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The exhibition is partly being held to mark the launch of a nationwide appeal for funds to help upgrade the museum where the collection is housed permanently.

Over half the exhibits are by the artist who was born in the house, Thomas Gainsborough. They include outstanding paintings such as Wooded Landscape with Cattle by a Pool of 1782, the Muilman Conversation Piece of about 1748 and one of the best collections of Gainsborough drawings ever assembled. There are also outstanding collections by Gainsborough’s teachers and pupils, Hubert Gravelot and Gainsborough Dupont, as well as other East Anglian artists, Henry William Bunbury, George Frost and Thomas Churchyard.

The museum was set up in 1961 in the Suffolk market town as a Charitable Trust, the only birthplace of a great painter open to the public in Britain, and now through loans and its own collection it shows more of his paintings than any other in the world. The museum has assembled the collection over the past 20 years, through gift and purchase, including, in 1989, an anonymous gift of over £750,000.

While the collection in Sudbury has been growing, the house, itself a listed building dating back to the 14th century, is in need of refurbishment. It needs to meet the security, display and conservation standards of the 21st century. An adjoining property is presently being converted into an all-purpose education space with the opportunity of providing a much wider range of visitor services. The Society has already raised £200,000 towards this project and the exhibition in London will provide the opportunity to launch a nationwide appeal to help the organisation reach its target of £500,000.

The exhibition at Agnew’s, Gainsborough at Gainsbor-ough’s House, is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue in full colour, paperback £14.95.

The exhibition runs from Wednesday, January 22 to Friday, February 21 and is open from 9.30-5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Entrance is free.