Manchester Art Gallery

Works on loan: Dhaka to Tennessee

JMW Turner’s monumental painting Thomson’s Aeolian Harp was lent to The Lightbox in Woking for the Turner in Surrey exhibition. This is the first exhibition to focus on the work that Turner produced in and around Surrey and also features Newark Abbey on the Wey and View of Richmond Hill and Bridge from the Tate collection.

Woman with Cantaloupe by Robert MacBryde travelled to Edinburgh for display in A New Era: Scottish Modern Art 1900-1950. This exhibition considers the responses of Scottish artists to the modern art movements of the early 20th Century.

Our two Marion Adnams paintings L’ Infante Egaree and The Living Tree went out on loan to Derby Museum and Art Gallery for display in Marion Adnams: A Singular Woman, a retrospective exhibition of the artist’s work in her hometown.

William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion at Petworth House (National Trust) brings together a collection of original works with a connection to the county. Manchester Art Gallery has lent two portraits of the poets John Milton and Edmund Spenser from a larger series of 18 that Blake was commissioned to decorate the library of the new house, called The Turret, of William Hayley (1745 – 1820), the poet and patron of the arts, at Felpham, Sussex.—visions-of-albion-exhibition

Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom by Walter Sickert was on display at the London Art Fair in January as part of the Art UK display, Art of the nation: Five Artists Choose. Art UK, the online catalogue of the UK’s public art collections, invited five artists to each select five works from the website. Mat Collishaw’s selected the Sickert for display alongside works by William Orpen and Caroline Walker from other UK public collections.

Lady with a Mantilla by Augustus John has gone out on loan to Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Tennessee, USA. The painting is on show as part of The Real Beauty: The Artistic World of Eugenia Errázuriz exhibition which looks at the life of Errázuriz and her involvement in and influence on modern art and design.

Thomas Dugdale’s painting Night is currently on display in Rhythm & Reaction: The Age of Jazz in Britain exhibition at Two Temple Place in London. The display marks 100 years of jazz in the UK and considers it’s impact on Britain from 1918 onwards.

The Gallery’s Korean Dragon jar (c. 1500 – 1600) has travelled down to Hauser & Wirth in Somerset for display in The Land We Live In – The Land We Left Behind. This eclectic display explores the connection between humans and the land around them and has been curated by Adam Sutherland, Director of Grizedale Arts in Cumbria.

Tate St Ives have borrowed two works from the collection – Self-portrait by Louise Jopling and Primulas by Winifred Nicholson – for display in the Virginia Woolf exhibition. The show includes works by over 80 artists that have been inspired by the author and her writings. The exhibition will tour to two other UK venues, Pallant House Gallery in Chichester and The Fitzwilliam Museum

Two Hiroshige woodblock prints, Pine Tree and Moon Pine, Ueno, travelled to the Dhaka Arts Summit in Bangladesh to be included in a collaborative presentation by the artist Raqib Shaw as part of the Bearing Points exhibition.

Presenting the female body: Challenging a Victorian fantasy

A barometer of public taste

8 February 2018

Following a fantastic response to its seven day absence – both at the gallery itself and on-line – Waterhouse’s masterpiece Hylas and the Nymphs returned to public display at Manchester Art Gallery over the weekend.

The painting – part of the gallery’s highly prized collection of Pre-Raphaelite works – was temporarily removed from display as part of a project the gallery is working on with the artist Sonia Boyce, in the build-up to a solo exhibition of her work at the gallery opening on 23 March 2018. Boyce’s work is all about bringing people together in different situations to see what happens. The painting’s short term removal from public view was the result of a ‘take-over’ of some of the gallery’s public spaces by a wide range of gallery users and artists on Friday January 26th.

The event was conceived by Boyce to bring different meanings and interpretations of paintings from the gallery’s collection into focus, and into life. The evening included a series of performances, all filmed by Boyce’s team, addressing issues of race, gender, and sexuality, culminating in the careful, temporary removal of the Waterhouse painting. In its place, notices were put up inviting responses to this action that would inform how the painting would be shown and contextualized when it was rehung. In the course of this last week the space where the painting was has become filled with post-it notes from individuals wanting to contribute to the discussion.

Hylas was chosen because the painting has been a barometer of public taste since it was painted in 1896 and continues to be so.

Since its removal, the painting and its temporary absence from the gallery has captured the attention of thousands of people not just in Manchester but everywhere, and in so doing has opened up a wider global debate about representation in art and how works of art are interpreted and displayed.

There has been an incredible response over the last week – it’s encouraging to see that so many people care so much about our historic collection, and about Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs in particular, and we want to thank people for taking the time to respond.

Given the sheer volume and breadth of discussion that has been sparked by the act of removing the painting, the gallery is now planning a series of public and live streamed events to encourage further debate about these wider issues, and is looking forward to welcoming people to these, and hearing what they have to say.

The first of these events will be a chaired panel debate, inviting speakers with a broad spectrum of opinions to discuss the issues raised. More details about this event will be released shortly. To register your interest in attending the debate please contact us here:


Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece back on public display after its temporary removal

3 February 2018

Well, there’s no denying it’s been an interesting week. We anticipated a heated debate but were amazed by the huge response to the temporary removal of Waterhouse’s Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece. As of this morning, following seven days in our art store, this important painting is back on display.

The comments section on this post has received well over 700 posts, we’re working through them and all aside from the merely abusive will be published. Please feel free to continue the debate here, we genuinely value your input.

Thank you.

The full press release is copied below.

Press release

Following a fantastic response to its temporary removal – both at the gallery itself and on-line – Waterhouse’s Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece Hylas and the Nymphs will be back on public display at Manchester Art Gallery from tomorrow, Saturday 3 February.

The painting – part of the gallery’s highly prized collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings – was temporarily removed from display as part of a project the gallery is working on with the contemporary artist Sonia Boyce, in the build-up to a solo exhibition of her work at the gallery opening on 23 March 2018.

Boyce’s artwork is all about bringing people together in different situations to see what happens. The painting’s short term removal from public view was the result of a ‘take-over’ of some of the gallery’s public spaces by gallery users and performance artists last Friday January 26th.

Since its filmed removal as part of the Boyce project a week ago, the painting and its temporary absence from the gallery has captured the attention of people everywhere, and in so doing has opened up a wider global debate about representation in art and how works of art are interpreted and displayed.

Given the sheer volume and breadth of discussion that has been sparked by the act of removing the painting, the gallery is now planning a series of public events to encourage further debate about these wider issues.

Amanda Wallace, Interim Director Manchester Art Gallery, said: “We’ve been inundated with responses to our temporary removal of Hylas and the Nymphs as part of the forthcoming Sonia Boyce exhibition, and it’s been amazing to see the depth and range of feelings expressed.

“The painting is rightly acknowledged as one of the highlights of our Pre-Raphaelite collection, and over the years has been enjoyed by millions of visitors to the gallery.

“We were hoping the experiment would stimulate discussion, and it’s fair to say we’ve had that in spades – and not just from local people but from art-lovers around the world.

“Throughout the painting’s seven day absence, it’s been clear that many people feel very strongly about the issues raised, and we now plan to harness this strength of feeling for some further debate on these wider issues.”



We have left a temporary space in Gallery 10 in place of Hylas and the Nymphs by JW Waterhouse to prompt conversation about how we display and interpret artworks in Manchester’s public collection.

How can we talk about the collection in ways which are relevant in the 21st century?

Here are some of the ideas we have been talking about so far. What do you think?

This gallery presents the female body as either a ‘passive decorative form’ or a ‘femme fatale’. Let’s challenge this Victorian fantasy!

The gallery exists in a world full of intertwined issues of gender, race, sexuality and class which affect us all. How could artworks speak in more contemporary, relevant ways?

What other stories could these artworks and their characters tell? What other themes would be interesting to explore in the gallery?

The act of taking down this painting was part of a group gallery takeover that took place during the evening of 26 January 2018. People from the gallery team and people associated with the gallery took part. The takeover was filmed and is part of an exhibition by Sonia Boyce, 23 March to 2 September 2018.

To be continued…

Get involved in the conversation

Add your thoughts using #MAGSoniaBoyce.

Objects of Obsession: A new digital series in partnership with the Royal Academy and The Space

We are excited to announce our new digital video series in partnership with the Royal Academy and The Space featuring leading British artists and their Object of Obsession: a work of art by another artist that has great meaning to them.

As part of the Royal Academy’s 250th anniversary celebrations, three Royal Academicians will take part in a series of talks with broadcaster and RA artistic director Tim Marlow about their chosen Object of Obsession. The work may be one that has transformed or transfixed them, provoked an emotional response, inspired them, or perhaps changed their work.

Each talk will be hosted by the gallery or museum which houses the piece, and we are delighted  that artist Sonia Boyce has chosen Othello, the Moor of Venice Created by: James Northcote  from the Manchester Art Gallery collection.

Sonia will visit the gallery on Thursday 8th March to explore the reasons why Ira Aldridge’s portrait holds a personal meaning and relevance to her artistic process with broadcaster and RA artistic director Tim Marlow.

The revelatory encounter will be filmed and streamed live across our Facebook and YouTube page to art fans across the globe on the dates below. We will also stream the other talks from the series.

The series of talks aims to set up new and lasting collaborations between regional galleries to build their digital presence. The series aims to seed set up a new distribution network of shared digital content and shared effort between arts organisations to attract new online audiences.

The Royal Academy, an international institution that has pioneered/embraced the opportunities that digital technology has brought; both in its relationship with global audiences and in the potential for collaborations with other institutions.

Talk dates

Friday 16th February
Cornelia Parker on Sketch of an Idea for Crazy Jane (1855) by Richard Dadd at Bethlem Museum of the Mind

Thursday 8th March 
Sonia Boyce on Othello, the Moor of Venice by: James Northcote  at Manchester Art Gallery

Wednesday 21st March
Bob and Roberta Smith at New Art Gallery Walsall

Donors help us continue to grow our collection

We are pleased to welcome a new group of donors who have helped us to acquire works for the collection from the Manchester Contemporary 2018.

A gift to the city from The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund.

The Manchester Contemporary, the only UK invitational art fair for critically engaged contemporary art outside London, today announced artists William Mackrell and Emma Price as the first to benefit from its newly-launched The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund.

Created by a set of local business people passionate about their city and its cultural heritage, The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund seeks to support rising artists, providing them with a platform through which to achieve critical acclaim and greater popularity.

William Mackrell, represented by The RYDER, and Emma Price, represented by Two Queens, were selected from over 150 artists by Fund founders and the curatorial team of Manchester Art Gallery following an exhaustive panel discussion. William’s piece – Aquarius, and Emma’s pieces – Mike I and Mike II, are to be displayed in the gallery.

Continue reading at The Manchester Contemporary.


See paintings differently.

#MAGfiction is a new weekly series of very short stories inspired by the paintings in our collection, from Patrick, one of our Visitor Services team. We’ll be posting these on Twitter and Instagram every Friday. See the full series here.


John Everett Millais Winter Fuel

The woodcutter and his daughter were collecting firewood for winter. He wouldn’t let her accompany him into the forest. “It’s too dangerous,” he said. “Wait here. I won’t be long.” She waited patiently for hours but he didn’t return. A howl rose from the trees. The wolf, too, needed winter fuel.

Words © Patrick Kelleher in response to Winter Fuel John Everett Millais, 1873
Currently on display in gallery 7.

From Denver, USA to Kitakyushu, Japan, gallery loans span the globe

Jacob Ochtervelt, Merry Company

Works from the gallery are frequently requested for loan by museums and galleries worldwide. Siân Millar our Loans Manager, who makes sure that the whole process of enabling loans from and to the gallery runs smoothly, highlights where some of our works have travelled to recently.


Merry Company by Jacob Ochtervelt, previously on display in Gallery 14, has gone out on loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. It will join our other Ochtervelt painting Sleeping Cavalier for the final leg of the touring exhibition Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry. The exhibition explores artistic exchanges between Vermeer and his contemporaries in Dutch genre painting.


Balaclava by Elizabeth Butler has also gone out on loan to the US this month. The painting is part of a three venue touring exhibition opening at Denver Art Museum which looks at Women Artists in Paris at the end of the 19th Century. Following its run at the DAM, it will travel to The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky and then on to its final destination at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.


Six of our Paul Nash works on paper are now on display at York Art Gallery as part of the exhibition Paul Nash and the Uncanny Landscape, curated by John Stezaker. The exhibition includes works by Stanley Spencer, John Nash, Edward Burra, and Henry Lamb and looks at the changes in landscape painting following the devastation of the First World War.


Our Tissot, Hush! has travelled down to Tate Britain for The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London, French Artists in Exile (1870 – 1904). The exhibition focuses on the community of French Impressionists working in London during this period. Following it’s run in London the show will tour to Petit Palais in Paris.


One of our Turner watercolours , Rochester, Kent, has gone out on loan to Japan for an ambitious exhibition titled Turner and the Poetics of Landscape. Currently on display at
Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art in Fukuoka Prefecture, the exhibition will tour to four venues in total making stops in Kyoto, Tokyo and Koriyama.


Yesterday another of our Ochtervelt works, Embracing Cavalier, went out on loan to The Netherlands for The Art of Laughter: Humour in the Golden Age exhibition at the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem. The display ‘presents the first ever overview of humour in seventeenth-century painting’.

Jacob Ochtervelt, Merry Company, c1665 (detail)

Can you help us test our website?

OK, so online collections are not exactly the stuff of dreams, but they have real value. Whether you’re just browsing for pictures of kittens – we have some – or are looking for the name of that painting you saw on your last visit but can’t remember its title, or whether you’re researching the history of glass making in Ancoats and need detailed and authoritative information, we’d like to make sure we make it easy for you.

We’ve been working behind the scenes to improve the information available online about our collections of fine art costume and design. Information about these collections, including whether a work is on display or not, is now completely up to date with our own collection management records.

The next phase is to make improvements in how these collections are searched and how they are presented to make them engaging and informative to the widest possible audience. We need your help to do that! We’re holding a series of website user-testing sessions over the next couple of weeks so, If you’re interested in helping us please complete the form below. We’re aiming to recruit a balanced representative selection of our audience, so please understand if we don’t involve you this time.

As a thank you for taking part, you’ll receive a £10 voucher to use in the Gallery Café.


Alistair Hudson appointed as new Director for Manchester Art Gallery and The University of Manchester’s Whitworth

The University of Manchester and Manchester City Council have today announced that Alistair Hudson, currently Director of the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima), will be the new Director of Manchester Art Gallery and the Whitworth.

Alistair will take up his role in the New Year. He succeeds Maria Balshaw at the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery following her appointment as Director of Tate earlier this year.

I am completely thrilled to be taking up this post in Manchester. The city’s cultural scene is one of the most dynamic and diverse in the country and Manchester Art Gallery and the Whitworth are at the heart of this. Maria Balshaw and her teams have established both institutions at the forefront of the democratisation of art, working for all of society. I look forward to driving this mission forward and working across the region in projects that have real impact in people’s lives.

Alistair Hudson

He brings with him a wealth of experience at the forefront of the culture sector and a strong record of championing art as a tool for social change and education. During the last three years as Director at mima, he set out the institution’s vision as a ‘Useful Museum’, successfully engaging its local communities and responding to the town’s industrial heritage, as well as placing it amongst the most prestigious galleries in the UK.

Alistair began his career at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London (1994-2000), before joining The Government Art Collection (2000-04) where, as Projects Curator, he devised a public art strategy for the new Home Office building with Liam Gillick.

As Deputy Director of Grizedale Arts (2004-14) in the Lake District, he helped the institution gain critical acclaim for its radical approaches to working with artists and communities, based on the idea that art should be useful and not just an object of contemplation.

Outside of these roles he is also Chair of Culture Forum North, an open network of partnerships between Higher Education and the cultural sector across the North and co-director of the Asociación de Arte Útil with Tania Bruguera. He was a 2015 jury member for the Turner Prize.

The full press release is available here.


MAGnet, news and views from our Visitor Services staff, volunteers and guest writers

MAGnet is a new blog from Iona and Beatriz in our Visitor Services team. With news and views from our Visitor Services staff, volunteers and guest writers, it taps into the wealth of knowledge in our teams; conveying the individual interests and personalities of the people who work at Manchester Art Gallery.

Read more at MAGnet.



Shirley Baker Manchester 1968
© Shirley Baker Estate

Entangling ourselves in knots of our own making

There was lots of noise in the gallery today.

The galleries are usually busy with school groups and visitors chatting to each other about art but today was a particularly noisy day due to essential maintenance being carried out in the building. Drills, hammers and voices filtered throughout and eventually into our mindfulness practice. Which ironically enough was all about noticing sounds in the gallery. Usually the sounds we hear though are slow footsteps on creaky Victorian floors, the far off distant clink and clatter of cups from the café and occasionally even the pitter-patter of tiny feet exploring the gallery perhaps for the first time. Today the sounds were different.

During this noisy practice I could tell a couple of participants were a bit put out, it seemed as though the noise was disrupting their experience. A natural reaction to something we do not like is annoyance or irritation. Here, I thought to myself, was the perfect opportunity to talk about acceptance, an important element in mindfulness practice. When we bring acceptance to everyday things that we find annoying like the sounds of drills in the gallery or the sound of someone on the tram talking loudly on the phone (this is a personal peeve of mine, ask any of my friends), we are more likely to bring a sense of acceptance to the big things in life such as overwhelming and intense emotions.

By the way, acceptance does not mean resignation or giving up; it means perceiving your experience and simply acknowledging it rather than judging it as good or bad.

A lot of our struggle as humans comes as a result of resisting difficult emotions. We do not like to feel afraid or hopeless or empty or enraged and so we fight against them – we rationalise, we bargain, we retreat, we try to neutralise and repress them  – as the poet Rilke so beautifully put it,

  We entangle ourselves in knots of our own making and struggle, lonely and confused.

But if we are our wisest, bravest and most self-compassionate version of ourselves, accepting the moment that we are in will help us manage and recover from those emotions more quickly.

But if we are our wisest, bravest and most self-compassionate version of ourselves, accepting the moment that we are in will help us manage and recover from those emotions more quickly.

We discussed this. Some members of the group nodded, some simply looked like they were taking it all in and a few looked unconvinced. Which is fine. And so we tried again. Listening, noticing the sounds of the hammering and the drills, noticing when this annoyed us and then trying our best to accept the sounds, letting them be there because there really was not anything we do about them. Cultivating a sense of acceptance of what was already here.

Afterwards, I asked the group ‘How do you feel?’ One participant, who I know is having a difficult time smiled for the first time in the session and simply said ‘Better.’

Louise Thompson, Health and Wellbeing Manager


Take notice

First and third Tuesdays of the every month

12:15 & 1pm

Free, everyone welcome