Art and Yorkshire: From Turner to Hockney at the Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate

PUBLISHED: 00:00 25 March 2014

JMW Turners Knaresborough Castle

JMW Turners Knaresborough Castle

© DAVID HOCKNEY

A new blockbuster Harrogate exhibition traces Yorkshire’s influence on artists

Runswick Bay by Staithes Group artist Mark SeniorRunswick Bay by Staithes Group artist Mark Senior

The beauty of Yorkshire’s landscape reportedly moved the great British painter JMW Turner to tears. In fact, his tour of the north in 1797 is known to have inspired his artistic creation until the end of his days.

A new blockbuster exhibition – Art and Yorkshire: From Turner to Hockney – explores how the diverse multiple personalities of our county have inspired some of the world’s finest artists.

Hosted at the Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate from April 12th to October 12th, the show features more than 100 paintings, photographs and sculptures. From JMW Turner’s familiar landscapes to Atkinson Grimshaw’s moonlit Victorian streets, and rarely seen work by Bradford-born David Hockney, this exhibition places past masters and contemporary artists together in a new context to send a picture postcard of Yorkshire to the world.

The aim is to engage the viewer with an invigorating show of art from the 19th century right through to the present day with exciting, unexpected juxtapositions of artists, the historical alongside the contemporary, and the famous sharing wallspace with little known but not insignificant works.

The choice of pieces includes not only art that was made in Yorkshire, but also art made by Yorkshire-born artists in diverse and contrasting locations.

Ask a group of curators to select an exhibition about art and Yorkshire and each would make very different choices. So, inevitably, the Mercer show reflects a personal perspective on a very wide subject. Curator Jane Sellars grew up in Yorkshire, studied history of art at Manchester University then worked for ten years at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. But she couldn’t stay away from her home county forever.

‘I’ve worked with art in Yorkshire for a long time and in all sorts of different ways,’ she said. ‘It’s inevitable that I am drawn to certain subjects, the moors around Haworth, for example, with those wild skies. The Brontës have certainly left their romantic mark on my visual sense of the West Yorkshire landscape.

‘At the same time I love all the new work going on, such as Katharine Holmes’ emotive landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales, Myles Linley’s powerful chalk drawings of Hull and Jake Attree’s paintings of York.’

Themes of landscape, city and industry, the sea and Yorkshire’s people run through the exhibition. The Yorkshire landscape is seen through the eyes of eminent visiting artists JMW Turner and Thomas Girtin, Leeds-born printmaker Norman Ackroyd and Malham artist Katharine Holmes. Our cities appear in many forms, as interpreted by Charles Ginner, Sheila Fell, David Hockney and John Pipers. And the sea is explored in Laura Knight’s Staithes painting, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe’s photographs and Grimshaw’s moonlit Scarborough harbour.

Jane has written a book, Art and Yorkshire: From Turner to Hockney, to accompany the exhibition with a preface by Alan Bennett. It’s published by Great Northern Books of Ilkley and includes 150 illustrations of the paintings, prints, drawings, photographs and sculptures included in the exhibition and complementary works. n

Art and Yorkshire: From Turner to Hockney at the Mercer Art Gallery, Swan Road, Harrogate, is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm, and on Sunday from 2-5pm. Admission is free. For more information, phone 01423 556188 or visit Harrogate.gov.uk/mercerartgallery.

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