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Unexplored masterpieces – strokes of genius to enjoy

While many culture and arts venue remain closed for now, there’s still lots of opportunities to enjoy fabulous paintings and sculptures when you visit the East of England… and some of them give you a very good excuse for a leisurely stroll in beautiful surroundings.

Despenser Retable, Norwich Cathedral

Norwich cathedral despenser retable

Norfolk’s greatest surviving painted treasure is on display now, but for 204 years it was hidden in plain sight! In 1643 with the Puritans about to ransack the Cathedral, quick-thinking wardens turned the painting upside down and used it as a table.

Celebrating the defeat of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt by Bishop Henry Despenser, this altarpiece was rediscovered in 1847 – perhaps by someone playing hide and seek!

Norwich Cathedral

Sainsbury Centre of Visual Arts Sculpture Trail

Elisabeth Frink, Mirage I & II, 1969

Within the grounds of the University of East Anglia, the Sculpture Park is spread across 350 acres of attractive parkland and open to everyone to enjoy art, architecture and the natural environment.

The Park offers the tranquillity of the Broad and Yare river valley set against dense urban modernist architecture, not least the space age Sainsbury Centre itself, designed by Norman Foster and used as The Avengers HQ in the Hollywood films, and the ziggurats of the University.

The Sculpture Park includes important works by Antony Gormley, Henry Moore, Lynn Chadwick and Elisabeth Frink.

Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Trail

Anish Kapoor at Houghton Hall

Anish Kapoor Sky Mirror

Until November 1 you can catch seminal works by celebrated British sculptor Anish Kapoor across the grounds and historic interiors of Houghton Hall.

The exhibition features 24 sculptures as well as a selection of drawings and smaller works representing 40 years of Kapoor’s ground-breaking body of work and complements the classical architecture of the house and idyllic beauty of the grounds.

Houghton Hall

Maggi Hambling’s Scallop, Aldeburgh Beach

The Aldeburgh Scallop, Maggi Hambling's sculpture on the beach

Now an iconic image of Aldeburgh’s shingle beach, local artist Maggi Hamblin’s Scallop was set up in 2003 to commemorate Benjamin Britten and displays a quote from Britten’s Peter Grimes: ‘I hear those voices that will not be drowned’.

You can’t miss the stainless steel work: it’s 15ft high and weighs six and a half tons.

Suffolk Coast

John Crome’s Norwich River: Afternoon, 1812-1819

John Crome (1768-1821): Norwich River: Afternoon, 1812-1819

From the founding father of the Norwich School of painters, Crome was less worried about the horrors of depression, oppression and Napoleonic wars. No, for Crome, it was all about the timeless joy of messing around in boats.

Norwich Castle Museum and Gallery

John Constable’s Stour Valley and Dedham Village, 1814

Stour Valley and Dedham Village, John Constable, 1814

You can see this masterpiece in the 500-year-old Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich or, if you want to get closer to the inspiration, head out on the 60km ‘Painter’s Trail’ through water meadows and woodland, beside riverbanks and on country roads, you’ll see Flatford Bridge Cottage, Willy Lott’s House and the Stour Valley in all its wonderment.

Constable in Suffolk

Dame Elisabeth Frink’s statue of St Edmund

St Edmund statue by Elisabeth Frink

Young Edmund, just fourteen when he took the throne of East Anglia in 855, is lovingly sculpted by Dame Elisabeth Frink, in the Great Churchyard beside St Edmundsbury Cathedral along with a wolf in guard. To understand the wolf reference you need to take a tour of Bury St Edmunds.