The Towner Collection

Collection Store. Photo courtesy Rob Walker

Towner houses an internationally renowned Collection of around 4,500 works. The Towner Collection is best known for its modern British art – including the broadest and most significant body of work by Eric Ravilious (1903-1942).

We are also known for our emerging collection of international contemporary art , which grew from 2007-2012 thanks to Art Fund International and Contemporary Art Society.

Rotating displays from the Collection are on show in our dedicated first floor Gallery.

If there is a particular artwork you are interested in seeing, please check ahead to avoid disappointment.

Although we are working to put our Collection online, you can see 434 of our works on the BBC Website Your Paintings website.

History of the Towner Collection

Thomas Sydney Cooper, Cattle and Sheep, 1850 (part of original Towner bequest)

Thomas Sydney Cooper, Cattle and Sheep, 1850 (part of original Towner bequest)

The Towner Collection began in 1920 with Alderman John Chisholm Towner’s bequest of 22 paintings to the people of Eastbourne.  The bequest included Victorian paintings of landscapes, animals and children by popular artists of the day – including Henry Dawson, Thomas Sydney Cooper and William Strutt.

At first, the Collection grew through acquisitions of Sussex landscape paintings “in order to provide the visitor with a complete review of this beautiful county”.

The collecting policy was then extended to allow pictures by Sussex artists regardless of subject matter.  It was later widened again to include paintings by non-Sussex artists.

The abstract painter William Gear (1915 – 1997) was curator of the Towner Art Gallery in the 1950s and 60s.  During this time, he acquired abstract works by his contemporaries, as well as some of his own works, for the Towner Collection.

The Contemporary Art Society (CAS) Special Collections Scheme helped a number of works enter the Towner Collection in the 1990s.  In 2007, Towner was awarded £1 million from Art Fund International for the purchase of international contemporary art.

From 1920 through to the present day, generous individuals, collectors and artists, as well as the Friends of the Towner, have donated works to the Towner Collection.

Artists in the Collection

The Collection now features a cross-section of important 20th century British artists including: Christopher Wood, Edward Bawden, Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Victor Pasmore, Alfred Wallis and Duncan Grant.  It also boasts a major body of work by Eric Ravilious.

Contemporary artists represented in the Towner Collection include: Olafur Eliasson, Wolfgang Tillmans, Anya Gallaccio, Julian Opie, Tacita Dean and Grayson Perry.

We are working on getting the entire Towner Collection online so that it can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, even if you can’t make it to the gallery.  We do our best to ensure our Collection is, as Alderman Towner envisioned, a public resource for all.