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From Tonbridge to Tate: Anthony Whishaw RA, guest of honour, presents art prize  

Tonbridge School is celebrating the life and achievements of the renowned artist Anthony Whishaw, a Royal Academician and a former Tonbridge pupil.

An exhibition at Tonbridge’s Old Big School Gallery, called From Tonbridge to Tate, is honouring Anthony’s considerable achievements and contribution to contemporary British Art. Aged 91, and still painting daily, Anthony (MH 1944-48) made his name as one the key figures involved in the 1950s and 1960s Kensington and Chelsea art scene, an internationally known hotbed of London-based creativity.

Anthony was guest of honour at a Private View of From Tonbridge to Tate on Thursday 9 September. This event gave invited guests the first opportunity to see the exhibition, which includes several works never previously shown publicly, such as cartoons of staff from his time at Tonbridge and some very early paintings from his school and college days. 

The exhibition includes a number of fascinating personal artefacts, such as school reports and letters written to his family while he was a boarder.  

Anthony’s work, which deals with explorations of memory and experience, can be found in many prestigious international collections including The Royal Collection, the Tate Gallery and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, to name but a few. He also has many national awards to his name, gained over several decades from the 1950s onwards. 

During the Private View, Anthony presented a special art prize, named in his honour, to Jack Burnett, one of Tonbridge’s 2021 leavers (as pictured above). The Anthony Whishaw Art Prize, consisting of two books about, and signed by, the artist, went to the pupil who demonstrated the greatest commitment and passion in the visual arts throughout his time at Tonbridge. As part of his prize, Jack will also have a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the Royal Academy.

Fian Andrews, Head of Art, said: “Jack truly exemplifies this sentiment: he has demonstrated such determination over the five years that I have known him, and particularly so through the pandemic, showing amazing resilience and resourcefulness to push himself well outside of his comfort zone and produce highly ambitious artwork.

“At one stage he even took over the kitchen in his family home and made it his art studio, painting big canvases in his painterly, gestural and beautifully detailed style. Jack plans to embark on a career in the creative industries and I have every confidence that he will be highly successful.” 

James Priory, Tonbridge’s Headmaster, added: “We are thrilled to be able to celebrate the connection between Anthony’s life and vision as an artist and his time at Tonbridge as a schoolboy. I had the pleasure of visiting Anthony in the studio he has lived and worked in for 50 years and to have him with us in person for the launch of the exhibition is incredibly special. His curiosity and wonder about the way in which we see things is in an inspiration.”

The exhibition includes a self-portrait Anthony painted shortly after he had left Manor House and Tonbridge in 1948, one of only two self-portraits he has ever produced in more than 70 years of painting, and which is now part of the School’s own collection.

From Tonbridge to Tate opens to the public on Sunday 19 September, and runs until Sunday 7 November. No booking is needed for the exhibition, with all welcome. The public viewing times are below. 

* From Tonbridge to Tate: An Exhibition of the Life and Work of Old Tonbridgian, Anthony Whishaw RA

19 September – 7 November 2021. 

Old Big School Gallery, Tonbridge School, Tonbridge, Kent, TN9 1JP. 

19 September - Open to Public – 12pm-4pm
25-26 September - Open to Public – 12pm-4pm 
3 October - Open to Public – 12pm-4pm
9 October - Open to Public – 12pm-4pm
10 October - Family Workshop – 12pm-2pm. Exhibition open until 4pm
17 October - Open to Public – 12pm-4pm
23-24 October - Open to Public – 12pm-4pm
30-31 October - Open to Public – 12pm-4pm
4 November - Evening Talk, Cawthorne Lecture Theatre – 7pm-9pm
7 November - Open to Public – 12pm-4pm

Pictured above: Anthony Whishaw with prize winner Jack Burnett. 

Below, from top: Anthony and Jack with (left) Fian Andrews, Head of Art, and (right) James Priory, Headmaster; Anthony at the Private View on 9 September; and other photos from the evening, including the Anthony Whishaw Art Prize books, and the From Tonbridge to Tate programme.