Art classes can be found at The Market Cross
For art lovers, the beautiful market town of Bury St Edmunds is the perfect place to while away the hours.
With so much to see and do, it’s worth spending a couple of days exploring the many works of art found here, the artists who are associated with the town and the many galleries.
Suffolk as a county has an amazing artistic heritage and has inspired famous artists like John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough.
But if you look back on the history of Bury St Edmunds, it is also a town that has nurtured great artists.
From Master Hugo, the earliest professional artist documented in England, to renowned Portrait Artist Mary Beale, widely considered to be Britain’s first professional woman painter.
Master Hugo's documented career at the Abbey of St Edmund spans from before 1136 to after 1148.
He is most famous for illuminating the first volume of the Bury Bible, made for the Abbey in about 1135, and is now in the Parker Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and he has been credited with having made the Bury St Edmund Cross or Cloisters Cross now on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A replica of the cross can be found at St Edmundsbury Cathedral's Treasury.
The Bury Bible may well have led to a general acknowledgement of Master Hugo as "the gifted innovator of the main line of English Romanesque art".
Mary Beale was one of the most successful portrait painters of the late 17th century and one of her oil portraits, believed to be of her son Bartholomew Beale, sold at auction recently for a record £100,000!
She was born in 1633 in Barrow, near Bury St Edmunds, and the town's Moyse's Hall Museum has one of the largest collections of her portraits in the world.
Her father John Cradock was a rector and an amateur painter, who may have taught Mary how to paint. During her childhood in Suffolk Mary's father was friendly with contemporary British artists such as Sir Nathaniel Bacon, Robert Walker, and Sir Peter Lely.
Growing up in Barrow, Mary lived close to Bury St Edmunds. A group of painters worked in Bury St Edmunds, including Peter Lely and Matthew Snelling, whom Mary may have met in her youth. Peter Lely, who was portrait painter to the court, took an interest in Mary's development as an artist. She started working by painting favours for people she knew in exchange for small gifts or favors.
In 1652, she married Charles Beale, a cloth merchant who was also an amateur painter. Much of the knowledge of how Mary worked comes from the 30 notebooks kept by Charles recording sitters, payments, and other information; which provide a fascinating insight into her world.
Artist Sybil Andrews, internationally acclaimed for the linocuts she created from the late 1920’s to the 1980s, was born in the flat above Andrews and Plumptons Ironmongers shop at 90 Guildhall Street, formerly the Royal Bank of Scotland in Bury St Edmunds, and marked by a blue plaque commemorating her links to the town.
Whilst in Bury St Edmunds she worked alongside notable artist Cyril Power in the Crescent House Studios on Angel Hill and he was to have a major influence on her artistic future.
In 1947 Sybil moved to Canada where she further established her importance as a great artist and her lino cuts are highly collectable.
Perhaps her greatest contribution to her birthplace is the wonderful banner to be found in St Edmundsbury Cathedral. It is silk on handwoven linen depicting the martyrdom of St Edmund. The Sybil Andrews Academy in Bury St Edmunds is named after the artist.
Discover Art Galleries
The Apex Gallery
The Apex houses an innovative and exciting contemporary art gallery within the striking architecture of their entertainment venue.
The Apex Gallery holds a range of exhibitions throughout the year, featuring works by emerging and established artists, as well as engaging with West Suffolk's various community art groups, offering them an opportunity to display their work in a professional environment.
Art in East Anglia
Art in East Anglia was created to promote and showcase the work of talented East Anglian Artists.
East Anglia has an abundance of artists and creative people. Perhaps it's our famous big skies, forests and wonderful coastline that inspires people to want to create!
The Art in East Anglia directory began as a small Artist community and has grown into an online directory and marketing platform that helps artists promote their work and Art lovers to discover local artistic talent. They now have an Online Marketplace and have opened a dedicated gallery in Bury St Edmunds.
Kim Whittingham is a watercolour artist and illustrator based in Bury St Edmunds, specialising in house portraits and business portraits.
She also paints images of landmarks in Bury St Edmunds and you can buy greetings cards, prints, bone china mugs and tote bags of some of her most popular landmarks at her gallery in Langton Place.
Chelmer Fine Art
Chelmer Fine Art in The Traverse is an independent family run business which sells handpicked, collectable limited editions, originals and sculptures.
The Hunter Gallery
The Hunter Gallery can be found on Angel Hill - between The Abbey Gardens and St Edmundsbury Cathedral - and exhibits well known local artists from Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex alongside some of the UK's most respected creators of paintings, sculpture and furniture.
They specialise in art for the home in a wide range of styles and media with something to suit all tastes and budgets.
The Market Cross
The Market Cross is a live events venue where you will find workshops, classes (including art classes), and performances centred around performing arts and art, but you will also find an art gallery showcasing the work of local artists.
Why not pop in for a coffee and have a browse?
Really Very Nice
The Really Very Nice gallery in Churchgate Street has a dynamic collection of work from UK and international artists. The Reallyverynice portfolio includes affordable and one-of-a-kind pieces: paintings, sculpture, ceramics and handmade furniture.
The Guildhall Studio was created by photographer John Martyn to display some of his favourite photographs and show the work of local artists and crafts people.
John has lived in Suffolk for over 25 years and many of his photographs reflect the landscapes of the towns, villages and coastal areas in our beautiful county. He has also travelled extensively and you will see images from around the world.
You will also find the Guildhall Studio card collection. These are a selection of images by John Martyn, Fran Made Crafts and Maisie Moffat.
The Bury Framing Centre is an independent bespoke framing business and retail gallery for local artists.
They have a rotating program of exhibitions to showcase a range of artists’ work that adds to the vibrancy of the independent businesses found along St John’s Street. They aim to create a hub of original work with a view to make this a destination to see exciting and thought-provoking art.
Among the many unique features of Bury St Edmunds is that almost every major junction into town has extraordinary modern artworks which mark key moments in its history.
You'll find St Edmund himself, St Edmund's wolf, St Edmund's crown, along with sculptures and artwork that celebrate the US Air Force’s arrival at Rougham Airfield in 1943, Bury St Edmunds as an agricultural town and a Bury St Edmunds-born cyclist who won the world’s first road race 150 years ago.
Visit our Roundabout Art Guide to find out more and where to see them!
Explore Free to See Art in Bury St Edmunds
Photo: Tom Soper
There are many artworks that the public can just turn up to view in Bury St Edmunds.
Some of these are on display outside and others inside attractions that are free entry but many would appreciate a donation to help out.
Here are just some of these.
The Statue of St Edmund by Dame Elisabeth Frink
Photo: Rebecca Austin
Lovingly sculptured by Suffolk-born Dame Elisabeth Frink (Edmund even has her nose!) stands young Edmund, a mere boy when he took the throne of East Anglia in 855.
The statue can be found in the Great Churchyard beside St Edmundsbury Cathedral along with a wolf on guard.
The Legend of St Edmund Book by Den Humphrey
A wonderful oak book by artist Den Humphrey inscribed with the legend of St Edmund and the wolf can be found in the Abbey Gardens by the café.
Banner of St Edmund by Sybil Andrews
Banner of St Edmund by acclaimed artist Sybil Andrews who was born in Bury St Edmunds and later moved to Canada.
It is hand embroidered in silks on linen and first conceived, designed and begun in 1930. The tapestry can be found in the St Edmund Chapel of St Edmundsbury Cathedral.
The Martyrdom of St. Edmund by Brian Whelan
This beautiful painting by acclaimed Irish painter Brian Whelan hangs in the Lady Chapel of the St Edmundsbury Cathedral in St Edmund’s Chapel.
Saint Edmund statue by Lenny Goff
Photo: Sue Warren
This beautiful statue of Saint Edmund is made of limewood and can be found inside St Edmundsbury Cathedral.
The statue, depicting a fresh-faced St Edmund bound by ropes and resigned to his impending death, was made by sculptor Lenny Goff (who also created the Madonna and Child in the Lady Chapel and the bookcases in the Cathedral's Ancient Library). He was a friend of former (and now late) Dean James Atwell.
The statue was given to the Cathedral in 2007. Lenny drew inspiration from one of his teenage grandsons for St Edmund's features.
Godspeed by Jonathan Clarke
Photo: Sue Warren
Bury St Edmunds explorer and lawyer Bartholomew Gosnold founded the first permanent English settlement in America, Jamestown, in 1607.
Visitors to Bury St Edmunds can see a permanent reminder of Gosnold’s adventures in the garden of Pilgrim's Kitchen, St Edmundsbury Cathedral's cafe. A beautifully modern piece of art which depicts Gosnold’s ship, the Godspeed, by artist Jonathan Clarke.
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