Behind the Scenes at the Gallery

Oct 23 2013

Museums Sheffield’s Curatorial Intern for Visual Art, Natalie Patel, on her work behind the scenes at the city’s museums and galleries.

I’ve been with Museums Sheffield for three months now, working with the Visual Art department. So far it’s been an incredibly varied experience and it’s been great to play a part in caring for and sharing Sheffield’s collection, and bringing some wonderful works to the city.

There’s lots going on in the Visual Art team at the moment – I’m particularly excited about our forthcoming exhibition of Polish Émigré artists in Graves Gallery. It’s been fascinating to find out more about these remarkable artworks which are drawn from the private collection of Matthew Bateson. The collection has never been publically exhibited before, so we’re thrilled it’s making its debut with us here in Sheffield!

I’ve also been researching Edward Carpenter, a founding member of the Independent Labour Party and a pioneering social activist. Championing many causes, including gay rights, the emancipation of women and the environment, Carpenter lived in Sheffield for over 40 years – you can now find out more about this remarkable man in our Works in Focus display at Graves Gallery.

The Bay of the Thousand GirlsPreparation and planning for what goes on show starts long before visitors actually see the work in the gallery. At the moment, I’m working on a display of print to coincide with the centenary of the start of the First World War in 2014. American artist Joseph Pennell created some wonderful images of Sheffield’s munitions factories including, The Bay of the Thousand Girls, which shows women making shells at Sheffield’s National Projectile Factory in 1916. The work is among a series currently with our paper conservator, who’s giving them some much needed TLC ready for the display which will open next summer.

Conservation has been an important part of my role over the last few weeks. During the past month I’ve been working with the Visual Art Curators in the store prioritising works that are in need of specialist care. Conservation is a hugely time-consuming and expensive process, which is only made possible thanks to the generous donations of our visitors and Friends. Over the next few months we’re running a fundraising campaign with the Friends of Museums Sheffield asking them to choose a particular work which they will support the conservation of and so I’ve been working with the Curators to prepare a shortlist of paintings for them to pick from.

My favourite work on the shortlist is Eugen von Blaas’ striking oil painting Dressing for the Masquerade (c1860-1885), which, due to its condition, sadly hasn’t been able to be displayed for over a decade. The work depicts a scene in late 19th century Venice; a woman, ready in her white wig and colourful dress, is waiting for her partner, who is struggling with his jacket, to attend the masquerade. Having lived and worked in Venice I am very much drawn to this vibrant and characterful painting and its stunning Venetian costumes. Not wanting to bias their decision, but I’m really hoping the Friends choose to support this work – it would be wonderful to see it hanging on the walls of the Graves Gallery!

To find out how you can become a Friend of Museums Sheffield or help support the conservation of the city’s collection, visit our Support Us page 


Top: Eugen von Blaas, Dressing for the Masquerade, c1860-1885 (detail) © Museums Sheffield
Middle: Joseph Pennell, The Bay of the Thousand Girls, 1917 © Museums Sheffield 


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