David Bomberg, Trendrine in Sun, Cornwall, 1947, detail. © The Artist’s Family

Dive In

And learn more about our collections and the artists who have exhibited here.

Our collections and exhibition programme are at the heart of everything we do and just because our doors are closed that hasn’t changed!

Here are some insights from curators and others about works from the collection, how and why new works are acquired, interviews with artists and research into forthcoming collection displays and exhibitions.

Curator’s choice: What I’m reading

Fine Art Curator Hannah Williamson:

Charles Rowley: Fifty Years of Work Without Wages

Here’s my curator’s choice and I’m dying to get back to it.
I have dipped into this book before, but I’m going cover-to-cover this time, reading it on the Internet Archive.
I’m talking about Fifty Years of Work Without Wages by Charles Rowley. It’s the autobiography of a true Manchester citizen. As a picture framer, he’s close to artists (the Rossettis, Ford Madox Brown, Frederic Shields) and as City Councillor he’s leading the charge for indoor plumbing for working people. As the founder of the Ancoats Brotherhood he’s bringing people together (he calls it ‘chumming’!) for music and friendship and political discussion. It’s really anecdotal, not a tedious read. We’ve got Rowley’s portrait by Ford Madox Brown in the collection, and one by Rothenstein, but I have to say that he has a lot more umph in the book than the image…


Volunteers choice: An Art work I love

Volunteer guide, Isabelle, talks about The Coffee Bearer by John Frederick Lewis – 1857

This small yet wonderful oil painting by John Frederick Lewis awakened my curiosity about another world far beyond Manchester – the Middle East, where artists such as John Frederick Lewis travelled to in the 19th century. Lewis was one of a group of artists – the British Orientalists, who journeyed to these distant lands to capture on canvas everyday life, the hustle and bustle of the cities and the landscape of the present day Middle East.

My quest to find out more also inspired me to travel – firstly around Britain to view other artworks by Lewis and the British Orientalists (see links below) and then on a trail to Southern Spain and Morocco to seek out the famous sites of Islamic architecture.

I find “The Coffee Bearer” painting captivating  – the beauty of the young servant, her exotic dress of  exquisitely painted fabrics, the intricate archway and decorative tiled floor, the landscape of the Orient in the background.  It transports me to another world and has given me much joy and excitement through my research and my travels!

Links for other works by John Frederick Lewis and the British Orientalists:

Art UK – art.uk.org

Birmingham Museums Trust www.birminghammuseums.org.uk

Fitzwilliam Museum www.fitzmuseum.ac.uk

Harris Museum, Preston www.theharris.org.uk

National Galleries of Scotland  www.nationalgalleries.org

National Library of Scotland www.nls.uk (diaries/letters of British Orientalists)

Whitworth Art Gallery www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk

Victoria and Albert Museum www.vam.ac.uk

Explore the Collections

There’s so much to see here, from the rightly famous Pre-Raphaelite paintings to florid nylon knickers, from wonderful period drawings of Manchester to exquisite Dior couture.

You can search the collection of over 25,000 objects of fine art, craft, design and costume here.

The Collections

Fine Art

The collection contains nearly 13,000 items including painting, sculpture, drawings, watercolours, prints, posters and photographs. Best known for our world-famous Pre-Raphaelite paintings, the collection also includes British and European art from the 17th century right up to the present day.

Craft and Design

Over 13,000 objects of craft and design from ceramics, glass and furniture to metalwork, wallpaper and dolls houses. Highlights include early English slipware, 17th century silver, and our growing collection of contemporary furniture and lighting design.


The costume collection includes over 21,000 items of clothing, textiles and accessories, covering all aspects of the history of dress from 1600 to the present day. 18th century fashion and 19th century women’s and children’s dress are particular highlights.