Manchester Art Gallery

Art for All: Thomas Horsfall’s Gift to Manchester

An exploration of a selection of nature-themed artworks and objects from the city’s little-known Thomas Horsfall collection.

Manchester Art Gallery
Friday 7 June 2013–Sunday 1 June 2014


If we have a strong love of beauty, the most beautiful things we see become part of ourselves.

Thomas Horsfall, The Study of Beauty, 1883

This display was co-curated by local school children from St Augustine’s CE Primary School in Harpurhey, Manchester.

Thomas Coglan Horsfall (1844-1932) was a remarkable philanthropist and pioneer of art gallery education from Manchester. He collected over 1700 objects and artworks for his groundbreaking Manchester Art Museum, which he set up in 1884.*

The 60 artworks chosen from Horsfall’s art collection included birds, botanical and garden drawings and watercolours. Highlights included two rarely seen watercolours by Ruskin, as well as chalk studies by Ford Madox Brown and Rossetti. Mostly delicate works on paper, many of the pieces were on display for the first time in 60 years.

The exhibition also featured a film and artworks created by the school children in collaboration with local artist Pat Mountford, film maker Jess Wild and sound designer Dan Beesley.

The exhibition was the result of a project between Manchester Art Gallery and St Augustine’s CE Primary School – funded in part by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund – and was based around Horsfall’s art collection, celebrating his dedication to educating children through art, and aiming to connect young people with the natural world in their local surroundings.

Children involved in the project said

I have really enjoyed discovering how artists find their inspiration. This project has shown me there is so much more to see especially when I look at nature, which I love to look at everyday now.

Frederick Ogbonna, age 10

We have been lucky to see so many excellent paintings. Working with people from the gallery, we have put them together to help others look at them in different ways. It’s exciting to show our own artwork and film, it will let visitors see how the paintings make us feel.

Leah Byrne, age 10

Explore the Horsfall Collection

The Horsfall Collection website was co-curated with children and young people. Organised into four themes, the site offers a contemporary perspective on the collection and a new way of accessing artworks.

Elizabeth Redgrave, White Goosefoot and Grayling butterfly