SIR David Attenborough has officially launched a new art exhibition dedicated to one of his late friends at the Dorset County Museum.

Called ‘A Poetic Eye’, the exhibition showcases 120 paintings from British painter John Craxton at the museum on High West Street in Dorchester, and was opened to the public by Sir David and renowned art critic Hilary Spurling on Friday night.

Craxton was a British-born neo painter and lived in London and Dorset up until the end of the Second World War, when he moved to Crete, and a lot of his early work is based on his experiences of Dorset as a boy.

Speaking to the Echo at the launch, Sir David said he had been a great friend of Craxton for more than 25 years before he died in 2009 and was overjoyed the museum was hosting such a large exhibition.

He said: “For anybody that knows anything about Craxton, or art in general, this is an excellent exhibition. Some of these paintings have never been shown before, there are some truly sensational images.

“I have been enthusiastic about him and his paintings for a long time now, and I knew him very well. I met him through his work, I first saw his work at a London art gallery before meeting him.

“He was an absolutely wonderful fellow, he was a great friend.”

It is not the first time the famous broadcaster has visited the museum, visiting on a number of occasions to view its collection of dinosaur fossils that were found on the Jurassic Coast, most recently unveiling the pliosaur fossil in 2011.

Sir David also revealed he had donated three Craxton paintings from his own collection to the exhibition.

He added: “I am delighted that the museum has been able to set aside so much space for this exhibition on one artist, I’m amazed.

“I’ve been here several times before but for science purposes, so to come here for art and for this exhibition is fantastic and I hope people will come to view it.”

Jon Murden, director of the Dorset County Museum, added: “This exhibition will bring together many paintings and drawings never previously exhibited.

“It covers an extraordinary range of work from his early life in rural Dorset to Greece where he lived after the Second World War.”

The exhibition is open until September 19 and for more information contact the museum.