Collections Update

Collections Assistant, Laura Millward, talks about her fellowship work funded by the 'Understanding British Portrait Network'.

Laura Millward with Marshalls portraits

Image: Laura with the portraits of the Marshalls.

I am a few days into a 30 day research fellowship funded by the 'Understanding British Portrait Network' ( Although it's still early days, I have discovered a few interesting facts relating to the University's pastel portraits of the Leeds industrialist John Marshall (1765-1845) and his wife Jane (1771 to 1847), produced by John Russell (1745-1806) in 1802. I had read from various sources that John was born at his father's draper's shop at Number 1 Briggate, so one of my first visits was to the Leeds Local History Library. It was here I was able to look at early insurance maps of the city centre, which included the street numbers and I discovered that Number 1 Briggate is now The Cosmopolitan Hotel. I have spent time looking through the Marshall business papers held in the University's Special Collections and through chatting with colleagues in Special Collections, I have met other researchers of the Marshalls, including Rebecca Bowd and Dr Barbara Hahn. Rebecca told me about the remains of John Marshall's first mill in Adel which I am planning on visiting. 

Last week I visited the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum where I viewed the journals of John Russell. John Russell toured Yorkshire between 1790 and 1806, so I was hoping he had made a few notes on his encounter with the Marshalls; unfortunately that wasn't the case. Russell did mention the Leeds surgeon Dr William Hey, who he stayed with in Woodhouse. I would assume the Marshalls were part of the same social circle as Hey in Leeds and were introduce to the artist via Hey or quite possibly another Leeds mill owner Richard Paley, whose portrait by Russell (produced same year as Marshalls) is held at Leeds Art Gallery, although further research is required.

John Russell was born in Guildford and the Guildford Museum has the largest collection of portraits by the artist. The Assistant Curator, Andrew Longworth, very kindly showed me many of the portraits which were in the museum's store and the files related to them. The museum also has pastels and an easel which were owned by John Russell, which were fascinating to see. The following day I visited the Heinz Archive at the National Portrait Gallery where I was able to view various files and articles relating to Russell's portraits and staff had made it possible for me to view another pair of companion portraits and a self-portrait of John Russell. 

Come to the Gallery in mid July, when a new interpretation panel and visitor leaflet relating to the portraits will be available. The research project is also linked to the University of Leeds Public Art Project with events and contemporary art installations at the Gallery and on campus, celebrating Yorkshire's textile heritage.

Public Art: Exhibitions and Events update

We're not only looking at the 'Sculptor Behind the Mask'; we're looking forward to our packed programme of Public Art events!

Mitzi Cunliffe carving Man Made Fibres in her studio

Image: Mitzi Cunliffe, Carving Man Made Fibres in her studio, (c) The Estate of the Artist

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the iconic Man-Made Fibres Building on campus and showcase the work of Mitzi Cunliffe who created those incredible giant interweaved Portland stone hands, The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition dedicated to the American sculptor.

Born in New York in 1918, Cunliffe studied Fine Art at several prestigious institutions including Columbia University and the Académie Colarossi before she settled on becoming an architectural sculptor. She also studied in Sweden and exhibited at the 3rd Sculpture International in Philadelphia in 1949. That same year, she met and married British academic Marcus Cunliffe who was a lecturer at Manchester University. The Cunliffes set up home in Didsbury, Manchester, and Mitzi used the garage as her studio.

Sculptor Behind the Mask: Mitzi Cunliffe's work of the 1950s focuses on the highlights of Cunliffe's career in the 1950s, a fruitful period which included the design of the famous BAFTA trophy, participation in the Festival of Britain and the commissioning of Man-Made Fibres for the University of Leeds Campus. Photographs, maquettes, letters, plans, sculptures, ceramics and textiles tell the story of Mitzi's success and shed light on an important artistic figure who has been somewhat overlooked until now.

To accompany the exhibition and coincide with the campus' 2016 Public Art theme, The Year of the Textile, we have a series of free talks and workshops taking place every Wednesday. Visit our events pages for more information. 

Sculptor Behind the Mask is open Monday 1pm - 5pm, Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 5pm. Admission is FREE, and the exhibition will run until Saturday 2 July 2016.

Staff Picks XVII

In this month’s staff pick, Gallery Assistant Becky Higgins tells a story of tragic love and loss.

John Currie, The Seamstresses

John Currie, The Seamstresses (1913), oil painting, Gift of Sir Michael Sadler, 1923, image (c) University of Leeds

Becky writes: "Having started my job as a Gallery Assistant in December, the last few months have been spent familiarising myself with the wonderfully varied artworks that form the University Art Collection. Whilst I am still hesitant to name a specific favourite, one of the most interesting things about paintings for me is the stories behind them and I have been particularly struck by the story behind John Currie's The Seamstresses (1913). Many works within museum collections have romantic and often tragic tales attached which tell of longing, lust and jealousy, and this one is no different.

The Seamstresses was a gift from Sir Michael Sadler, Vice Chancellor of the University of Leeds from 1911 to 1923 and a great friend and patron of John Currie. Sadler had been invited to the artist's home in Hampstead in 1913 and purchased several works during his visit, including this one, which he described as "still unfinished". It was Sadler who suggested to Currie that this painting be given the title "The Seamstresses" and his recollections of visiting the artist's home, in an account that was later published by his son in 1949, has given us a very interesting insight into the circumstances surrounding the creation of the work. Sadler recounts a scene in which Currie painted his two models whilst reading Dostoevsky aloud, in a small painting room decorated with photographs of landscapes by Cezanne and works by Italian primitives. Sadler identified the two women in the painting (who look less than enraptured by Currie's choice of literature!) as the fair-haired Dolly Henry, Currie's live-in mistress, and her Irish cousin Mary, who had come to stay with the couple in 1913 "in a status between guest and servant". He found Mary to be "silent and intense", and his description of her added credence to the suggestion that she was the subject of a further painting by Currie in 1913 entitled Head of a Woman, which is now held by the Tate Collection: The sitter hasn't been formally identified, yet it shows a dark-haired girl of slightly peasant-like Celtic features, whose intense expression fits Sadler's description of Mary.

However, it is the relationship between Currie and Dolly Henry that provides the rather fascinating yet tragic backdrop to this work of art. In 1911 Currie had left his wife Jessie Brandon, whom he met at Newcastle Art School, and his young son to begin an affair with Henry, who worked in a store on Regent Street. She became his model, muse and mistress, yet their relationship was turbulent and characterised by violence and jealousy. The attractive and promiscuous Dolly was disliked by Currie's friends, who saw her as a bad influence, and the couple separated frequently over the next two years. Currie wrote in 1913 that "this crazy passion has wasted my strength and broken my will. Henry deserves to die for the ruin of my career", and painted a rather unflattering portrait of her that same year, tellingly entitled The Witch

On October 8th 1913, the same month a one-man exhibition had been planned for Currie at the Chenil Gallery in London, Currie shot and killed Dolly before turning the gun on himself, dying the following day at the Chelsea Infirmary. The event shocked the art world. Regarded as one of the most talented painters of his generation, his admirers were left to wonder what might have been, and his highly-regarded works are now held in various public and private collections. A romanticised account of the shooting even appears in Gilbert Cannan's 1916 novel Mendel. In truth, the life of one of the 20th century's most promising artists, as well as that of his mistress, came to a sad and violent end. It was, as Sadler later described it, "a sad story of thwarted genius" and "a calamity to art". 

You can see The Seamstresses on permanent display at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery.

Easter Highlight from our Art Collection

Spring has sprung so we couldn’t resist blogging about the photographer of these two adorable lambs for our Easter Collections highlight.

Mr W.Calvert holding twins at lambing time.

Image: Marie Hartley, Mr W. Calvert, Thorns, Swaledale, holding twins at lambing time. Image used for one of the photographic illustrations in "Life and Tradition in the Yorkshire Dales" (1968), plate 76, © Marie Hartley Estate, photograph © University of Leeds

The lady responsible for this heart-warming image is renowned late author, illustrator and social historian, Marie Hartley (1905 - 2006). Born in Morley, Leeds to a family of wool merchants, Hartley attended Leeds College of Art and the Slade School, where she specialised in wood engraving. She returned to Yorkshire after graduating and settled in the market town of Wetherby where she set up a partnership with local writer, Ella Pontefract during the 1930s and 40s. Hartley provided the illustrations for six books on Yorkshire life and customs before Pontefract died in 1945. She was subsequently joined by Joan Ingilby, a cousin of the baronets of Ripley castle.

Hartley and Ingilby spent the next 75 years travelling across Yorkshire and gathering material which related to the county's disappearing rural traditions. The women shared a 17th century cottage in Askrigg, Wensleydale and accumulated all their findings there. 

In the early 1970s, Hartley and Ingilby donated their collection to the former North Riding of Yorkshire County Council and in 1979, this gift formed the basis of the collection now housed in the Dales Countryside Museum at Hawes. 

The women's masterpiece was Life and Traditions in the Yorkshire Dales (1968), from which this photographic illustration comes. The Old Hand Knitters of the Dales (1951) is regarded as another local history classic. 

Ingilby and Hartley were duly acknowledged for their research; they were both awarded MBEs, received honorary degrees from the Open University and gold medals from the Yorkshire Archaeological Society. Ingilby passed away in 2000 aged 89. Hartley died at her cottage in Askrigg in 2006, aged 100. 

The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery is lucky enough to have been gifted hundreds of photographs, drawings, etchings and prints from Marie Hartley's Estate. Please visit our Collections page for more information:  

How well do you know your Galleries?

A free week of activities to celebrate the wonderful Leeds University Library Galleries

Did you know Leeds University Library now has two galleries that are free and open to the public? You didn't? Well now is your chance to discover these gems, through a free week of activities and events. 

From 8th - 12th March we are welcoming you to explore the University's new Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, which houses the superb rare books and manuscripts of Special Collections, and to re-discover the fantastic Art Collection at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery. 

Highlights from the week include an After Hours launch, where we will raise a glass of sparkles for the opening of the new art exhibition - Michael Lyons: Freeze Frame; a chance to get hands-on with collections in both the Galleries in our 'Please Do Touch' event; and an Arty Antics workshop for young budding artists to create their own masterpieces. 

You can find a full list of all of the Galleries' events on our Events Webpage, with information on how to book spaces. So why not book on or drop in to one of these activities and try something new?!

Review of Public Art Workshop

Student Ellen Brown, who is involved with the Public Art Project, reflects on the success of the Public Art Workshop that took place last month.

Photo of Public Art Workshop January

On Thursday 27 March 2016, we gathered in the Worsley Building at the University of Leeds for our second Public Art Workshop and were pleased to welcome colleagues from De Montfort, Loughborough, Warwick and York Universities, as well as Leeds City Council, sculptors and staff and students to a lively afternoon of discussion.  It was a great opportunity for us to all meet up again after the successful summer symposium last June.

The event kicked off with a beautiful reading by Linda France of her new poem 'Man-Made Fibres'.  Professor Ann Sumner then reviewed the first year of the Public Art Project at the University of Leeds, outlining the Place-making theme of 2015 with the unveiling of the Simon Fujiwara sculpture and the launch of the new Public Art Trail. Ann went on to explain how the theme for campus in 2016 is Textiles, celebrating the rich history of the subject on campus and beyond. She has been the lead on a 'Grants for the Arts' Arts Council application which has just been submitted and had two spearheads, innovative commissioning and audience development through wide community engagement.  A key aim is to boost the involvement of early career artists, in addition to working with established artists, commissioning innovative temporary interventions in knit and weave traditions across campus and beyond.  A series of workshops with the themes 'Knit & Lit', 'The Poet as Weaver' and 'History Threads' will reflect new research at the University and engage with campus audiences and beyond in the towns and villages of the region with textile histories linking in with the Festival of Wool at Armley and the Trouser Town festival at Hebden Bridge.  The workshops will create hand knitted community canopies which will be installed across campus over the summer, transforming campus spaces and attracting visitors.  

We then heard an excellent presentation from Dr Sarah Shalgosky of the University of Warwick about the approach to public art and spaces at Warwick from the very beginning of the University's formation in the 1960s up until the present day. She explained how the modernist architecture of Warwick was complemented by the acquisition of many artworks around the campus, none of which were labelled. She considered that the buildings at Warwick, 'symbols of an egalitarian society', were not initially much loved by staff and students; since then, the University has adopted a more informal, domestic atmosphere. Sarah argued that this has been achieved through the purchase of what is now 900 pieces of public art objects, which have been used to widen participation and create a pleasant environment. The informal approach to art at the University of Warwick was highlighted by a story Sarah told, where an anonymous student relabelled interpretative panels on campus art, in turn provoking questions such as - why is the artwork here? Sarah emphasised the importance of art on campus as a means of triggering free discussion. She concluded her talk by arguing that the campus should be seen as an open text. This stimulates the discussion of important ideas, which manifest themselves through public art on campus. 

After a short question and answer session, chaired by Dr Martin Zebracki of the Department of Geography, who has recently edited the recently published Everyday Practice of Public Art: Art Space and Social Inclusion (Routledge 2016), we heard a reading of the poem 'A Spire' by Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow, Helen Mort. Helen was inspired by our new Fujiwara sculpture outside the Laidlaw Library. Participants were then given four aspects to discuss for the Mapping the Campus consultation: navigation; identifying the sculptures; knowledge transfer; and engaging our audiences. The responses showed that whilst the public art map has been well received, the campus itself is still difficult to navigate. However, on a more positive note, the map and the interpretative panels have helped with identifying sculptures. The Public Art Project's engagement with poetry proved popular, and participants were eager to see a wider range of disciplines getting involved with art on campus in future. There were several suggestions for a variety of trails that could be developed, including one focused on fitness and wellbeing, and another using campus art as a means of creative storytelling. In terms of engaging our audiences, it was highlighted that more can be done to encourage staff and students, on their lunch breaks, to get involved with art on campus. Liaising with the City Council had resulted in the British Art Show 8 map including campus sculpture, producing a coherent Leeds offer for visitors.

A panel discussion, reflecting on the points raised during the workshop, concluded our afternoon. It was agreed that more needs to be done to overcome the potentiality of 'barriers' stopping visitors from coming onto university campus environments. The different approaches would be further explored in a new Specialist Subject Network. Dr Stella Butler, the University Librarian and Keeper of the Brotherton Collection, closed the workshop by offering her thanks to everyone who attended, and emphasised once again the rich potential for public art on campus at the University of Leeds. 

Staff Picks XVI

Special Collections Team Assistant Stephen Clatworthy writes of his appreciation for the Maurice de Sausmarez exhibition.

Farm on the Road to Montaione Tuscany 600x300

Image:  Maurice de Sausmarez, Farm on the Road to Montaione, 1965, oil on canvas, courtesy of the de Sausmarez Family Collection.

The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery's exhibition of paintings and drawings by Maurice de Sausmarez contains a remarkable array of subjects and styles. Each work presents some new avenue of visual investigation, yet they are all executed with remarkable skill and technical accomplishment. 

As a prominent educator in Fine Art, both at the University of Leeds and elsewhere, de Sausmarez's term-time commitments resulted in a significant number of his works being produced during, and inspired by, holidays abroad. Landscape works from France and Italy have provided much of this exhibition with a warm summer glow. 

The large painting Farm of the Road to Montaione is one such work, and might otherwise be a straightforward landscape-postcard from a more relaxing climate. However, the content of the image has been thoroughly scrutinised by the artist; disassembled and re-assembled in geometric shapes, indicating a preoccupation with form and transformation. While the kaleidoscopic effect results in a scene that is still recognisably a landscape, it appears to be arrived at intuitively, as much via the mind's eye as by observation. When viewed up close, each arrangement of shapes within the composition - whether describing the buildings, trees, hills or fields - could be an abstract image in its own right; not dissimilar from those displayed elsewhere in the exhibition. 

The artist's approach to colour gives the painting a shimmering quality. Dashes of golden-green are painted over areas of orange; violet and blue mingle, as do yellow and soft red. The effect of this on the eye is one that would be hard to capture in a photograph of the work, making surface come alive for the viewer.

The different colours activate each other both within and between the clearly defined diamond, oblong and triangular surface shapes. In describing a landscape scene, this is all done towards achieving a subtle and harmonious outcome, but the cumulative effect brings great life and vitality to the work.  

Constructing this scene through abstract shapes, each with their own visually satisfying relationship to each other, is no mean feat. In addition to being a very pleasing painting to look at, this is certainly one to admire as an accomplishment. It has been wonderful to be introduced to this and other great works by Maurice de Sausmarez during the exhibition. 

Introducing Sketch Club

It is a new year, so we thought we would try something new!

Starting on 5th February we are inviting you to drop in and draw with us every Friday afternoon at the Gallery. Sketch Club will run every Friday between 12:30 - 3.30pm.

Whether you can stay for 10 minutes are the full free hours, this is a perfect opportunity to relax and get creative at the end of the week.

So how will it work? Just pop into the gallery, we will provide all materials, and give you a Friday Focus and then we will leave you to it! You can hone your sketching skills while appreciating our fantastic Art Collection. 

So why not give it a go! We look forward to seeing you there. 

New Acquisition Focus: Joash Woodrow

Our latest Education Room display showcases some of the work of Leeds Jewish Artist, Joash Woodrow, kindly gifted to us by the Woodrow family.

Joash Woodrow new acquisition

Thanks to the gift of his family, we can now proudly display Joash Woodrow's unique style and tell his moving story.  Joash Woodrow was born into a large Polish-Jewish family in Leeds in 1927 and he attended Leeds College of Art. After a stint as an army cartographer, Woodrow studied painting and drawing at the Royal College of Art between 1950-53, alongside fellow students including Frank Auerbach and Peter Blake.  Sadly, after graduation, he suffered an emotional breakdown which forced him to return to his Chapel Allerton family home. Here, Woodrow continued painting prolifically, as a solitary recluse.

After years of virtual anonymity, Woodrow was 're-discovered' around 2000, when he was forced to move out of his home due to ill health. Thousands of artworks were found when the house was cleared out and the layers of grime were brushed off. Woodrow even used hessian sacks and metal advertising boards as his 'canvases', as though he was compelled to produce art on whatever surface was available.

The first exhibition of Woodrow's work was held in 2002 in Harrogate, soon followed by shows at Leeds Art Gallery, The Ben Uri and many others. 

We've complemented Woodrow's work with pieces by his Jewish Artist contemporaries, Kramer and Naviasky, so you can compare and contrast the distinct style of these three incredible artists.

Also on show are a few bronze sculptures from the University's Art Collection by former Gregory Fellows in Sculpture. 2016 is the 'Year of Textile' in our Public Art project so we are looking forward to inviting more people on campus to enjoy the artwork dotted in and around the University.

Catch these few works on display from our collection between now and Saturday 19th March, 2016. 

2015 Review: Public Art Project

Professor Ann Sumner summarises a successful first year for the Public Art Project at the University.

Manmade Fibres by Mitzi Cunliffe

Image: Mitzi Cunliffe, Man-Made Fibres, (1954-1956), sculpture: Portland stone, photograph © University of Leeds 

Professor Sumner: "As the year draws to a close we can reflect on an eventful period for Public Art with the launch of the University's new strategy and the Public Art Programme on 11 June, followed by a 'Summer of Public Art' activities which continued on into the autumn with an Open Day Heritage tour, FUAM and Old Students tours. We reached out to new audiences through short lunch time presentations and public poetry events.  There has been a great response from the public submitting poems inspired by our campus public art, so do let us know if you have further works to send us.  

We are also thrilled that our campus art was included in the Leeds Visual Arts Unfold leaflet with a map, as this has brought more visitors on to campus to discover our sculpture for themselves. Liam Gillick's Lazzarato on Debt (2015) is currently situated in Parkinson Court as part of British Art Show 8

Next year, we look forward to an innovative Textile theme for our Public Art Programme which traces the rich textile heritage of the University, and celebrates the 60th anniversary of Mitzi Cunliffe's iconic sculpture Man-Made Fibres".