Fine Art Curator Hannah Williamson explores the connection between Manchester and the Scottish coastal town of Kircudbright through the painter Charles Oppenheimer.
I’d recommend to anyone interested in Manchester’s art history a visit to the Scottish coastal town of Kirkcudbright this summer (for the uninitiated: go up as far as Gretna Green and then left for 50 miles, pronounced ‘Kirkoobree’). The new Kirkcudbright Galleries opened last year, and their current summer show focuses on an artist from Manchester, Charles Oppenheimer (1875-1951).
From designer to painter
Oppenheimer grew up in Manchester in the Greenheys area, and trained at the School of Art, the idea being that his design skills would benefit the family mosaic business. Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd was based in Old Trafford, and employed about 25 people to produce beautiful mosaics (there’s a sample on display in the Kirkcudbright exhibition), a frequent client being the Catholic Church. Charles’s father, a German Jewish immigrant, founded the business following estrangement from his merchant banking family.
Charles himself waited until after the death of Ludwig before spreading his wings, choosing to paint for his living, and removing himself from city life. Kirkcudbright was his artistic haven. However, his links with Manchester remained strong. Oppenheimer was a member of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts, and exhibited there almost without a break from 1910 to 1952, serving as President of MAFA from 1949-50. He and his wife Connie came to Manchester every year for the MAFA Conversazione, as they so glamorously titled their exhibition previews.