A bequest from local councillor and Town Mayor, Alfred Holt, in the 18th-century forms the core of the collection, with a large number of 16th and 17th-century works by Dutch artists and a small number of European artists including Abraham Bloemaert and Godfried Schalcken.
The modern collection focuses on British artists with the majority of works dating from the turn of the century to the 1960s including notable pieces by Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Patrick Caulfield and Bridget Riley. The gallery’s contemporary works include pieces by Terry Atkinson, Marc Quinn, Damien Hirst, Christine Borland and Gillian Wearing, including a number of moving image works.
A selection of approximately 100 works are presented in themed displays at all times in the main art gallery. Comprehensive changes to the displays are undertaken on a biennial basis while smaller changes are made throughout the year.
With a large bright café at the front of the building, the association with the healing waters of the spa has ensured that the original atmosphere is retained — there is even a tonic water source where, if you are keen, you can drink a glass of the beneficial tonic. The permanent collection is arranged in themes adjacent to the temporary exhibition gallery.