Thomas Gainsborough is one of the most well-known painters of England and was born here in this Suffolk house. Naturally, as art lovers, we researched our visit online and finally made the pilgrimage last week – we were quite disappointed!
After a warm welcome, sadly there was no offer of a guided tour; we followed the Floor Plan round the house. Take a look at the Floor Plan online. First, you enter the Exhibition Gallery which changes every 3 months – our exhibition was a bit dull and not what we came to see. We then progressed through the Parlour, Entrance Hall and upstairs to Arthur Essex & Aubrey Herbert Rooms and gleaned Thomas Gainsborough’s story. The paintings in these 4 small rooms were just adequate to illustrate the story and there were a few items of furniture. The Upper Bow room had mostly Gainsborough’s nephew’s work and the Study Gallery held papers and books – a library in fact. So really, there were only the front 4 rooms which told the story of Thomas Gainsborough.
I know it is probably our fault really. We are regular National Trust and English Heritage visitors who like to get really involved with the attractions and use the guides written, recorded and human to tweak out the story and enrich our experience. There were 2 rather posh ladies who remained ensconced in their chairs, they didn’t really seem to know much or have any desire to help us enjoy our visit.
If I was running the place, I’d make a lot of changes. Children, and I bet adults too, would love to see some made up room settings to augment the atmosphere of this wonderful house and that’s what they should see first. If you must have your exhibitions, put them upstairs – out the way for those who want them. Visitors come to see Gainsborough’s birthplace and want to take away a feel of what it was like when he lived there. Please oh please get some enthusiastic volunteers to act as room guides who will delight in showing and sharing the wonderful items you have.
On a positive not, it was a lovely sunny day and the garden was delightfully English.
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