Mark Bills to step down from Gainsborough’s House - Museums Association

Mark Bills to step down from Gainsborough’s House

Director leaves in August to pursue research
Art Redevelopment
Mark Bills pictured in the library at Gainsborough's House in Sudbury, Suffolk
Mark Bills pictured in the library at Gainsborough's House in Sudbury, Suffolk

Mark Bills will step down from his role as director at Gainsborough's House in August, having led the Suffolk venue for more than 10 years.

The childhood home of the 18th century British artist Thomas Gainsborough, the house reopened to the public in November 2022 following a £10m redevelopment.

Bills initiated and delivered the capital project. Since its reopening, Gainsborough’s House has attracted record numbers of visitors.

He inherited the museum at a difficult time of its life, but is leaving it on a high.

The museum now presents the world’s most comprehensive collection of Gainsborough (1727-1788), telling the full story of the artist’s life and work, as well as showcasing the widespread influence he had on his contemporaries and succeeding generations.

Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and led by the architectural firm ZMMA, the venue now comprises a new three-storey building with a new entrance and four galleries.


On leaving the gallery, Bills will begin a sustained study of the Victorian artist William Powell Frith (1819-1909) with an aim to publish his known letters, establish a catalogue raisonné and publish a major monograph of the artist.

A specialist in Victorian art, Bills has previously held posts at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, the Museum of London and the Watts Gallery. He has published widely on eighteenth and nineteenth century British art, and initiated the first exhibitions of Thomas Gainsborough in Holland, Germany, and Russia.

Mark Bills said: “Working at Gainsborough’s House over the last 10 years has been a hugely rewarding experience, initiating and leading its transformation. It has now reopened and is working well, and it is time for me to face a new challenge, and for a new director to take the museum forward for the next decade.

“The aim of the project was to better deliver our mission, be more sustainable and to make a positive impact on the town, which it has done and I am grateful to my colleagues and to the huge number of supporters who helped to make this happen.”

Christy Stewart-Smith, the interim chairman of Gainsborough’s House, said: “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mark for his extraordinary achievement in leading this landmark campaign to reopen Gainsborough’s House, bringing a whole new generation of visitors to this unique piece of living art history.

“As we move forward, we are safe in the knowledge that Gainsborough’s House, with its spacious new gallery and state of the art conditions, will at last be able to provide a world class environment worthy of the work of one of this country’s greatest and most loved artists.”

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