South Shields Museum and Art Gallery's collection consists of mainly 19th- and 20th-century works by British artists. Notwithstanding the inclusion of some works by nationally recognised artists, the collection is largely 'local' in character either in its imagery, origins of artist or by its donor. Many paintings are of topographical and historical interest but perhaps not surprisingly, given the location of South Shields, maritime subjects are a strong feature of the collection showing the shipping and topography of the River Tyne and North East coast.
The collection dates from 1873 when the former Mechanics Institute building reopened as South Shields' first Free Public Library. Three years later, a room in the Library was given over to the opening of a museum. One of its first acquisitions was an oil painting 'South Shields Market Place' (about 1800) by an unknown artist.
The Museum today occupies the whole of the former Library building and the fine art collection consists of approximately 500 items. The collection includes works by nationally recognised artists such as 'The Last Boat In' by Charles Napier Hemy, 'The Approaching Storm' by Thomas Sidney Cooper, and 'Blackberrying' by Harold C. Harvey; artists popular in the North East such as John Scott, Ralph Hedley, and Robinson Elliott; and by others too, some not normally associated with fine art, such as novelist Catherine Cookson, who before finding fame and fortune through her written work had tried her hand as a commercial artist. Painting remained a passion of hers throughout her life.
Not all locations are open to the public. Please contact the gallery or collection for more information.