An exhibition featuring some of the most famous names of modern British art is coming to Ferens Art Gallery this summer.
Reflection: British Art in an Age of Change explores over a century of creative achievement by a diverse body of artists whose loves and fears, doubts and dreams mirror our own.
Featuring more than 130 works drawn from the Ingram Collection of Modern British Art and the permanent collection of the Ferens Art Gallery, Reflection presents a dynamic and diverse vision of Britain and British art which asks questions about identity and belonging. What does it mean to be British? How do we define British art? How do we present ourselves to the world?
The exhibition opens on 17 August 2019 and runs until 5 January 2020.
As well as paintings, drawings, sculpture and prints, curator James Russell has selected works created over the last century that employ collage, photography and video – from Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s charcoal on paper Standing male nude (1913) to Victoria Sin’s film Part Three / Cthulhu Through The Looking Glass (2017).
He said: “It isn’t the medium or the date of the work that matters, it’s what the artist is saying about the world and their place in it. Works that are by turns troubling and funny, serene and dystopian, straightforward and strange – reflecting the very different views and experiences of the artists.”
Some of the most famous names of modern British art are included; from Stanley Spencer, Henry Moore, John Piper and David Hockney to Bridget Riley, Barbara Hepworth and Elizabeth Frink. Frink’s Walking Madonna (1981) is one of several rarely-seen large-scale sculptures, which also includes Meat Porters by Ralph Brown (1959). Alongside exquisite watercolours by Eric Ravilious (Channel Fishers, undated, and Rye Harbour, 1938) and Paul Nash (Elm Trees in Garden Landscape, c.1930), visitors will experience the powerful vision of Peter Howson (such as Resurrection (1999) and Mr Great Heart (1996).
Portraiture is a particular strength of both collections and is well represented in the exhibition, with works by artists such as Wyndham Lewis (Self Portrait, 1932), John Bratby (Self portrait with yellow background, not dated), Bridget Riley (Woman at Tea-table, not dated) and Lucy Jones (Wheelie, 2012).
The seriousness of some works is leavened with humour elsewhere, with light-hearted paintings and drawings by Leonard Rosoman (Fattipufs and Thinnifers, not dated), Edward Ardizzone (General staff of the 3rd Grade, 1944) and Edgar Ainsworth (Blackpool, 1945).
Reflection also includes contemporary artists who address the subjects of identity and belonging in intriguing ways, among them Victoria Sin (Fun Bag, 2015) and Gillian Wearing (Self Portrait as my Uncle, Bryan Gregory, 2003). The inclusion of recent work demonstrates the remarkable vitality of art in Britain, but the exhibition as a whole reminds us that we have endured tough times before.
James Russell added: “Artists have always played a valuable role in expressing feelings and exploring doubts shared – but not necessarily articulated – by the rest of us. Many of the featured artists have found joy in our world, but a few have battled with despair.
“Some were born in Britain and travelled elsewhere through choice or necessity; others were born elsewhere and travelled here. Some worked a hundred years ago; others are just starting on their careers. Whether working in oils, bronze, pencil, collage, watercolour, printmaking or film, each of these artists has the capacity to help us look at the world afresh or to address difficult feelings – to reflect.”
Councillor Marjorie Brabazon, chair of Hull Culture and Leisure, said: “I’m delighted that the Ferens is able to present such an outstanding collection of work. Ferens Gallery has had an incredible few years and is now recognised as one of the country’s premier art galleries. It’s this reputation that allows us to work with partners like the Ingram Collection to bring such incredible work to Hull.”
Ingram Collection Curator Jo Baring said: “The Ingram Collection is committed to showcasing our museum-quality art collection around the UK, increasing public access to and engagement with art. It is a privilege to work with the Ferens, whose permanent collection is of such high quality, and I’m really excited about the show that James is creating.
“It promises to be both a visual treat and a timely reminder that the issues artists were grappling with in the last century are once again relevant to contemporary audiences.”
Kirsten Simister, Curator of Art, Ferens Art Gallery, said: “The Ingram Collection provides a wonderfully rich window into British modern and contemporary art that creates a natural foil for the Ferens holdings.
“We’re honoured to work with the Ingram team and freelance curator James Russell to celebrate our joint strengths and aim to bring visitors fresh insight into many of our less familiar and more rarely seen works as part of the exhibition.”