YORK Art Gallery has acquired four 20th century works by female artists after a successful application to Derbyshire School Library Service, whose doors were closed in 2018.
The paintings by the influential British artist Prunella Clough (1919-1999), Margaret Mellis (1914-2009), Marion Grace Hocken (1922-1987) and Daphne Fedarb (1912-1992) will go on display in York next year.
Following the closure, 90 works were chosen by the closest museum authority, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, while a further 315 were offered to other galleries across the country, to ensure they were kept in public collections for visitors to enjoy. This was made possible through funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund.
Becky Gee, York Art Gallery’s curator of Fine Art, says: “We are thrilled to have acquired these fantastic works for York’s permanent collection. All four are by brilliant women artists who have played a significant role in shaping their respective areas of the modern British art scene.
“We are particularly pleased to acquire our first Clough: an artist who was so influential in her depiction of the post-war British landscape in the 1950s. Men And Barges combines Clough’s focus on working men and women with her later abstract compositions and we look forward to sharing this striking painting with our audiences.”
Councillor Barry Lewis, Derbyshire County Council leader and cabinet member for strategic leadership, culture and tourism, says: “This is part of an exciting and pioneering project for Derbyshire County Council and we welcome the confidence the Museums Association has placed in us to get this right.
“For a long time, museums have been nervous about the disposal of objects, so this is an innovative project that will see items being re-homed in a transparent way, considering what is the best place for the object while ensuring it is not lost to the public where possible.”
Coun Lewis adds: “Across the country, pictures of great interest and in some cases great worth, are kept in storage or in private collections. One of the aims of this project is to try to ensure that doesn’t happen with the items in these collections. We are very pleased that York Art Gallery is able to receive these pictures and to exhibit them in its galleries.”
Clough’s Men And Barges will be joined on York Art Gallery’s walls by Daphne Fedarb’s painting Tropical Birds, Marion Grace Hocken’s My Room, St Ives, Cornwall and Margaret Mellis’s Vence Landscape (South Of France).
Fedarb’s work makes a key addition to the Exhibition Square gallery’s small number of works by lesser-known British artists associated with the Surrealist movement, also complementing works by fellow London Group members Mary Fedden and Stanislawa De Karlowska.
Margaret Mellis was part of an influential group of abstract artists that worked in St Ives at the outbreak of the Second World War. Her early figurative landscape, Vence Landscape (South Of France), helps to tell the story of her turn to abstraction through her use of block colours and simplified forms.
Mellis had a varied and exciting circle of artist friends, many already represented in the York Art Gallery collection, as are works by her sister, Anne Stokes, in the gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) collections.
Marion Grace Hocken likewise based herself in St Ives and her work, My Room, St Ives, Cornwall, complements other St Ives School artists in the gallery’s collection, such as Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, with whom Hocken established the Penwith Society of Arts. Hocken also was close to Bernard Leach, who is represented by 72 ceramics in the CoCA collections.
YORK Art Gallery had to curtail the Miller’s tale of Pop Art book covers in its ground-floor galleries when Covid-19 brought a sorry end to son of York Harland Miller’s homecoming show.
Those galleries have opened once more, however, Miller’s York, So Good They Named It Once making way for a celebration, or two celebrations, of the YAG collections from August 20.
Senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram has chosen the works for Views of York & Yorkshire, ranging from L S Lowry’s Clifford’s Tower to a dozen newly conserved works, courtesy of the Friends of York Art Gallery, never seen on public display previously.
As the second exhibition title Your Art Gallery: Paintings Chosen By You would suggest, you have indeed made the choices from “some of York Art Gallery’s most well-known paintings” for the walls and floor of the two side Madsen galleries .
More precisely, more than 400 people took part in an online poll, when choosing ten works from 20, Parmigianino’s Portrait Of A Man Reading A Book(c.1530), Richard Jack’s Return To The Front, Victoria Railway Station(1916) and Barbara Hepworth’s drawing Surgeon Waiting (1948) among them.
William Etty, the 18th century York artist whose statue greets visitors in Exhibition Square, inevitably features too. “We always have to show Etty! We have the largest repository of his works in the world,” says Beatrice.
Other favourites were selected through a week of five head-to-head clashes on Twitter and by a Friends of York Art Gallery online poll.
To qualify for selection, the works must have been in storage, returned from a loan elsewhere or not been shown for a number of years; none of them being on display when the gallery was closed for the lockdown.
The poll and Twitter choices are complemented by artworks with chronological or thematic links, alongside new YAG acquisitions by John Atkinson Grimshaw (Liverpool Docks At Night) and Scarborough artist Jade Montserrat, plus some of the gallery’s Twitter #CuratorBattle contenders in lockdown, most notably Grayson Perry’s ceramic, Melanie.
Explaining the philosophy behind the linking exhibitions, Beatrice says: “These exhibitions were a perfect chance to engage with our audience, as having to close the gallery from March to August was so frustrating when we so want to connect with our visitors.
“To celebrate the reopening of York Art Gallery, we wanted to showcase our rich collection by bringing artworks out of store. These two new exhibitions do just that.
“We hope visitors enjoy viewing the beautiful topographical landscapes of Yorkshire and admiring the paintings which they voted for display in Your Art Gallery: Paintings Chosen by You.
“Thank you so much to everyone who got involved, and for telling us why the works you chose resonated with you by writing labels. We’ve loved reading your submissions – variously heartfelt, humorous, perceptive and poignant – and it’s made the curation of the show a wonderful experience. We hope visitors will enjoy these personal accounts as much as we did.”
Involving the public in curating a show was “innovative, fun and hugely enjoyable, both for those who took part and for us,” says Beatrice. “It’s been incredibly rewarding and revealing to read people’s comments on their choices, expressing their feelings, how a particular work resonated with them, how they connected with them.
“It was noticeable how they were drawn to works depicting nature, or depicting gatherings or live performances, such as L S Lowry’s The Bandstand, Peel Park, Salford, because of wanting to experience the buzz of a performance again.
“They were looking to works from wartime too, connecting with another time of terrifying, unprecedented change, and the surgeon’s mask in Barbara Hepworth’s Surgeon Waiting struck a chord because of Coronavirus.”
Summing up her reaction to the selections, Beatrice says: “While there were some I expected them to choose, there were surprises too. All the women artists went through from the choices, which I was particularly pleased to see.”
Aside from the public choices, Beatrice is keen to highlight the York Art Gallery acquisitions on show, such as a series of works by Jade Montserrat (born 1987) acquired through the Contemporary Art Society in 2020.
“We’re always looking at our collections policy, always seeking to achieve a more diverse representation, though that doesn’t preclude the Grimshaw acquisition, because we’re also always looking out for great works too.
“Jade Montserrat is a contemporary artist, whose work is inspired by growing up in Scarborough. She’s brave, bold and fearless and we’re excited that she’s represented in our collection.”
Look out too for a work with a new attribution: St John The Baptist, now accredited to the 17th century Flemish artist Hendrik de Somer. “Art Detective have come up with a very persuasive attribution for that painting,” says Beatrice. “There are not many examples of his work in this country, so that’s exciting.”
In the central Madsen gallery is the Views of York & Yorkshire exhibition of city, country and coast: Beatrice Bertram’s choices of topographical paintings and works on paper, the latter selected with her exhibition assistant, Genevieve Stegner-Freitag, the Friends of York Art Gallery MA Research Scholar.
Works on show span William Marlow’s The Old Ouse Bridge, York, painted in 1763, to Ed Kluz’s View Of Exhibition Square, York, from 2012. At the heart of the show is York Art Gallery’s W.A. Evelyn Collection, donated to the gallery in 1931 from the estate of philanthropist Dr William Arthur Evelyn (1860-1935).
As his collection of 1,500 prints, watercolours, drawings and engravings focused on York and Yorkshire, the gallery has since added further works of York and beyond the city walls, expanding the collection to 4,000, aided by the Evelyn Award annual competition that elicited new works too.
Among the highlights is the gallery acquisition on show for the first time, Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding’s Rivaulx Abbey. Shouldn’t that be Rievaulx Abbey? “Artistic licence!” says Beatrice.
Along with works by JMW Turner (Fountains Abbey), Letitia Marion Hamilton, John Piper, Thomas Rowlandson, Ethel Walker and Joseph Alfred Terry, Grinton artist Michael Bilton’s Approaching Storm Over Calver Hill leaps out too.
“Combining canvas, oil, enamel and paper, it shows a disused quarry with post-industrial marks and pits from former lead mines, and by using different materials, Bilton makes it look like it’s constantly moving, and you can really feel like a storm is approaching,” says Beatrice.
Exhibition assistant Genevieve set to work on selecting 12 works from the Evelyn Collection for conservation. “For the most part, the prints were in pretty good condition but not exhibitable but with the Friends’ help, 12 have been restored that had never been exhibited before,” she says.
“I was looking for works that were not only in good condition but also works from the same period, the mid-19th century, in three specific genres: Picturesque, Realist and Topographical.”
Genevieve, from Washington DC, is studying on the Art History programme at the University of York, arriving in the city last September, when her first experiences had an impact on her subsequent choices for restoration being dominated by York Minster (or York Cathedral, as several works call Europe’s largest Gothic cathedral building).
“The first thing I did when I came to York was to view the Minster. I’d seen pictures before, but we just don’t have buildings like that in the United States,” she says. “To see living history is so powerful, and I then wanted to pick out works in different genres that treat that history very differently.
“One of the nice things about the timing of working on the show is that it coincided with people not being able to go into the city since the March lockdown and that makes our appreciation of the Minster really come alive.”
Now, once more we can appreciate that history, that architecture, the city’s art collections, in person, as Beatrice acknowledges: “The real pleasure is to be able to show the public engagement in the gallery, becoming the curation voice of an exhibition, resonating with our current times,” she says.
“We’ve missed our audience so much, and it’s lovely for everyone to be able to stand close to artworks again, to breathe art in again. There’s no replacement for that experience.”
York Art Gallery has introduced free admission to its permanent collections, with timed tickets available at yorkartgallery.org.uk, and a Pay As You Feel initiative for Views of York & Yorkshire and Your Own Gallery, recommending a sum of £3, £5 or £7. Please note, booking is essential, along with the wearing of a mask or facial covering.
“We are in a challenging financial situation, as is every gallery in the country, so we would welcome contributions on a Pay As You Feel basis,” says Beatrice. “We are excited to be open again and to present exhibitions, but if we are going to be able to keep doing this, we shall have to fund-raise.”
VIEWS of York & Yorkshire and Your Art Gallery have opened against the backdrop of York Museums Trust warning that it would “run out of cash in January 2021”, if more financial support were not forthcoming.
The trust runs York Art Gallery, York Castle Museum, the Yorkshire Museum and York St Mary’s but revealed in a report to the City of York Council executive last week that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about an “immediate financial threat to YMT’s continued existence”.
So much so that the trustees have registered a serious incident report with the Charities Commission, placing all four at risk of closure after the Coronavirus lockdown led to a “drastic loss of income at the very start of the peak visitor season”, leaving the trust facing a £1.54m deficit.
At present, the city council provides £300,000 a year to the trust. The report, however, states the trust requires funding support of £1.35m this year and up to £600,000 in 2021 to ensure the visitor attractions remain open and the trust collections continue to be looked after.
The council has proposed to write a letter of guarantee, promising to provide the trust with up to £1.95m of the funds needed. One factor in what sum the councillors might agree will be whether the trust receives Government funding from the Culture Recovery Fund for cultural organisations to cover October 2020 to March 31 2021. The deadline for applications is September 5.
YORK Art Gallery is inviting you to choose the paintings you love and have missed the most during lockdown to feature in a new exhibition from August 20.
From Barbara Hepworth to Henri Fantin-Latour, Paul Nash to Bridget Riley, Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You will showcase a selection of works from the Exhibition Square gallery’s rich collection of paintings, voted for by the public, alongside further works chosen through Twitter polls.
There will be an opportunity too to write short labels for the painting you like the most, with the favourite responses being printed and displayed next to the work itself.
To choose your favourite works, visit yorkartgallery.org.uk and click on the Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You page. You can then rate the paintings from one to five stars, and those that prove the most popular will be included in the show. The deadline to make your choices is next Wednesday, July 29.
The Twitter polls are up and running already, beginning on Monday (July 20) and ending today (July 24). Each day, two paintings are pitched into battle against each other from 5pm for you to make your choice.
Senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram says: “We’re really excited to be re-opening our galleries and welcoming people back to come and see the wonderful art in our collections.
“We thought what better way to re-open than by giving our audiences the opportunity to choose the paintings they want to see. We hope as many people as possible will vote for their favourites through the online survey or the Twitter polls and also write a few words about one specific work, telling us why it means so much to them.
“We can’t wait to see which choices you make in what will be a truly fascinating exhibition of work curated by you.”
The online vote will involve 20 of the “most famous and popular works from the gallery’s permanent collection”, but none of them on display prior to lockdown, from L S Lowry to David Hockney; William Etty to fellow York artist Albert Moore.
The ten most popular works from the poll will feature in the show, with accompanying labels written by voters. The winners will be announced online on July 30.
These works and the Twitter top five will be shown alongside five paintings chosen by the Friends of York Art Gallery from ten works, as well as a new John Atkinson Grimshaw acquisition and curators’ favourites.
Several entries by the gallery into York Museums Trust’s Curator Battles on Twitter, run throughout lockdown, also will be included.
A second show will open on August 20 too, Views of York & Yorkshire, curated by Dr Bertram for the central Madsen Gallery.
Much-loved paintings and works on paper depicting York and the surrounding countryside will go on show. L S Lowry’s Clifford’s Tower, William Etty’s Monk Bar, York, William Marlow’s The Old Ouse Bridge and Michael Angelo Rooker’s Layerthorpe Postern, York, present contrasting views of the heart of the city.
Ethel Walker’s Robin Hood’s Bay In Winter, J M W Turner’s The Dormitory and Transept of Fountains Abbey – Evening and Joseph Alfred Terry’s Underhill Farm, Sleights, capture picturesque rural and coastal scenes beyond the city walls.
The Friends of York Art Gallery have provided the funding for the conservation of prints of York Minster dating from the first half of the 19th century, now to be displayed for the first time, revealing shifting perspectives of the cathedral.
Look out, too, for a new acquisition, Rievaulx Abbey by Yorkshire-born artist Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding. “We acquired it last year and have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to display it,” says Beatrice.
“The city of York and the beautiful coast and countryside beyond have long been a source of inspiration for artists,” she adds. “We wanted to mark our re-opening with an exhibition of some of our most famous topographical scenes, such as L.S. Lowry’s striking painting of Clifford’s Tower, which York Art Gallery commissioned for the Evelyn Award in 1952.
“Thanks to the Friends of York Art Gallery, we’re able to showcase a selection of characterful watercolours and prints by artists including John Varley, Thomas Rowlandson and Thomas Shotter Boys, which illustrate York Minster and its environs during the first half of the 19th century.
“Collectively, the artworks featured in the show paint a picture of the city and its locale from 1758 to the present day – peaceful vistas which have an enduring resonance during these turbulent, challenging times.”
Beatrice stresses: “We may have been closed but the work here hasn’t stopped, and we saw these two exhibitions as an opportunity to think about the past, present and future of collecting.
“We did have to look at our programming for when we would re-open as there were shows that were due to go ahead, such as Bloom [for the York flower festival], that had to be cancelled, and due to the complexity of so many loans, we couldn’t seek to extend the run of Harland Miller’s very successful York, So Good They Named It Once show.
“The good news is that Bi-, his 2017 work from that show, will continue to be shown, in the Burton Gallery, and we’ll have some Harland Miller retail available, which we’ll be deciding by August 1.”
The Gillian Lowndes: At The Edge exhibition will resume in the Centre of Ceramic Art, where the run of the Children Curate show in the Anthony Shaw Space is being extended too. The Aesthetica Art Prize show will remain in situ until next spring in the Upper North Gallery.
Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years should have been the ceramics highlight of the CoCA summer, but the June 12 to September 20 run was crocked by Covid’s intervention.
“We’re still hoping to host that exhibition down the line, with further details to come,” promises Beatrice.
The Pre-Therapy Years brings together 70 Perry early works made between 1982 and 1994, now re-united through a “crowd-sourced” public appeal that will put these “lost pots” on display for the first time since they were made. Themes to be found in his later work – fetishism, gender, class, his home county of Essex and the vagaries of the art world – appear in these nascent pieces, suffused with kinetic energy.
For more information on the new displays and how to visit, with booking required, go to yorkartgallery.org.uk.
The 20 works that must be whittled down to ten in the public vote:
Barbara Hepworth, Surgeon Waiting, 1948, oil and graphite on paper
Albert Joseph Moore, A Venus, 1869, oil on canvas
Richard Jack, The Return To The Front, Victoria Railway Station, 1916, oil on canvas
Spencer Gore, The Balcony At The Alhambra, 1911-1912, oil on canvas
Paul Nash, Winter Sea, 1925-1937, oil on canvas
Bridget Riley, Study 4 for Painting With Two Verticals, 2004, watercolour
Stanley Spencer, The Deposition and Rolling Away Of The Stone, 1956, oil on canvas
Barbara McKenzie-Smith, The Bird Cage, unknown date, oil on canvas
Giovanni Antonio Burrini, Diana And Endymion, 1681-1691, oil on canvas
Alfred Walter Bayes, Day Dreams, 1902-1903, oil on canvas
Henry Scott Tuke, The Misses Santley, 1880, oil on canvas
Paul Maitland, Cheyne Walk In Sunshine, 1887-1888, oil on canvas
David Bomberg, The Bath, 1922, oil on canvas
L S Lowry, The Bandstand, Peel Park, Salford, 1931, oil on canvas
Bernardo Cavallino, St Agatha, 1635-1645, oil on canvas
Henri Fantin-Latour, White Roses, 1875, oil on canvas
David Hockney, Egyptian Head Disappearing Into Descending Clouds, 1961, oil on canvas
Harold Gilman, Beechwood Gloucestershire, 1914-1919, oil on canvas
William Etty, Venus And Cupid, c.1830, oil on canvas
Eugene-Gabriel Isabey, Boat In A Storm, 1851-1857, oil on canvas