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Made In England
YOUR ART: West Yorkshire's hidden treasures!
Did you know that you're the owner of some of the finest works of art by some of the biggest names this country has to offer? It could be a Hockney or even a Lowry but whether you're in Kirklees or Calderdale, Bradford or Wakefield - it's YOURS!
Cartwright Hall: Art for all!
Just how many oil paintings do YOU own? Wherever you live in West Yorkshire the answer will be "hundreds!" And if you don't believe us then take a look at a brand new book which includes a picture of every oil painting across the county. If you've ever wondered what paintings lie in the storerooms of your nearest art gallery - or if it's difficult for you to get there to check out its walls - then you may want to take a look at this handsome volume, known as the Public Catalogue Foundation's West Yorkshire Catalogue.
Mark Suggitt, Bradford Council's Head of Museums, Galleries and Heritage, welcomes this new comprehensive guide: "All museums and galleries are like icebergs. There's always going to be far more than you can actually display." While Mark is quick to point out that paintings in the reserve collection don't just sit there and are often used for exhibitions and for research purposes, he says: "Even so, you can't actually see everything and one of the great things about this is that it gives a really good overview of the collections."
So good is this 'overview' that, after a brief look at the new book, we decide to take a quick trip around West Yorkshire to take a look at some of these paintings for ourselves and meet some of the people responsible for their care. And where better to start than in Bradford? With 1136 oil paintings it's the largest and oldest collection featured in the book and it also has the biggest collection in Britain of contemporary South Asian fine and decorative art outside London - but that's another story!
And it's not only the paintings that are in public ownership! Although Bradford's oil paintings can be found in museums and civic buildings across the district, Cartwright Hall has to be the starting point for anyone wanting to find out about art in Bradford and we doubt anyone arriving here could fail to be impressed. This really is a people's palace built to provide a fitting home for art owned by Bradford people.
It's here that we meet Mark Suggitt who tells us that, though Cartwright Hall opened in 1904, "the museum and gallery (in Bradford) was founded in 1879 and that was originally in town." Almost 100 years on from the move out to Lister Park Bradford Museums and Galleries once again has a home in the city centre. The new BD1 Gallery opened in Centenary Square in 2007 and its very first exhibition was 'Yours for Keeps', based entirely on works in the permanent collection. It's an exciting time for art in Bradford. Mark explains that the entire top floor of Cartwright Hall is closed at the moment to allow, among other things, for the permanent collection to be completely redisplayed.
A people's palace?
As we can't take a look for ourselves Mark tells us a bit more about Bradford's oil paintings which he says are very wide-ranging both in style and subject: "As you can see from the book we have some very good examples of South Asian art. We have a whole range of contemporary artists and we want to integrate the South Asian and Western traditions. I wouldn't say there was one single school that necessarily stands out as a large and significant part of the collection but there are very good individual works."
It doesn't seem possible to talk about Bradford and painting without mentioning David Hockney. A generous donation from the city's - and possibly the country's - most famous artist helped to make the publication 'Oil Paintings in Public Ownership in West Yorkshire' possible and three of his paintings are in the book. 'Bolton Junction' and 'Moorside Road, Fagley' were done when the artist was just 19! Mark points out that the work being carried on in the upper galleries will make it possible to display some large works - not oils - by Hockney.
But how did Bradford end up with such a large collection of paintings? Mark says it's all down to civic pride: "The city fathers, the people who made money, wanted to show that it wasn't just all trade. They wanted to promote culture from the gains of industry." As time went on the acquisition of works of art became more organised, and it's still happening: "It was a combination of wealth and people donating paintings. It was also judicious collecting by generations of curators who solicited donations or bought [paintings] and sought out and worked with artists to get a range of collections that carried on until today. The collection is not a dead thing - there are continually new things coming into it."
Cartwright: Continually updated!
We ask Mark to pick out some of his own favourite oil paintings from the new catalogue. George Clausen's 'The Man and the Boy', a rural scene painted in 1908, is a particular favourite. Mark then points to Charles Joseph Staniland's 'The Emigrant Ship', painted sometime in the 1880s. Families wave goodbye from the dockside as a crowded ship sets sail from Liverpool. Paintings like this one - 'Victorian genre paintings' - may not be to everyone's taste but Mark thinks they can be very good: "They always have lots of stories going on in them and an awful lot of interest so those are the ones I like."
And, looking at the pictures in the new catalogue, we can only agree that not only Bradford's - but West Yorkshire's oil paintings - tell hundreds of different stories!
last updated: 23/05/2008 at 12:06