A Cultural Legacy – Remembering Frank Constantine

Jul 24 2015

Curator of Visual Art, Liz Waring, talks about the newest exhibition at the Graves Gallery- A Cultural Legacy, Remembering Frank Constantine:

Frank Constantine was Director at Sheffield City Galleries from 1964-1982 and during that period he collected over 500 objects for the city's Visual Art collection. These objects ranged from a Charles Rennie Mackintosh chair to an African mask, with two and three-dimensional artworks in between - so as you can imagine, deciding what to put into the exhibition was no easy task.

Ivon Hitchens, Flower Piece, 1943In order to create a comprehensive show it was necessary to focus on one particular area, and therefore Modern British art became the theme. This area is the strength of Sheffield’s collection and this is mainly down to Frank and his clever collecting. He was very canny when purchasing paintings, buying them when they were out of fashion and therefore much cheaper, or bargaining for a better price. He knew the London dealers very well, and was often tipped off about a work for sale. As is apparent in the exhibition, and also in many of the works on display in the rest of the Graves Gallery, Frank had a brilliant eye and was hugely knowledgeable about his subject.

As well as the paintings on the walls, I have also tried to give a sense of the man himself. I’ve recorded memories of Frank from his family, friends and colleagues as well as using his own words in some of the text alongside the paintings. It was through these memories and his stories and letters that I really got a sense of who he was and his huge contribution to the city. It seems that Frank was not only a great collector, but also a kind and generous man. He managed his staff with a light touch, and everyone who knew him speaks kindly of him. He put Sheffield on the cultural map and was very innovative in his field, creating educational and exhibition programmes that were ahead of their time and making art accessible to everyone.

This exhibition was a joy to curate - not only for the artworks on display, but also because I had the opportunity to get to know Frank through his paintings, his collecting and through the people that knew and loved him. I was never fortunate enough to meet Frank before he passed away last year, something I will always regret, but I am pleased that he knew this exhibition was going to happen, celebrating his wonderful contribution to the cultural life of the city.

Feeling inspired? Join tutor, Carol Lambert, for a day of observation and drawing from the A Cultural Legacy exhibition at the Graves Gallery which celebrates Frank Constantine’s contribution to the city. Find out more here.

Find out more about our A Cultural Legacy- Remembering Frank Constantine exhibition here.

Top: Frank Constantine © Sheffield Newspapers
Bottom: One of Frank's acquisitions for Sheffield's Visual Art collection- Ivon Hitchens, Flower Piece, 1943 © Jonathan Clark & Co, Representatives of the Artist's Estate.



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