impressionism exhibition

The Impressionist movement in the late 19th-century remains one of the most popular moments in art history, both in pop culture and in art criticism. The Scottish National Gallery aims to look into the origins and the unsung heroes of the period.

‘Inspiring Impressionism’ focuses on the French artist Charles François Daubigny, the so-called ‘father of Impressionism’, who celebrated the great, open countryside in his works, and who provided inspiration to the likes of Monet and Van Gogh. The exhibition brings together over 100 key artworks from various artists, as well as generating new and exciting scholarship on a subject far from exhausted.

(01316 246200;

‘Never a Bore: Deborah Devonshire and Her Set by Cecil Beaton’
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, until 3 January, 2017Chatsworth Debo Devonshire exhibition

Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, was one of the most popular characters from English country society from the mid 20th-century until her recent death in 2014. The Duchess focused her love and attention on the family home, bringing it lovingly up-to-date after the Second World War, and helping it to survive.

The photographs by Cecil Beaton feature many high-profile personalities and in this exhibition, include the Duchess in intimately causal settings, as well as glamorous formality. The exhibition takes place in Chatsworth’s New Gallery, and provides an opportunity to see the places in which the photographs took place.

(01246 565300;

‘Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds’
British Museum, London, until 27 November, 2016Sunken cities exhibition 2

It is rare now in the 21st-century that an exhibition should present such an exciting new glimpse in the mysterious world of ancient Egypt. In the mid 1990s, a breakthrough was made in the discovery of the location of two cities lost underwater, Thonis-Hercaleion and Canopus, both buzzing cities in the 7th-century AD.

Featuring a great variety of objects which all provide a glimpse into life in the cities through a vast range of objects, this show provides an intriguing insight into a time long past.

(02073 238299;

‘Stanley Spencer: Visionary Painter of the Natural World’
Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham, until 31 October, 2016Stanley Spencer exhibition

The natural landscape plays a large part in the work of Stanley Spencer. Often taking inspiration from his own village of Cookham in Berkshire, Spencer looks to the details of the world around him with a touch of Dali-esque intensity. To mark the 125th anniversary of Spencer’s birth, the gallery in his home village has brought together paintings from all over that show his evident love of the countryside.

Including loans from Leeds City Art Gallery, Aberdeen City Art Gallery, as well as pieces from private collections, the exhibition is an opportunity to see these works of art in one place, and this place is particularly celebrated by the artist.

(01628 471885;

‘Jeff Koons: Now’
Newport Street Gallery, London, until 16 October, 2016

In one of the largest exhibitions of his work in the UK since 2009, ‘Now’ features many works by Koons that have not been exhibited in this country before. The exhibition includes a wide range of works from 1979-2014 in various forms, such as sculpture, like his famous ‘Inflatables’ series, works on paper, and even large room instillations.

The exhibition focuses on many of the themes that Koons explores in his works, such as the idea of individuality in a commercial age by looking at art and advertising in the 20th- and 21st-centuries, and also contemporary notions and the relationship between our bodies and sexuality.

(02031 419320;

** Read more on Fine Art from Country Life