Important New Paintings go on Display at the Museum of Somerset

Visitors to the Museum of Somerset in Taunton will be able to enjoy two newly-acquired paintings which went on display on Monday. A portrait of the Somerset-born philosopher John Locke and Tristram Hillier’s picture ‘The Vale from Cucklington’ can be seen in the museum’s ‘Making Somerset’ gallery.


John Locke (1632–1704) was a pre-eminent English philosopher whose radical theories about the relationship of government and the people helped to change the nature of society. Born in Wrington, Somerset, Locke was the son of a country lawyer. Locke retained links with Somerset throughout his life and the portrait is a highly characteristic image of him in his final year. It was painted in the studio of the great portraitist Sir Godfrey Kneller.

South West Heritage Trust Chief Executive Tom Mayberry said: “Locke’s influence was immense, including on the founders of the United States. He argued that government should be by consent and that some fundamental rights belong to all people. It’s probably not too much to claim that he was the most influential person Somerset ever produced.”

John Locke-painting

Tristram Hillier (1905–1983) established his reputation as one of Britain’s most original artists before the Second World War and from 1943, following a period of war service, lived and worked in Somerset. He painted many landscapes including ‘The Vale from Cucklington’ which depicts the village church of St Lawrence on the eastern borders of the county.

Tom added: “Hillier’s landscapes are displayed in galleries around the world and reflect his surrealist artistic vision. They are often brooding and lonely in mood. The painting we’ve acquired is an outstanding example of his work.”

Vale of Cucklington

The Locke portrait was acquired with support from the Founder Members of the South West Heritage Trust and other donors, ‘The Vale from Cucklington’ with support from the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Art Fund and the Friends of the Museum of Somerset.

The Museum of Somerset is part of the South West Heritage Trust, an independent charity committed to protecting and celebrating Somerset and Devon’s rich heritage. Entry to the museum is free.

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  1. David Gwyther, Chair of the South West Heritage Trust, and Tom Mayberry, Chief Executive, with the portrait of John Locke
  2.  The portrait of John Locke
  3. ‘The Vale from Cucklington’ by Tristram Hillier