The Armitt Museum Ambleside
The Armitt Museum and Library in Ambleside town centre is a museum gem in the Lake District. Exhibits within the Museum include early natural history drawings and artwork by Beatrix Potter as well as an impressive collection of paintings by pioneering 20th century artist Kurt Schwitters. The museum has an on-site shop selling a range of books including new and second hand books, prints, postcards and exhibition merchandise.
The history and story of Ambleside is explored in-depth within the Armitt Museum from the town’s early Roman roots to its growth as a Lakeland tourist centre. The geology and archaeology of the Lake District is also given due attention with specimens collected by John Ruskin on display alongside Neolithic, Bronage Age and Roman finds from the Ambleside area.
Learn about famous Ambleside women at the Armitt Museum including the museum’s founder Mary Louisa Armitt and philosophical writer and commentator Harriet Martineau who retired here to Ambleside and whose circle of friends included Charles Darwin, Wordsworth, Dickens and Thomas Carlyle.
Fascinating early photography of Lakeland is also on display at the Armitt Museum alongside personal possessions, documents, guide books, early editions and letters linked to famous Lake District figures including John Ruskin, William Wordsworth, the educationalist Charlotte Mason and writer of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ Arthur Ransome.
Kurt Schwitters and Beatrix Potter at the Armitt Museum
Discover the early work of Beatrix Potter and her great talent for natural history drawings and research undertaken before she wrote her world famous children’s books. Beatrix Potter donated her entire collection of fungi paintings and her research in conjunction with the drawings to the Armitt library in Ambleside. Potter also donated a large collection of books belonging to both herself and her father to the Armitt and further drawings she made of Roman artefacts unearthed in the London Wall area in 1872-3.
The Armitt also owns a number of first edition copies of Beatrix Potter’s children’s books including a first edition of ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’. The museum holds 460 natural history drawings by Beatrix Potter and visitors can see many of Potter’s famous fungi paintings on display within the museum plus regular special themed exhibitions on Beatrix Potter which draw on the collection.
Kurt Schwitters in Ambleside
Artwork by the internationally acclaimed artist and master of collage Kurt Schwitters is on display in the museum. Schwitters lived in the Ambleside area in the latter years of his life. Influenced by Cubism, Constructivism, Dadaism and to some extent Surrealism, Schwitters chose his own way which he called ‘Merz’, something cast-off like junk where items of the everyday were appropriated and evolved from the banal to art – a prophetic journey which influenced the shape of 20th century art. The collection of Schwitters’ work here at the Armitt is a treasure trove and includes works such as ‘Wood on Wood’ (1947).
Kurt Schwitters’ link to Ambleside originates from his walk-in Merzbaus (Merz Barn) project, which surrounded and enveloped the viewer. Schwitters created three Merz Barn projects, The Merzbause in Hanover, tragically destroyed in 1943 during an Allied Bombing raid, Lysaker, Haus am Bakken in Oslo, destroyed in 1951 by fire, and finally Elterwater, the barn near Ambleside which he began in 1947 and which remained unfinished.
The surviving piece of Schwitters’ Merz at Elterwater near Ambleside is today on show at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Schwitters wanted his Elterwater Merzbarn left intact in its Ambleside location, however it had to be moved in the early 1960s to Newcastle University to avoid deterioration by the elements.