Manchester Art Gallery


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

The great British toastie revival starts here

Chef Mary-Ellen McTague brings a whole new outlook to our café

The great British toastie revival starts here

Good food, made well. The return of the Breville toastie, Bury black pudding, bread and pastries baked on site, Derbyshire oatcakes and Manchester tarts – this summer, we welcome a new chef and a whole new outlook to our café.

Mary-Ellen McTague, best known for her award-winning restaurant, Aumbry, reopens the Gallery Café on 16 June. Expect local producers, a kitchen garden out front and everything made every day, from scratch. It’s a fresh start for us, and good food for you.

Until then, please bear with us while we update and improve the café. Follow developments @MAGallerycafe or speak to a member of our staff.

A new partnership: the gallery and Real Junk Food Manchester

We believe that good food should be available to everyone. We’ll be working with Real Junk Food Manchester in our new café to offer a pay-as-you-feel menu for children – delicious, healthy meals that are affordable for families.

Helping make family visits that bit easier

Why pay as you feel? Manchester Art Gallery is for everyone, a civic space in the heart of the city that’s open to all. But we know that families often struggle with the cost of eating out. By sourcing ingredients from Real Junk Food Manchester we can help make family visits that bit easier.

From 16 June, if you are visiting the café with children you’re welcome to order meals from our children’s menu. Simply pay what you feel at the till or by using the donation box in the kitchen.

Like the idea? Help us deliver pay-as-you-feel meals by making a donation during your next visit. Every penny goes towards supporting this project.

The Real Junk Food Project Manchester is a not-for-profit community interest company.

Please note, while we upgrade our kitchens in  preparation for the new café, the café itself will be closed. The Gallery Café will be open again Friday 16 June.

Gallery Café opening times

New café, from mid-June
10am-5pm Monday-Sunday (until 9pm Thursdays)

Follow developments @MAGallerycafe or speak to a member of staff for more details.

A Statement from Manchester’s Arts and Cultural Organisations

We have all been deeply saddened at the tragic events of Monday at Manchester Arena. Our hearts go out to the families, friends and loved ones of the victims, and to all of those affected by this terrible attack. The fact that the attack took place at a concert, where young people were gathered to enjoy music and each others’ company is a particular source of sadness.

While nothing can overcome the terrible loss, the determination and resilience of the people of Manchester has been remarkable, and Manchester’s cultural organisations will play their part in the city’s response. We will all be working closely with the police, the city council and other relevant bodies to ensure that our venues and events remain safe. We will also be following the advice of the City Council to continue, wherever possible, with all our planned activity, demonstrating the city’s spirit and strength.

Manchester is a city defined by its great culture. We all intend to play our part in continuing to build and share this culture, and to welcome visitors from the city and the world to our creative events and spaces.


AND Festival
Band on the Wall
Castlefield Gallery
Coliseum Theatre
Contact Theatre
Film Hub North West Central
Hallé Orchestra
Manchester Art Gallery
Manchester International Festival
Manchester Museum
Museum of Science and Industry
National Football Museum
Octagon Theatre
Royal Exchange Theatre
The Whitworth

George Frederick Watts, The Good Samaritan

Image: George Frederick Watts, The Good Samaritan

Take notice

Every month, a group of us head off to Manchester Art Gallery to look at just one painting for 30 minutes.

The dictionary definition of mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations”. This is exactly what we try to practice in these sessions.

We arrive and take our seats in front of a painting and Louise, the gallery’s Health and Wellbeing Manager, goes through a short warm up exercise where we focus on our surroundings. We concentrate on what we can hear – this can be footsteps, voices, doors closing, air conditioning rattling – and how we feel – our backs on the chairs, are we cold, hot, hungry, anxious. If our mind wanders, we are advised to gently bring it back to the here and now.

Then onto the main event, a guided session on the painting by Louise. We are encouraged to think about how we feel about the painting, do we like it, what emotions does it bring up in us, what does it depict? Then we look at the colours, the texture of the paint, light and shade, the frame and setting.

In this way, we are encouraged to really “see” the painting and how it affects us, and it is amazing (and maybe obvious) that the more you look, the more you see. The painting can draw you in, challenge your perceptions and evoke feelings of sadness, curiosity, joy or peace. It can bring up memories and stories, and free the mind to wander where it will whilst focusing on this one image.

One example that stands out for me was a small, drab looking painting that I probably would not have given a second glance to. It was by Gwen John, and was a tea table in a sitting room, all browns and beiges. However, in concentrating on the image, the colours, the textures and how it made me feel, I became aware of what a beautiful painting it was, the harmony of colour and light. I left that session feeling a very deep sense of peace and contentment.

In our busy lives where we are always trying to juggle and fit everything in, rushing about and never stopping to think, this is a way to be kind to ourselves and nourish our body and mind and general well-being.

I relish this opportunity to sit still and use mindfulness in this unique way. It has opened my eyes to other areas in my life where I can use these techniques to breathe, to stop, to renew and recharge.

It has also had other benefits – getting out of the office, meeting like-minded colleagues and discovering the art gallery shop! I have bought a number of gifts for family and friends here, I can browse in a calm atmosphere and avoid the scrum of the Arndale Centre – result!

The next session will be on Tuesday 21 February, so if you’re interested meet at the Information Desk at 12.05pm for a mindfulness art adventure!

Sandra Robinson, National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE)


The Mindful Museum

For the past four years we have been developing mindfulness across our learning programmes and with different audiences, we have explored just how this valuable skill can be employed in the appreciation of art. In this way, we have helped people to engage more fully with our permanent collection as well as with our special exhibitions. In encountering familiar works as well as art that is entirely new to them, they have been able to reflect upon the importance of their own mental health.

Our learners

The people we work with are invited to learn, develop and practise it within our gallery walls. Through our projects and public workshops, we have been helping people to appreciate that mindfulness is both life-long and life-wide. But the most important outcome is that they are encouraged to develop it independently in their everyday lives.

Our learners include adult mental health service users, primary school children, older people, newly qualified teachers and people who are long-term unemployed and the general public.

Adults and communities

Our work with mental health service users saw mindfulness provide a much needed tool they when they were coping with difficult emotions and thoughts. It seems to give people something to draw upon whenever they feel overwhelmed by the events of their day. A resource for recovery on the journey back to good mental health.

In our work with public sector workers, we have seen that mindfulness can help people respond to the challenging changes they face and over which they feel that they have little control.

Our drop-in lunchtime sessions have provided city-workers with important nourishment as well as respite from the noise and over-stimulation of the modern world. This gives them a moment away from the many pressures of their working environments. Mindfulness can be used as a preventative measure, protecting and strengthening people’s mental health by helping them learn skills to manage stress better and thereby lowering the risk of developing a mental health problem.


Similarly our work with schools has shown that mindfulness can help children to build up emotional resilience and self-worth. Thus empowered, they are more inclined to accept and value themselves for being just the way they are.

With a quarter of a million children accessing mental health services in England today, we believe mindfulness is a necessary skill for children and young people today to learn in order to flourish and thrive as adults.

Older people

Older people have told us that mindfulness has helped them to see life in a new way and how they have become more aware of the curious, the strange and the beautiful. They are therefore enriched by the realisation that irrespective of age, there is still so much left to see and appreciate in the world. And they are able to do this with a renewed sense of wonder.

The future

As the Mindful Museum we will raise awareness of the clinical evidence behind the practice and its impact on people’s health, creativity and learning.


Having integrated mindfulness across our learning strands and with a mindfulness-based public health and wellbeing programme that is accessible to every adult, we would like to share our learning and experience with other museums galleries. In our studios, we will share practical ways for other museum and gallery professionals to integrate mindfulness into their programmes through a series of Continued Professional Development sessions. And, of course, we look forward to learning from others so that we can continue to develop our knowledge and improve our understanding in this field.

A mindful city is a healthy, resilient city

Most importantly, we will continue to support people to learn this wellbeing skill so that they can effect real and long-lasting change in their own health and wellbeing. In other words, as The Mindful Museum, we will continue to invite the people of Manchester to be mindful, one painting at a time.