Thou art more lovely

ONE of Britain's most important paintings is coming to Sheffield this spring for an exhibition at the Graves Gallery.

Writers of Influence: Shakespeare to JK Rowling, opening in April, will include one of the jewels of the National Portrait Gallery's collection – the only portrait of William Shakespeare said to be painted from life.

In a landmark event, the National Portrait Gallery will loan Museums Sheffield its very first acquisition, the iconic 'Chandos portrait' of William Shakespeare, which has never before shown in the UK outside its London home.

The Chandos portrait, attributed to John Taylor and named after a previous owner, was acquired in 1856 and is hugely popular with visitors to the National Portrait Gallery.

As part of Museums Sheffield's partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, the exhibition will take visitors to the Graves Gallery on a journey from Jane Austen to Jarvis Cocker.

The iconic painting of the Bard will go on display alongside a host of significant literary portraits from the NPG's collections, including work by Vanessa Bell, Bill Brandt, Henri Cartier Bresson, Man Ray and Lord Snowdon.

Running from April 17 to July 3, it will follow another National Portrait Gallery exhibition, Comedians: From the 1940s to Now, on view at the Graves until March 20.

A group of young people from the city have worked with Museums Sheffield to co-curate the exhibition of paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures dating from the 16th century to the present day.

They have collaborated with their peers in Plymouth, Southampton and Sunderland to select a series of remarkable images of authors, playwrights, poets and lyricists from the National Portrait Gallery collections.

Spring 2010 will see a number of other alluring new exhibitions in Sheffield. Museums Sheffield will once again take part in the city's popular biennial festival of contemporary art.

Art Sheffield 2010 – Life: A Users Manual will see the Millennium Gallery host the work of a number of nationally and internationally renowned artists. The festival is co-curated by Netherlands-based Frederique Bergholtz and Annie Fletcher, working alongside curators and artists based in the city.

And after two successful taster exhibitions in the Graves Gallery, the Great British Art Debate continues with Watercolour in Britain at the Millennium Gallery, continuing Museums Sheffield's partnership with Tate Britain, Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service and Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.

Exploring the remarkable diversity of a truly British art form, it will feature significant and rarely-seen works by artists including JMW Turner, William Blake and Edward Burra

The exhibition will look at watercolour's iconic status in our cultural heritage and those artists who have pushed the boundaries of its potential.

Watercolour in Britain: Tradition and Beyond runs from June 17 to September 5 and admission will be 4/3 and 1 for under-16s.

A new show will occupy the exhibition gallery at Weston Park Museum from March.

Food Glorious Food will take a look at food's place at the heart of British culture from grow-your-own to celebrity chefs, school dinners to Sunday roasts.

Telling the stories that lie behind what we choose to eat as it explores the journey from field to fork, Food Glorious Food will draw from Museums Sheffield's collections of social history, visual art and decorative art as well as loans from the V&A Museum of Childhood. It runs from March 20 to November 28.

Code:Craft, specially curated for Museums Sheffield by digital arts organisation Lovebytes and exploring the remarkable creative potential of the software that turned computer programming into an art form, will be on view in the Millennium Gallery foyer from January 28.

In 2010 the Contemporary Art Society celebrates 100 years of contemporary art gifts to galleries across the nation.

Museums Sheffield will be marking this event with a display of works generously given to the city by the society over the past 10 years, including lens-based work by Bridget Smith, Isaac Julien and Michal Rovner.

The Contemporary Art Society Centenary show is at the Graves Gallery from March 27.

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