ART lovers have a few weeks left to catch an exhibition of fascinating paintings, drawings and prints given to Swindon Museum and Art Gallery by local man Fred Phelps.

Called The Phelps Bequest, this exhibition brings together works by some of the most popular artists of the first half of the 20th century, including John Skeaping RA, Claude Francis Barry and Lord Methuen. Skeaping's Study (Roe Deer), drawn in crayon on paper in 1926, was purchased through the Phelps Bequest in 1957.

Frederick Charles Phelps gave works of art to the museum and also helped establish the museum’s purchase fund, which continues to support new acquisitions to this day. He died in March 1949, and in his will, he left £2,500 to Swindon to support the development of the town’s art collection - equivalent to around £80,000 today. This exhibition, which runs till August 23, pays tribute to his foresight and generosity.

Born in Swindon in 1879, Phelps served in the merchant navy in World War I, and was awarded both the British War Medal and Mercantile Marine Medal. He lived in Croft Road in Old Town for much of his life, and was a keen supporter of local arts and heritage. Phelps clearly had a more traditional taste in art - his will specifically asked that his gift should not be used “towards works of a futuristic type such as those of Picasso.”

Instead, he wanted to ensure that Swindon continued to acquire more representative art, often with a local character. Phelps donated Lord Methuen’s painting of the Port of Bristol in 1944, which he had bought from Leicester Galleries. He also made a financial gift to establish the Swindon Garden of Remembrance in Queen’s Park, officially opened by the then Princess Elizabeth in October 1950 as a memorial to those who served and died during World War II.

The Swindon Collection of Modern British Art owes its existence to several generous individuals, and a diverse range of organisations. In addition to Phelps, the most well-known individual contribution was made by HJP “Jimmy” Bomford, a successful stockbroker turned gentleman farmer from Aldbourne, who donated 21 works, including works by Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson and Lowry.

Find the art gallery in Bath Road, open Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 4.30pm. Admission to the exhibition is free.