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HEAD EAST – Behind The Scenes –Mark Bills & Gainsborough’s House

My name is Mark Bills, director of Gainsborough’s House. My love of art has been the motivation throughout my career. I began study as an artist in my home county of Yorkshire and at the Slade School of Art before studying art history. I’ve worked for over 30 years in museums and galleries throughout this country as well as exhibitions internationally.


Mark Bills, Director, Gainsborough’s House © Gainsborough’s House

For the last three years I have been looking forward to the reopening of Gainsborough’s House and its new displays and exhibitions. There is so much for visitors to see with three temporary exhibition spaces, an historic house, and a whole new building. It has been quite a few months of getting everything ready for visitors and making sure that everyone is happy including the exquisitely woven silk thank you panels. We have so many people to thank who have supported us and we do not want to miss anyone. The small team at Gainsborough’s House had only a second to exhale a sigh of relief only very briefly before work begins on planning everything else and dealing with a busy museum.



Reopening Gainsborough’s House

When I moved to Suffolk in 2013 it was a revelation over the last decade, I’ve taken the opportunity to explore this glorious county. The strong sense of place is particularly evident in the landscape that so inspired Gainsborough and Constable as well as the beautifully austere coastline that was in the blood and music of Benjamin Britten. The Red House is a very special place and one that everyone should visit. There is something about entering the house of a great artist which is deeply inspiring, and this is as true for Britten’s home as it is for Gainsborough’s House. We are also not very far from the home and studios of the greatest sculptor of the 20th century, Henry Moore, at Perry Green.


John Constable’s Paint Box


It is one of the great ironies that people working professionally in the arts don’t get as much time as they would like to absorb themselves within the art that they bring to the public. As a result, much of my spare time is taking the time to enjoy the arts. Time to read time, to listen to music, to visit museums and galleries, and immersing myself in the natural world. It is extraordinary that you can go on the most wonderful long walks within Suffolk and not see another soul. There are also some rare treats wonderful pubs and eateries like the Queens Head in Hawkedon and The Secret Garden in Sudbury. Orford is one of the most beautiful coastal villages that I’ve ever visited.


Delia Dobson c 1922 by Cedric Morris

Of all living artists, one of my favourites is Maggi Hamling who has the studio in Suffolk which I have had the great privilege to visit on numerous occasions. Not only has Maggi helped us to create this great project in Sudbury, but she has also generously gifted the studio collection of paintings and drawings of Sir Cedric Morris whose art school she attended and was based here in Suffolk.


Thomas Gainsborough Wooded Landscape with Herdsman Seated

I was drawn to move to Suffolk because of the job and the wonderful opportunity that it offered. I was taken immediately by the sense of place, the glorious openness of the skies, and the inspirational landscape. I feel very blessed to be living in a Suffolk village not unlike the ‘sweet village’ that Gainsborough hankered to live in. Here I am amongst a wonderfully undulating landscape which I dearly enjoy, and I occasionally pinch myself to remind myself that it is real and that I’m lucky enough to enjoy it.


Thomas Gainsborough by Thomas Gainsborough



This is a Behind the Scenes profile for HEAD EAST




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