An exhibition providing an opportunity to see Henry Wallis’ painting of Thomas Chatterton on his death bed has opened at the Royal West of England Academy as part of the Poetic City programme.

Chatterton 1856 by Henry Wallis
Image credit: Chatterton, 1856, Henry Wallis. Tate: Bequeathed by Charles Gent Clement 1899. Photo © Tate. Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

The painting created a sensation when it was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1856, and was described by leading art critic John Ruskin as ‘faultless and wonderful’. It is now in the collection of Tate Britain and is rarely allowed on loan.

The exhibition runs until 18 October and also includes examples of art developed by young people in workshops led by Writer in Residence Polly Denny and RWA Academician Laurie Steen. Spaces are limited and it is advisable to book in advance for an allocated timeslot.

Photo of exhibition: Lisa Whiting

The RWA is one of the venues where visitors can collect free copies of the Bristol Poetic City publications: the comic book telling the story of Chatterton and his legacy; and a new poetry anthology developed in association with Lyra – Bristol’s Poetry Festival.

Photos of publications: Melanie Kelly


Our thank to the Royal West of England Academy for providing the following  recordings: the audio guide for Chatterton exhibition (by Nathalie Levi, Head of Programme – Curator of Exhibitions, RWA) and a selection of Chatterton poems read by Polly Denny, RWA Poet in Residence.

Audio Guide

Thomas Chatterton – Death of Nicou

Thomas Chatterton – Happiness

Thomas Chatterton – Song from Aella

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