One of Britain’s most important collections of modern religious art on show


One of Britain’s most important collections of modern religious art is being shown at venues in Leicestershire until Pentecost, accompanied by a series of workshops and events.


Thanks to a joint project between the Church of England’s Leicester Cathedral and the Methodist Church, the Methodist Modern Art Collection will be on display from May 2 until June 9 and has inspired a programme of creative opportunities for the public.


Called ‘Wondering Soul’ exhibition, this unique collection of art featuring biblical themes and narrative has toured the UK and abroad since its inception more than 50 years ago. It is said to be the most extensive religious art collection outside of the Vatican.


There are more than 45 works, including some by well-known artists such as Graham Sutherland, Elisabeth Frink, William Roberts, Patrick Heron and most recently Maggi Hambling.


Most of the pictures depict scenes from the life and teaching of Christ including ‘Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem’ by Norman Adams and ‘The Washing of the Feet’ by Ghislaine Howard. Some artists were or are Christians, others not.


Venues for the exhibition, which will each host different artworks, are Leicester Cathedral, Bishop Street Methodist Church, St Nicholas Church, and St Andrew’s Church all in Leicester city. Launde Abbey will also host one artwork as a guest venue.


The exhibition is free to visit and open seven days a week. Special arrangements can be made for groups to see the collection with an expert guide by contacting us via the website


On bank holiday Monday (6th May) there will be a ‘Picnic in the Gardens’ at Leicester Cathedral – where there will be activities for children including a group painting and knitted fish giveaway inspired by Eularia Clarke’s Feeding the 5,000. There will also be a choir performance by the Sound Café.


Other associated events include a wide variety of activities from retreats and talks, to workshops such as ‘contemplative photography’ in Cathedral Gardens, Indian woodblock printing workshop in St Andrew’s Church, an organ music recital at Bishop Street Methodist Church and a ‘spray can art’ session.


Also at the Cathedral there will be a Dean’s Discussion at 6.30pm on 29th May and Evening Prayer with Bishop Martyn at 6.30pm on 4th June.


Canon Missioner at the Cathedral, the Revd Karen Rooms said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to invite friends to enjoy the rich resource of more than 45 evocative religious artworks: a moment for beauty and wonder.”


The Revd Fran Rhys, of Bishop Street Methodist Church, Leicester, said: “I’ve known about the Methodist Modern Art Collection for 20 years and feel proud that the Methodist Church in Britain has this collection of paintings, which constitutes the largest modern Christian art collection outside the Vatican and which travels to many different venues around the country and overseas as well.


“It’s an opportunity for those who are already Christians to re-examine their faith and hopefully to gain new and deeper insights from the artworks and for others to enjoy some fantastic art which may well raise deeper questions for them, whatever their faith or outlook.”


It will be the latest in a series of popular and high-profile exhibitions that have been hosted inside Leicester Cathedral during the last year.


Arabella Doorman’s Suspended, which was hung in the Cathedral in the summer 2018 and Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon in March 2018 both attracted a large number of visitors from Leicester and beyond.


Dean of Leicester, The Very Revd David Monteith said: “In a visual age, art can communicate and touch our souls beyond words. We want to wonder together about how these paintings might change us or help us see ourselves, our world or even God differently.  It’s free and everyone is welcome.”


The exhibition is being curated by Bethany Piggott, whose post has been funded jointly by the Methodist Church, Leicester Cathedral and the Church of England (CofE)’s Leicester Diocese Growth Fund. For enquiries and more information about the Growth Fund, please click here.


Bethany said: “I’m really excited to finally have the collection in Leicester and seeing the paintings in all their glory in each of the venues. We have created lots of bespoke opportunities to engage with the exhibition, and can’t wait to see them come to life. It is going to be a fantastic opportunity to get up close to some amazing pieces of art!”


As a guest venue, Launde Abbey will host Graham Sutherland’s The Deposition which will be the subject of a quiet day on 4th May led by Dr Miriam Gill. You can read more about it by clicking here.


Jonathan Kerry, Chief Executive and Secretary for the CofE Diocese of Leicester, and Cathedral Administrator, said “Not only is this a fabulous collection of paintings that will fascinate anyone who sees them, but we are very excited about the programme of talks, events and activities for all ages that will take place alongside the exhibition.”


As a guest venue, Launde Abbey will host Graham Sutherland’s The Deposition which will be the subject of a quiet day on 4th May led by Dr Miriam Gill. You can read more about it by clicking here.


(Main photo shows ‘Pink Crucifixon’ by Craigie Aitchison, one of the works included in the Wondering Soul exhibition.)

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