Picturing Sheffield

Apr 25 2017

Curator of Visual Art, Liz Waring, on the development of the Picturing Sheffield gallery at Weston Park Museum:

We were thrilled to reveal Weston Park’s new Picturing Sheffield gallery to the public last October. Filled to the rafters with paintings of Sheffield, the gallery is a real celebration of the city we all know and love.  But how did these new displays come about?

In 2013 we were delighted to learn we had been successful in our application for a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help us improve key parts of the museum. One of the areas we had identified for development was the existing About Art gallery; we felt that space wasn’t working as well as it could and that with a new approach, it could offer a much better experience for our visitors. While the original display was useful in learning about how to approach art, we realised that we needed to make the space feel more welcoming and be somewhere that different generations of visitors could enjoy together. Through talking to people who used the museum, it soon became clear that there were two main outcomes our visitors wanted to see; more paintings on the walls and a stronger connection with the rest of the museum. And so, the idea of Picturing Sheffield was born.

We decided to make the most of the wonderful Victorian gallery by filling the walls with paintings in a ‘salon’ hang. Due to the size of the gallery this required a lot of works, but thankfully paintings of Sheffield represent a significant part of the city’s collection. Over the last few years a significant amount of work had been done around the local scenes in both the Visual Art and Social History collections, so we were soon able to begin to building a list of potential works to display.

Due to the number of works we could choose from, we decided to narrow the selection by identifying four key themes for the gallery: Portraits of the City, different views of Sheffield across the years; Lost Sheffield, paintings of places that have since changed or been demolished; City of Industry, images of the working heart of the city; and Sheffield at Leisure, art depicting places to visit and things that Sheffielders might like to do in their spare time.

Wagwood Stone Quarries before con

The development of the gallery also provided an opportunity for conservation of a number of works. Several historical paintings were given specialist care, removing yellowing varnish and cleaning them to reveal the vibrant colours underneath.

While the collections in our care reflect many different aspects of the city from 1826 right through to the present day, we found that there were some areas that weren’t represented. Many of the historic industrial scenes in the collection are images of men, so we were delighted to be able to borrow Sheffield City Council’s magnificent maquette for the Women of Steel sculpture to reflect their remarkable contribution to the life of the city.

Wagwood Stone Quarries after con

Similarly, we’re pleased to show some wonderful loans from Sheffield artists Pete McKee, Jo Peel and Mark Wilson, adding to the displays of our city’s contemporary artists. These are joined by a new commission from ceramic artist Emilie Taylor that now forms part of Sheffield’s collection.

I came to Sheffield 14 years ago and one of the main things that I personally enjoyed about working on the new Picturing Sheffield gallery is finding out so much more about my adopted home. We hope that you like the new gallery and that you’ll have lots of fun spotting landmarks you know, remember places from your childhood and seeing the city from a new perspective.

You can see the Picturing Sheffield gallery coming together in this time lapse film.


Image: Top: Installation of visual art into Picturing Sheffield gallery. Image © Museums Sheffield

Image: Middle Right: Wagwood Stone Quarries, Dore, Derbyshire, 1888 by William Boden, before conservation. Image © Museums Sheffield

Image: Bottom Right: Wagwood Stone Quarries, Dore, Derbyshire, 1888 by William Boden, after conservation. Image © Museums Sheffield

Picturing Sheffield has been supported by a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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