New exhibition at the Cooper Gallery is good for the soul

A new exhibition opens at the Cooper Gallery, Barnsley, on Saturday 24 June, bringing together stunning landscapes by pioneering French artists for the first time.


Light and Soul: Early Impressions of the French Landscape will be on display until Saturday 7 October. It showcases paintings and drawings of 19th-century French landscapes created by artists who experimented with subjects, texture, and light and whose influence shaped the work of generations to follow.


It includes the work of 17 artists inspired by France’s stunning natural environments such as the ancient Forest of Fontainebleau, the coastlines and beaches of Normandy, and rural life in the valleys, mountains, and plains. 


It features pieces by the prolific and influential Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, the most famous female painter of the 19th century, Rosa Bonheur, and the mentor to the young Claude Monet – Eugène Boudin, whose work inspired the world-renowned Impressionist.


Many artworks in the exhibition are part of the gallery's permanent collection. Natalie Murray, curator at Barnsley Museums, has been able to research the French drawings and paintings thanks to funding from the Headley Fellowship through Art Fund. It has allowed the Gallery to identify fascinating stories surrounding the paintings, previously unknown.


Several works in the exhibition have been conserved, allowing them to be on display after decades in storage. Cooper Gallery artworks will sit alongside paintings on loan from other museums and galleries across the UK, including Sheffield Museums, Leeds Museums and Galleries, York Museums Trust (York Art Gallery), the Bowes Museum, and The National Gallery, London.


There will be plenty to do for visitors of all ages at the Gallery and children can explore the Gallery's very own ‘Forest of Fontainebleau’. A haven for youngsters it's a treat for all the senses and a place to inspire creativity. 


Not to be missed is Light and Soul: The Next Generation, a wonderful display featuring the artistic talent of Barnsley’s young people. Fusion, Barnsley’s local cultural education partnership, worked with Barnsley Museums to launch an art competition for schools, inviting children to create work inspired by nature. From a fantastic 170 entries, artworks by 15 winners will be on display with every entry available to view digitally on screen in the gallery and also online. 


There’s plenty more to enjoy as part of the exhibition including films on artwork conservation, curator tours, sketchbook workshops, and a full exhibition catalogue available to purchase from the gallery shop.


Cllr Robert Frost, Cabinet Spokesperson for Regeneration and Culture, said: “The Cooper Gallery collection is a real asset to our town and borough, it includes outstanding work from British and European artists for everyone to enjoy. The research carried out as part of this project is invaluable and offers a real insight into the artists and the works included in the Gallery’s collection. It has uncovered previously unknown links to other national and international collections and allowed spectacular paintings to be restored. As always, we want to display the best exhibitions in Barnsley’s museums and galleries, and this is no exception. Visitors will be able to enjoy visions of light in the landscape and see how artists connected with nature in the tranquil setting of the Gallery.”


The Light and Soul exhibition is free of charge.