The day trip to the Wirral, to the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum in Birkenhead and the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight was voted another success, a visit to two very different galleries.
The Williamson Art Gallery – like many others – is showing the
effects of changed financial circumstances, in contrast to the era when it was
built. The information on their website was out-of-date and we arrived to find
things we were expecting to see not there at all, and despite some wonderful
art in many forms, presentation contrasting with what we then saw at the Lady
Lever, where galleries reopened only 4 years ago after a £2.8m major
re-development, removing decades of building ‘improvements’ and returning them
to the original architectural style of 1922. When we visit galleries and
exhibitions, our attention goes first to the art we’re there to see, but the
contrasting 21st century situations of these two galleries highlights what goes
on behind the scenes to make the art available for us to even look at.
The day gave something for everyone, with plenty of contrasts. At the Lady Lever there was the wonderful late Turner, portraits by Reynolds, Pre-Raphaelite paintings by all the big names and then the work made by Matisse in the later stage of his life. At the Williamson, a project developed out of a chance discovery of an old collection of family photos contrasted with the contemporary portrait photography of the women working at the city’s Cammell Laird shipyard. There was the contrast of a very large collection of Wedgewood plus Chinese ceramics at the Lady Lever with the Arts and Crafts ceramics from Birkenhead’s Della Robbia factory.
Both galleries were established by people who believed that making art available for their local community to see was so important that they made major investments into it. The Lever brothers’ 19th century soap business and the development of Port Sunlight – including the art gallery – was part of that. In Birkenhead, the Williamson Art Gallery is named after one of the directors of Cunard, John Williamson. A legacy from him and his son funded its building, which opened in 1928 (six years after the Lady Lever opened). Birkenhead Council had already built up an art collection, believing in the need for this for their city. The number of people wanting to visit art galleries – including us – has grown and grown. A century ago, these key individuals, influencers in their own time, supported a trend still growing and which we are part of.
The great variety of photos captured by Mike White, Anne Linton and Jennifer Wallace, of which the above are just a sample (thank you all!), show the spirit of our day and how much we enjoyed it. We are also especially grateful to Jennifer and Jillian Wallace for organising the day for us, and to Jennifer for putting together the text of this report.
Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery and Cathedral are
next door to each other, giving us more than enough to fill the autumn
galleries day trip without going farther afield (unless you wanted to).
Like most city galleries, The Herbert has an art
collection which is a reflection of purchases over many years which combine
local interests with making a wide range of high quality art available to
everyone. Their Peace and Reconciliation
gallery, for example includes the painting by John Piper of the Cathedral in
flames, his response to seeing the ruins the day after the bombing of the city
and it’s no coincidence that the current exhibition, Coventry Biennial – The Twin, shows a range of contemporary
international artists’ insights and responses to globalisation, looking in
particular at cities Coventry is twinned with.
Drawing exhibition came out of Coventry’s history with Courtaulds, and
their link with the London art gallery. It brings together Courtauld collection
drawings and drawings from public collections of West Midlands galleries and
was more than food for thought about drawing past and present – something of
interest for all of us who make art, regardless of media and genre.
1940 bombing of the old Coventry Cathedral, came a unique collaboration between
architect and artists. Sir Basil Spence commissioned artists including Jacob
Epsten, Elizabeth Frink, John Hutton, John Piper, and Graham Sutherland –
commissions unequalled for the 1950s? Again, no coincidence that as part of the
Coventry Biennial, in the Chapter House they were showing Bosnian artist Šejla
Kamerić’s video installation, 1395 Days
without Red, about 4 years of siege in another of Coventry’s twin cities,
An unexpected extra was being in the cathedral
when the rehearsal for the evening’s performance of Elgar’s Dream of
Gerontius was on – what a wonderful way to escape all the rain that we
might all be remembering this autumn for?
Thank you to our trip organisers Jennifer and Jillian Wallace, and to Jennifer, Anne Linton and Karen Worrall for the photos that give a flavour of all that we saw.
On Saturday 5th October members and guests assembled for our annual lunchtime Social at the Bear Steps Art Gallery to celebrate our Autumn Exhibition. A warm welcome was extended to all by our Chair, Barry Lowe. He welcomed Mike Griffiths, who had kindly acted as Adjudicator for the awarding of the annual Walker Harrison Prize, given for the picture in the exhibition which ‘best represents the Shropshire landscape’.
On this occasion we were pleased to see the prize go to Jason Edwards, a relatively new member of the Society, who had submitted a particularly stunning painting of a stretch of the river Severn immediately below the station bridge, After the rain, Shrewsbury. Mike congratulated Jason on the outstanding quality of his work and the Society on the excellent quality and range of the work submitted by members.
As the social was in full swing, so was our October Saturday Workshop. This season our Workshops and Classes are very well supported and attended. It’s exciting too, to see some fresh faces among our regulars.
Saturday Workshops, kindly organised for us by Lynne Morgan and Mick Krupa have got off to an excellent start. In the latest of these we were considering and responding to the distinctive work of the Salford artist, Harold Riley.
Thanks go to Anne Linton and Jennifer Wallace for accompanying us with their cameras (images above). Many thanks also to John Willetts, our Exhibitions Secretary, and his team for for their fine and hard work organising our Autumn Exhibition. It’s on until Saturday 12th October at 2.30pm. Come and visit!
On the evening of Thursday 10th October, Wilf Langford and Alan Townsend will be appearing on BBC Radio Shropshire at 8pm in Mark Elliott’s Seven O’Clock Show. They will be interviewed about our Autumn Exhibition and the Society’s activities in general. We are grateful to Mark and to Radio Shropshire for giving us occasional opportunities to promote the Society. Listen in!
We are pleased to report that we have enjoyed a lively and well attended start to our programme of Workshops and Classes for the coming season, commencing with our first Saturday Workshop last weekend, organised by our committed and enthusiastic leaders, Lynne Morgan and Mick Krupa. Some 20 members considered the work of a group of artists characterised as “The Print Rebels” before responding in the medium of their choice.
Similarly, our programme of Wednesday Classes got off to an excellent start this week, at the English Bridge Workshop, with a sequence of classes led by Euryl Stevens. We are delighted to have her tutoring us again. It’s exciting that demand to attend these classes this year has been extremely high, with overflow waiting lists in some cases. We are looking forward to welcoming our other tutors Lynne Morgan, Pip Jones, Wilf Langford and Di Purser as the year progresses and in 2020.
The Printing Workshops will also be underway soon, later this month, kindly organised by Suki White.
Thank you to Alan Townsend for organising the programme overall, and to him and Liz Carr for the photos.
We were delighted to welcome the Mayor of Shrewsbury Phil Gillam and the Lady Mayoress Carol Gillam to open the Summer Exhibition on Saturday 22nd June at St. Mary’s Church.
The Mayor in his opening speech mentioned that as a child he had received a Blue Peter badge for a painting which he submitted to the BBC pasted on a cereal box, but unfortunately he has done no painting since. Possibly a new recruit for the Society?
Alan and Jane Townsend presented the Judy Townsend Memorial Prize to the artist Kirsty Pankhurst for the Townsend family’s favourite painting in the exhibition, “Saturday evening”. Congratulations Kirsty!
And here is the winning painting…
The exhibition runs until Saturday 6th July (not Sunday) from 10am to 4pm each day. Closing at 2pm on Saturday 6th July.
We’d be delighted to see you! Come and vote for your favourite painting – we award a People’s Prize to the artist of the painting receiving the most votes from visitors over the duration of the Exhibition. We love to see which painting you all like best!
(A big thank you to our Exhibitions Secretary John Willetts and his team for all their hard work in putting together the Exhibition, and to all of our members for taking part. Photos, with thanks to Barry and Karen Lowe, and Jennifer Wallace.)