Kendal’s largest art gallery is Abbot Hall, housed in a light and airy Georgian villa on the banks of the River Kent. Its permanent collection includes work by the celebrated eighteenth-century portrait painter George Romney, who was born in nearby Dalton-in-Furness, drawings by the Coniston-based art critic and social thinker John Ruskin, and watercolours by the great J M W Turner. ‘The Passage of Mount St Gothard’ and an evocative 1821 painting, ‘Windermere’, are among the latter. The gallery’s modern collection includes a number of sculptures, work by the German artist Kurt Schwitters, who fled the Nazis to spend his last years in Ambleside, lithographs by Pablo Picasso and etchings by Lucian Freud.
As well as having its own collection, Abbot Hall regularly hosts temporary exhibitions of national and international importance. Over the years, these have covered artists as diverse as Claude Monet, David Hockney, Canaletto and Grayson Perry.
Abbot Hall is directly opposite the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, which is also run by the Lakeland Arts trust.
A five-minute walk away, on Cross Lane, is the Cross Lane Projects, a space dedicated to staging three contemporary art exhibitions annually, with associated talks and events. Nearby, in the town centre, the bustling Brewery Arts Centre on Highgate has a large gallery, much of which is given over to UK artists, including emerging talent, employing a variety of media. Almost directly opposite the Brewery is the La’al Studio Gallery, a working gallery run by local creators. Similarly, at The Factory, professional artists and craftspeople often open their studios to the public.