The Idea of an Art Gallery - Early Days

'...the establishment of an art gallery is like sunshine in a place whose shades are Plutonian, and whose light and atmosphere suggest the sad seventh circle of Dante's vision.'

The Magazine of Art, 'Pictures at Leeds', 1884

When Leeds Art Gallery opened in October 1888, it was part of a move across many metropolitan centres to establish enlightened civic cultural institutions that would help improve the lives of new populous industrial cities.

The idea of an art gallery in Leeds had been in the air for more than 20 years. In 1868 a large-scale temporary exhibition had taken place in the city - the National Exhibition of Works of Art - which inspired a group of individuals, centred around Colonel Thomas Walter Harding, the director of a local textile engineering firm, to work towards the creation of a new purpose-built gallery. Harding was elected to the city council with this in mind.

This display celebrates the people involved in establishing Leeds Art Gallery by bringing together a range of portrait busts, along with paintings that were acquired in the first 12 years of the Gallery's life.

The early collection was informed by the political philosophy of self-improvement which emerged in the first decades of the 1800s and encouraged working people to educate themselves through the arts and sciences.

Photograph of the work of art: A Corner of the Baron's Larder

Henry Weekes (1849-1888)

A Corner of the Baron's Larder
c. 1850-84
Oil on canvas
Presented by Ernest Simpson, 1891
LEEAG.1891.0087

Disorder seems to rule in this mid-Victorian still-life by Henry Weekes Junior, a painter from a well-known artistic dynasty. Game birds, normally hung up while they were prepared for the table, have here been cast into a dark corner. The upturned pitcher, and the presence of a swan — a species protected by the Crown from the 12th century onwards — suggests that the baron of the painting’s title is a law-breaker, and hints at a serious breakdown in the social order.

Photograph of the work of art: Study of a Skull

John N. Rhodes (1809-1842)

Study of a Skull
date unknown
Oil on canvas
Presented by H. Perkins, 1891
LEEAG.1891.0111

The Leeds-based painter John N. Rhodes, who died prematurely of suspected alcohol-related illness, offers up a gloomy meditation on the brevity and frailty of human existence. This ‘vanitas’ painting encourages the viewer to reflect on the futility of ‘man’s works’ in the face of the inevitable.

Photograph of the work of art: The Cowthorpe Oak

John N. Rhodes (1809-1842)

The Cowthorpe Oak
1840
Oil on canvas
Presented by F.H. Barr, 1894
LEEAG.1894.0094

The Cowthorpe Oak, situated near Wetherby, Yorkshire, attracted many visitors to the region, including the artist JMW Turner, who marveled at its survival, despite being in a state of decay for many generations. A contemporary account of the oak in the Topographical Dictionary of Yorkshire [1822] noted that ‘The intermixture of foliage amongst the dead branches, show how sternly this giant struggles for life, and how reluctantly it surrenders to all conquering time.’ Recent conservation of this painting, one of John N. Rhodes’s finest, has revealed the full extent of the raging storm, and the dawning of the rosy calm on the horizon.

Photograph of the work of art: The Return of Ulysses

Edward Armitage (1817-1896)

The Return of Ulysses
1840 (reworked 1853)
Oil on canvas
Presented by the executors of the Robert Armitage Estate, 1951
LEEAG.PA.1951.0008.0005

Edward Armitage came from a family of wealthy Leeds industrialists. Unusually for the time, he carried out his artistic studies in Paris, under painter Paul Delaroche. This painting’s frieze-like action takes place within a classical interior, which Armitage based on archaeological discoveries at Pompeii. Modelling his exacting level of detail on the work of Delaroche, Armitage also set out to give each of his paintings a charged emotional atmosphere, which led to him being accused of being ‘not wholly English’.

Photograph of the work of art: Mary Queen of Scots, when an Infant, stripped by Order of Mary of Guise, her Mother, to convince Sadler, the English Ambassador, that she was not a Decrepit Child, which had been insinuated at Court

Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846)

Mary Queen of Scots, when an Infant, stripped by Order of Mary of Guise, her Mother, to convince Sadler, the English Ambassador, that she was not a Decrepit Child, which had been insinuated at Court
1842
Oil on canvas
Presented by Sir Andrew Fairbairn to the Corporation of Leeds, 1867
LEEAG.1867.0092

In the mid-19th century, history painting was considered to be the most elevated form of art. Hoping to improve the tastes of the masses, Benjamin Robert Haydon — the artist responsible for this particular example of the genre — carried out lecture tours in northern industrial towns, including Leeds and Manchester. Haydon’s son later married Robina, the daughter of the Lord Mayor of Leeds, and it was Robina’s brother Andrew Fairbairn who gave this painting to the collection. While Haydon painted a few good pictures, it’s difficult to argue that this painting — with its cramped stagey effects, and the reworked heads of the main characters — is one of them.

Photograph of the work of art: Childhood & Old Age

John Everett Millais (1829-1896)

Childhood & Old Age
1847
Oil on Canvas
Transferred from the Corporation Property Commission, 1952
LEEAG.1897.0130.A

These panels, or ‘lunettes’ that the 18 year old
John Everett Millais made as a student at the
Royal Academy were commissioned for an internal decorative scheme for the Leeds home of John Atkinson. The panels offer allegorical illustrations of different phases of life: ‘Infancy’, ‘Old Age’, ‘Youth’ and ‘Manhood’ [not seen here], and emphasise the improving qualities of the Arts. Millais later became a key exponent of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Photograph of the work of art: Poetry & Music

John Everett Millais (1829-1896)

Poetry & Music
1847
Oil on canvas
Transferred from the Coporation Property Commission, 1952
LEEAG.1897.0130.E

These panels, or ‘lunettes’ that the 18 year old
John Everett Millais made as a student at the
Royal Academy were commissioned for an internal decorative scheme for the Leeds home of John Atkinson. The panels offer allegorical illustrations of different phases of life: ‘Infancy’, ‘Old Age’, ‘Youth’ and ‘Manhood’ [not seen here], and emphasise the improving qualities of the Arts. Millais later became a key exponent of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Photograph of the work of art: Noah's Sacrifice

Daniel Maclise (1806-1870)

Noah's Sacrifice
c. 1847
Oil on canvas
Presented by T.R. Harding, 1888
LEEAG.1888.0081

The rainbow was a popular and potent religious symbol in the 19th century. In this painting, as in Christian doctrine, it represents the promise given to Noah that his people would never again be swept away by a flood.

‘I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.’ [Genesis 9:13-15]

Photograph of the work of art: Landscape with Sheep and Goats

Thomas Sidney Cooper (1803-1902)

Landscape with Sheep and Goats
1852
Oil on canvas
Presented by Alderman George, 1889
LEEAG.1889.0085

Thomas Sydney Cooper, one of the oldest members of the Royal Academy, was so associated with pictures of cattle slumped in the meadow that ‘Cow Cooper’ became his nickname. Leeds Art Gallery had been gifted a similar painting by Cooper in 1888, by Colonel Harding, but perhaps Alderman George saw something virtuous in this image of sheep lying with goats in the barren uplands, with the mountain Cader Idris looming in the background. Before being gifted to the Gallery in 1889, this painting was exhibited in Leeds’ Philosophical Hall in 1862.

Photograph of the work of art: Public Opinion

George Bernard O'Neill (1828-1917)

Public Opinion
c. 1863
Oil on canvas
Presented by the friends of J.W. Middleton, 1888
LEEAG.1888.0086

George Bernard O’Neill’s painting shows us what ‘the public’ looked like, and how they behaved, when public galleries were brand new. When they opened in the 1860s, these civic institutions extended the opportunity to view art to everyone, and exposed the newly expanded middle classes, and the educated working classes, to ‘civilising’ pursuits that their social superiors had previously claimed as their own. This painting shows that ‘looking’ at pictures was also a matter of unravelling their meaning. Gifted to Leeds Art Gallery the year it opened, the painting reflected the new ‘public’ back on itself, and perhaps encouraged the new audiences to engage with what was on show.

Photograph of the work of art: Retribution

Edward Armitage (1817-1896)

Retribution
1858
Oil on canvas
Presented by the artist to Leeds Town Hall, 1858
LEEAG.1858.0078

Retribution marks the events of the Indian Rebellion of 1857–58, when Indian Sepoy troops working for the British rebelled. Great acts of cruelty occurred on either side. In the Cawnpore Massacre, British women and children were slaughtered by Sepoys, after they had been promised safe passage out of the area. Armitage presented this painting to the city of Leeds for its new Town Hall in 1858. The end of the conflict is depicted allegorically, with Britannia plunging her sword into the Bengal tiger of India, over the body of a murdered woman and her children.

Photograph of the work of art: A Turkish Warship on Fire

Constantin Bolonachi (1837-1907)

A Turkish Warship on Fire
1868
Oil on canvas
Presented by T.R Harding for the Inaugural Exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery, 1888
LEEAG.1888.0117

Constantin Bolonachi had a reputation as the ‘bard of the Greek sea’. The painter had developed a deep knowledge of maritime subjects while travelling throughout the Mediterranean on the Austrian Navy’s training ship. In this painting, Bolonachi illustrates an episode of high drama based on the Greek fight for independence from the Turkish Ottoman Empire [1821–29], a struggle that resonated in the European and American imagination because of their interest in Greece’s classical past. The English poet Lord Byron, for example, organised funds and supplies for the Greeks, and supported the cause through his verse:

The mountains look on Marathon —
And Marathon looks on the sea;
And musing there an hour alone,
I dream’d that Greece might still be free

[‘The Isles of Greece’, Lord Byron]

Photograph of the work of art: The Shadow of Death

William Holman Hunt (1827-1910)

The Shadow of Death
1870-73
Oil on canvas
Bequeathed by Charles George Oates, 1903
LEEAG.1903.0196

William Holman Hunt was a founding member of the
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Hunt adhered to their principle of ‘truth to nature’, advocated by the critic John Ruskin. This is evident in the painting’s fine vivid colours and fine details that stem from Hunt’s carefully noted observations from travels around Palestine between 1869
and 1872. While Ruskin believed that faithful observation represented the height of spiritual enlightenment, Hunt was also interested in conveying a strong story. In this painting,
Mary watches as Christ stretches out his arms, the shadow forming a cross which prefigures his crucifixion.

Photograph of the work of art: 'I am the Resurrection and the Life' or A Village Funeral

Frank Holl (1845-1888)

'I am the Resurrection and the Life' or A Village Funeral
1872
Oil on canvas
Purchased, 1894
LEEAG.1894.0016

A few years before he painted this, Frank Holl, who had made his name painting Social Realist subjects, had been recruited by the engraver and social reformer William Luson Thomas to work on Thomas’s newly founded newspaper, The Graphic. This painting appeared in the pages of the 17 August 1872 edition. It is one of Holl’s most memorable images, and carries a clearly discernible social and political comment. The hope proffered in the words of the Anglican funeral service in the title seem to carry little meaning for this scene of rural poverty and loss. Purchased for the gallery in 1894, the painting must have had a sobering effect on Leeds’ early audiences.

Photograph of the work of art: L'Aube, Souvenir des Alpes (Dawn, Souvenir of the Alps)

Gustave Dore (1833-1883)

L'Aube, Souvenir des Alpes (Dawn, Souvenir of the Alps)
1877
Oil on canvas
Presented by Sir John Barran, 1888
LEEAG.1888.0018

In French, the ‘souvenir’ of the title carries a more robust definition than the sentimental usage in English — meaning, quite simply, ‘memory’. It is possible that with this devastated mountain landscape Gustave Doré was seeking to convey something of the personal impact of the Franco- Prussian war. France’s defeat by Prussia in 1870, and the consequential loss of Alsace-Lorraine, was a source of deep distress to Doré who was a native of Strasbourg, the capital of this ‘lost’ region.

Photograph of the work of art: The Convent Garden

Francis S. Walker (1848-1916)

The Convent Garden
1878
Oil on canvas
Presented by Ernest Simpson, 1888
LEEAG.1888.0082

In an earlier age Walker’s painting might have been called a ‘conversation piece’, a painting intended to inspire discussion and intrigue. It is itself about conversation and disputation, and its composition allows the viewer a glimpse into an enclosed world, inviting speculation about unheard dialogue, and ‘romantic friendship’ among women. The Convent Garden was first shown at the Royal Academy, London in 1878. Walker was an Irish artist whose father, Thomas, was Master of the Workhouse at Dunshaughlin.

Photograph of the work of art: Nightfall down the Thames

John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893)

Nightfall down the Thames
1880
Oil on card mounted onto board
Purchased from Walter Battle, 1897
LEEAG.1897.0059

Walter Battle, a financier and local councillor who sold this painting to the Gallery in 1897, owned a large number of paintings by John Atkinson Grimshaw, which he had received in exchange for funds lent to the artist. The viewpoint in this painting is from the Pool of London towards the Thames shipping area. The careful control of atmospheric effect and subtle gradations of tone make it one of Grimshaw’s most poetic evocations of the metropolis, and suggests the influence of James McNeil Whistler, who Grimshaw admired and might well have met in London.

Photograph of the work of art: Reflections on the Thames, Westminster

John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893)

Reflections on the Thames, Westminster
1880
Oil on canvas
Presented by John Kirk, J.P, 1890
LEEAG.1900.0181

It is likely that Grimshaw intended the ‘reflections’ of this painting’s title to carry a dual-meaning, drawing attention both to the artist’s skill in painting different nocturnal lighting effects — moonlight, gas, as well as the new opalescent electric orbs — as well as to the contemplation of the central figure. Grimshaw did not tackle social subjects overtly, but the presence of metropolitan nightlife in this painting has led to some to think that he was commenting on the underbelly of Victorian life, including the prostitutes who worked along the newly constructed Thames Embankment.

Photograph of the work of art: Iris

John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893)

Iris
1886
Oil on canvas
Purchased through the Corporation Fund, 1897
LEEAG.1897.0057

Iris, messenger to the Greek gods, is sent to wither the flowers in autumn and is punished for loitering amongst the water lilies by being turned into a rainbow. For Grimshaw, this was not a frivolous fairy painting, but rather a serious classical subject that he’d painted on two previous occasions. The story of Iris as messenger to the goddess Juno, is written on the reverse of the painting. Iris is Grimshaw’s only known painting of a nude female figure. The model was Agnes Leefe, who’d who moved into Knostrop Hall with the Grimshaw family in the early 1880s as a studio assistant and companion to the children.

Photograph of the work of art: The Sognefjord, Norway

Eilert Adelsteen Normann (1848-1918)

The Sognefjord, Norway
c. 1885
Oil on canvas
Presented by T.R Harding, 1890
LEEAG.1890.0077

Nordic landscape pictures were popular in Europe from the middle of the 19th century. Eilert Adelsteen Normann, who left his native Norway to attend the Art Academy in Dusseldorf, was one of the most successful and prolific producers of the genre. Normann’s paintings were so popular that it is thought that they helped inspire early tourism to Norway’s fjords. In 1890–91 the artist had a summer house built on the Sognegjord, which he visited each year from Berlin. Normann adopted something of
a formula in painting these scenes; they sold well. Even the Kaiser of Germany was a patron. This structure of this painting is typical, with the human activity in the foreground dwarfed by the towering mountains behind.

Photograph of the work of art: Scotland for Ever!

Elizabeth Butler (1846-1933)

Scotland for Ever!
1881
Oil on canvas
Presented by Colonel T.W. Harding, 1888
LEEAG.1888.0002

In her autobiography, Elizabeth Butler declared
that: ‘I never painted for the glory of war, but to portray its pathos and heroism’ [1922]. The Battle of Waterloo, 1815, depicted here through the highly- charged drama of the advancing Scots Greys, would have been recognised by early audiences at Leeds Art Gallery as one of the most celebrated moments of 19th century British history. The painting was presented to the Gallery for its opening exhibition by the father of the Gallery’s principal patron, Walter Harding. Although Butler never witnessed war first hand, her marriage to an army officer gave her direct access to the parade ground, which no other female painter had ever had.

Photograph of the work of art: A Dream of Ancient Athens

Sydney Herbert (1859-1914)

A Dream of Ancient Athens
1881
Oil on canvas
Presented by Colonel T.W Harding, 1888
LEEAG.1888.0083

During the eighteenth century, an increasing number of aristocratic British travellers visited the monuments of Greece on a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe. These journeys were were considered a vital part of a gentleman’s education. Continuing into the 19th century, these visits nurtured fantasies about ancient Greek culture and fired the artistic imaginations of gentleman poets and painters. Very few of the middle class viewers of this painting would have been able to experience such sights directly. Perhaps appropriately, the vista in this painting is depicted in the distance, and appears dreamily unobtainable.

Photograph of the work of art: The Bridesmaid

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902)

The Bridesmaid
1883-85
Oil on canvas
Presented by R.R King, 1897
LEEAG.1897.0015

When James Tissot returned to his native France after many years of living in London, he turned his attention to scenes from contemporary life, taking a lead from the painter Edouard Manet and the poet Charles Baudelaire. His series of 15 paintings, ‘La Femme à Paris’, made between 1883 and 1885 have moral questions at their centre. In The Bridesmaid, Tissot provides the viewer with a number of clues to unravel: the yelling boy; the half-gloved hand; the carriage’s unseen interior... and is the Optician’s sign a provocation to look more closely? Tissot had planned to commission short stories from notable French authors in response to his pictures but when his paintings met with critical disapproval, this idea was abandoned.

Photograph of the work of art: Fixing the Site of an Early Christian Altar

John Pettie (1839-1893)

Fixing the Site of an Early Christian Altar
1884
Oil on canvas
Purchased, 1900
LEEAG.1900.0184

In foreground of this painting monkish builders lay down the foundations for a Christian church, while in the misty background sit druidic monuments. Edinburgh-born Pettie entered the Trustees Academy in his native city at just sixteen. His earliest paintings exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy were inspired by Sir Walter Scott, whose historical poetry and novels fed a keen 19th century interest in the Middle Ages. By the time he painted Fixing the Site of an Early Christian Altar, Pettie was firmly established in England and an Associate of the Royal Academy but the scene still owes something to Walter Scott’s romanticised version of history.

Photograph of the work of art: Cordelia Comforting her Father, King Lear, in Prison

George W. Joy (1844-1925)

Cordelia Comforting her Father, King Lear, in Prison
1886
Oil on canvas
Presented by Colonel T.W Harding, 1888
LEEAG.1888.0006

Finding visual form for written narrative was a popular form of 19th century painting, whether the source was classical mythology or native legend and literature. Depictions of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays became especially popular with audiences after the publication of Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare [1807], which retold the familiar stories for children. In Shakespeare’s King Lear, Cordelia is banished by her father for refusing to flatter him in return for a portion of his kingdom. At the end of the play, mad but sane enough to know his own guilt, the blind King Lear utters, ‘I’ll kneel down and ask of thee forgiveness.’ It doesn’t end well. Cordelia is subsequently killed, and Lear, mentally unhinged dies as well.

Photograph of the work of art: A Snow Storm

Edward Stott (1859-1918)

A Snow Storm
c. 1891
Oil on canvas
Presented by the Ladies Council of Education, 1892
LEEAG.1892.0010

Edward Stott, originally from Rochdale, studied in France. As Stott wrote in 1893, his understanding of ‘Impressionism’ was: ‘a combined impression of the artist’s feeling — colour and form with the character of the subject, whether light and delicate, or strong and powerful; in short, a recording of the impression on the painter’s nature’. This image of companionship in the face of adversity must have appealed to the Ladies Council of Education, founded in 1875 to improve the lives and the education of girls and women of all classes in Leeds and Yorkshire, who presented this painting to the Gallery in 1892.

Photograph of the work of art: An Interesting Paragraph

Haynes King (1831-1904)

An Interesting Paragraph
date unknown
Oil on canvas
Purchased, 1891
LEEAG.AG.1891.0042

Haynes King was born in Barbados and came to England in 1854 at the age of 23. King became known for his genre paintings depicting idealised scenes of everyday life, and exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy from the 1860s to 1900. His paintings often feature one or two figures, usually women, engaged in domestic or social occupations — among them reading, talking and sewing — in ‘humble’ interiors.

Photograph of the work of art: The Siren

Edward Armitage (1817-1896)

The Siren
1888
Oil on canvas
Presented by the executors of the Robert Armitage Estate, 1951
LEEAG.PA.1951.0008.0004

Although it was presented to the Gallery much later, in 1951, this painting was made in the same year that the Gallery opened. Sirens and mermaids were objects of intense fascination in late 19th century — there are three paintings of these mythical subjects in the Leeds collection.
As representations of women as predators, sanctioned by Classical and other myths, it might be argued that this fascination expressed deep- seated anxieties rooted in a patriarchal response to emergent calls for female emancipation. In this painting, Armitage underlines his ‘classical’ subject matter by adding a Greek inscription to the frame.

Photograph of the work of art: The Bathers

Henry Scott Tuke (1858-1929)

The Bathers
1889
Oil on canvas
Purchased through the Corporation Fund, 1890
LEEAG.1890.0005

Henry Scott Tuke studied the tradition of the nude in Italy, but interpreted it with a modern impressionist style that focussed on everyday subjects. Born in York, Tuke later moved to Cornwall where he helped found the Newlyn School, which took its lead from French open air painting. This is one of many pictures Tuke painted of boys bathing in and around Falmouth Harbour. The scene, as with many of Tuke’s paintings, is dominated by an intense, clear shade of blue.

Photograph of the work of art: Le Dormoir de Moret - le Foret de Fontainebleu
The Resting Place at Moret - Forest of Fontainebleu

Leon Richet (1847-1907)

Le Dormoir de Moret - le Foret de Fontainebleu The Resting Place at Moret - Forest of Fontainebleu
1890
Oil on canvas
Presented by Charles Roberts, 1891
LEEAG.1891.0075

This painting by Leon Richet is an example of
the Barbizon school of painting — a group of artists who made their base in France’s Forest of Fontainebleu in order to paint outdoors directly in ‘front of nature’. The painting was gifted to Leeds by the collector and manufacturer Charles Roberts, who lived near Addingham, Yorkshire. Many Barbizon works were faithfully rendered images of trees and woods — capturing nature ‘in the raw’ — but this painting, with its faggot gatherers and quietly waiting horse, has a sense of narrative too. It is likely that this was the first Barbizon picture to enter a British public collection.

Photograph of the work of art: The Return of Persephone

Frederic Leighton

The Return of Persephone
1891
Oil on canvas
Presented by Sir James Kitson, 1891
LEEAG.1891.0001

Lord Frederic Leighton was one of the key Royal Academicians of the late 19th century, who, like Edward Armitage, often depicted classical subjects as a way to explore ‘moral’ issues. In this painting, Persephone, aided by Hermes, is released from the underworld into the arms of her mother Demeter, the goddess of grain and fertility. Leighton has intensified the drama of this painting by depicting the scene from a low vantage point.

Photograph of the work of art: Lady Godiva

Edmund Blair Leighton (1853-1922)

Lady Godiva
1892
Oil on canvas
Presented by Councillor E. Boston, 1893
LEEAG.1893.0020

According to legend, Lady Godiva once rode naked through the town of Coventry in order to persuade her husband to retract a punishing tax. As she rode, she was protected only by her hair, which ‘covered the whole of her body like a veil’. Edmund Blair Leighton’s painting seems to capture a moment from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘Godiva’ of 1842, when Godiva first beseeches her husband to drop the tax:

She sought her lord, and found him, where he strode About the hall, among his dogs, alone,
His beard a foot before him and his hair
A yard behind. She told him of their tears.
And pray’d him, “If they pay this tax, they starve.” Whereat he stared, replying, half-amazed,
“You would not let your little finger ache
For such as these?” — “But I would die,” said she.

‘Godiva’, Alfred, Lord Tennyson [1809–1892]

Photograph of the work of art: The Temptation of Sir Percival

Arthur Hacker (1858 -1919)

The Temptation of Sir Percival
1894
Oil on canvas
Purchased from the artist, 1895
LEEAG.1895.0013

Arthur Hacker, a successful portrait painter, created this work for the 1894 Royal Academy exhibition. Reflecting the interests and style of Pre-Raphaelite painting, it also shares with that movement a disenchantment with modern life and a desire to recapture a sense that art could express moral virtue. Hacker’s The Temptation of Sir Percival coincided with a revival of interest in Arthurian legend.

Photograph of the work of art: The Mermaid's Rock

Edward Matthew Hale (1852-1924)

The Mermaid's Rock
1894
Oil on canvas
Purchased from the artist, 1895
LEEAG.1895.0040

The sense of danger in this work by Edward Hale is more imminent than it is in Edward Armitage’s painting of a similar subject and, unusually, we see the approaching boats from the mermaids’ point of view. The Mermaid’s Rock was one of the first paintings bought for the Gallery’s collection. In a letter to the Gallery’s first curator, Hale writes:

‘The idea of the picture is that a few vikings in a small boat have lost their reckoning in a strange sea and attracted by the mermaids are led by them to the reef which shows through the water in the foreground. At the last moment they realize the position and shout to the Steersman to turn aside from the rock. The boat is lifted at that moment by a following sea and the next moment would be the crash on the hidden rock.’

Photograph of the work of art: The Drums of the Fore and Aft

Edward Matthew Hale (1852-1924)

The Drums of the Fore and Aft
1895
Oil on canvas
Purchased from the artist, 1896
LEEAG.1896.0014

This painting of a real historical incident is seen through the lens of a story by Rudyard Kipling, published in 1895. The story tells of an inexperienced British regiment that, during the Second Afghan War [1878–90], are sent to the front where they come face to face with the opposition. Two young drummer boys are left stranded when the regiment retreats in panic, but fortified by blind courage and canteen rum, they continue to march up and down the field of conflict to the sounds of ‘The British Grenadiers’. The boys are killed, but the battle is subsequently won.

Photograph of the work of art: Back to Life

Hubert von Herkomer (1849-1914)

Back to Life
1895
Oil on canvas
Presented by Alderman J. Hepworth, 1899
LEEAG.1899.0136

Hubert von Herkomer — like the painter Frank Holl — was employed to provide images for the campaigning newspaper The Graphic. In his early illustrations Herkomer often depicted minority communities including Italian immigrants, drawing on his own background as a poor German émigré. In this painting, a girl takes her first faltering steps from her sick-bed, while members of the village community look on. ‘Social Realist’ paintings like this were in a minority at the major exhibitions, but easily found buyers in rich collectors and in newly founded public galleries such as Leeds.

Photograph of the work of art: The Golden Valley

Alfred East (1844-1913)

The Golden Valley
c.1893
Oil on canvas
Purchased from the artist with the Corporation Fund, 1897
LEEAG.1897.0003

In this idyllic depiction of an idealised landscape Alfred East ignores any signs of the modernisation that had been changing the face of rural life throughout the 19th century. First shown at the Royal Academy in summer 1893, the painting was reviewed in the press as a ‘Modern Masterpiece
of British Art’. In 1895 it featured in the Spring Exhibition in Leeds, and was bought for the Gallery with the limited resources of the Corporation Fund two years later.

Photograph of the work of art: Near Richmond, Yorkshire

Joseph Rhodes (1782-1854)

Near Richmond, Yorkshire
date unknown
Oil on canvas
Presented by Charles Turner Lockwood, 1891
LEEAG.1891.0102

Joseph Rhodes paints north Yorkshire as if it were the Italian campagna. Rhodes, a largely self-taught painter from Leeds moved to London to seek a trade and spent evenings at the Royal Academy night- school. At the time, there was much demand from dealers for replicas of the ‘Old Masters’, and Rhodes became highly adept at this lucrative activity. Returning to Leeds, he set up an art school where his son John N. Rhodes enrolled. Charles Lockwood, a significant patron of both father and son, later gave several paintings by both John and Joseph Rhodes to Leeds Art Gallery.

Photograph of the work of art: Bust of Michael Sadler

William Behnes (c.1794-1864)

Bust of Michael Sadler
1836
Marble
Presented by United Leeds Hospitals, 1972

William Behnes (circa 1794–1864) began his artistic career as a portrait painter before taking up sculpture. He won a number of awards from the Royal Academy of Arts, where he trained and exhibited for the rest of his life. Behnes achieved particular success in the production of portrait busts, for which he attracted praise for his ability to capture the character of his sitter. Behnes also produced monumental public sculptures, including his bronze figure of Sir Robert Peel (1852) sited on Woodhouse Moor here in Leeds. He trained a number of important sculptors, including John Henry Foley, George Frederic Watts, Henry Weekes and Thomas Woolner. Despite his success Behnes suffered from alcoholism and died in poverty, having overextended his finances to remodel his Soho studio.

Michael Sadler (1780–1835) was a social reformer and politician. Largely self-taught as a teenager in Derbyshire, at the age of 20 he moved to Leeds and went into partnership with his brother, a linen merchant, but business was never his driving interest. He preferred to campaign against poverty and overpopulation, writing books and articles on the Poor Law and giving lectures at the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, which he helped to establish in 1819. An eloquent and earnest public speaker, Sadler entered politics and sought to limit the length of the working day for children in textile factories to no more than ten hours for those under eighteen.

Photograph of the work of art: Bust of Walter Farquhar Hook

William Day Keyworth (1817-1897)

Bust of Walter Farquhar Hook
1844
Marble
Aquisition source unknown

William Day Keyworth (1817–1897) was eldest son of a stonemason from Hull. He was apprenticed to the sculptor Henry Weekes (1807–77) and began to show his portrait busts at the Royal Academy in 1837. Although his practice was confined to portraiture and ecclesiastical monuments, Keyworth’s interests were in mediaeval sculpture, gothic architecture and the restoration of churches. His son William Day Keyworth Junior (1843–1902) continued his association with Leeds, carving the four Portland stone lions for Leeds Town Hall installed in 1867. In 1876 he was commissioned to execute a memorial to Hook for the Parish Church of Saint Peter-at-Leeds which was unveiled in 1878. Until the installation in 1903 of Frederick William Pomeroy's posthumous bronze of Hook in City Square in the centre of Leeds, Keyworth Senior and Junior held the monopoly of sculptural representations of Hook, both in life and after death.

Reverend Walter Farquhar Hook (1798–1875) was Vicar of Leeds for twenty-two years and during his tenure, doubled the number of Anglican churches to thirty six and the number of church schools from three to thirty. Hook was also active in the cultural and intellectual life of the borough. He was involved with the Leeds School of Design (a predecessor of Leeds College of Art) and President of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society between 1858–59. Long after Hook had left Leeds he retained ties to the borough by sitting on the ‘London Committee of Advice’ for the National Exhibition of Works of Art at Leeds in 1868. A marble bust of Hook by Keyworth was paid for by 200 subscribers and presented to Hook's wife Anna in 1844. Hook moved on to become Dean of Chichester in 1859 and as a parting gift, the bust was donated to Leeds Town Hall. It was later transferred to Leeds Civic Hall, where it is still displayed in the entrance hall. The source of this unsigned but otherwise identical bust remains unknown, although it is possible that it is the version displayed at the Leeds Third Polytechnic Exhibition at the Albion Street Music Hall, organised by the Leeds Mechanics’ Institution and Literary Society with Hook as its Chairman. The exhibition closed in mid-September 1845 and by the end of the month Keyworth’s bust of Hook had crossed the county and was on display at the Second Polytechnic Exhibition at the Hull Mechanics Institute.

Photograph of the work of art: Bust of Sir Peter Fairbairn

Matthew Noble (c. 1817-1876)

Bust of Sir Peter Fairbairn
1851
Marble
Purchased, 1981

William Day Keyworth (1817–1897) was eldest son of a stonemason from Hull. He was apprenticed to the sculptor Henry Weekes (1807–77) and began to show his portrait busts at the Royal Academy in 1837. Although his practice was confined to portraiture and ecclesiastical monuments, Keyworth’s interests were in mediaeval sculpture, gothic architecture and the restoration of churches. His son William Day Keyworth Junior (1843–1902) continued his association with Leeds, carving the four Portland stone lions for Leeds Town Hall installed in 1867. In 1876 he was commissioned to execute a memorial to Hook for the Parish Church of Saint Peter-at-Leeds which was unveiled in 1878. Until the installation in 1903 of Frederick William Pomeroy's posthumous bronze of Hook in City Square in the centre of Leeds, Keyworth Senior and Junior held the monopoly of sculptural representations of Hook, both in life and after death.

Reverend Walter Farquhar Hook (1798–1875) was Vicar of Leeds for twenty-two years and during his tenure, doubled the number of Anglican churches to thirty six and the number of church schools from three to thirty. Hook was also active in the cultural and intellectual life of the borough. He was involved with the Leeds School of Design (a predecessor of Leeds College of Art) and President of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society between 1858–59. Long after Hook had left Leeds he retained ties to the borough by sitting on the ‘London Committee of Advice’ for the National Exhibition of Works of Art at Leeds in 1868. A marble bust of Hook by Keyworth was paid for by 200 subscribers and presented to Hook's wife Anna in 1844. Hook moved on to become Dean of Chichester in 1859 and as a parting gift, the bust was donated to Leeds Town Hall. It was later transferred to Leeds Civic Hall, where it is still displayed in the entrance hall. The source of this unsigned but otherwise identical bust remains unknown, although it is possible that it is the version displayed at the Leeds Third Polytechnic Exhibition at the Albion Street Music Hall, organised by the Leeds Mechanics’ Institution and Literary Society with Hook as its Chairman. The exhibition closed in mid-September 1845 and by the end of the month Keyworth’s bust of Hook had crossed the county and was on display at the Second Polytechnic Exhibition at the Hull Mechanics Institute.

Photograph of the work of art: Bust of James Kitson

Alfred Bromley (c. 1828-1887)

Bust of James Kitson
c. 1865
Marble
Presented by United Leeds Hospitals, 1972

The sculptor Alfred Bromley (circa 1828–1887) was born in Birstall in Kirklees and received his first commissions for portrait busts while he was still a teenager. Bromley was an apprentice for the Leeds-based stone and marble masons Anthony Welsh and Dennis Lee, who carved a large number of statues, busts and memorials during the 1850s and 1860s. Welsh was also responsible for the restoration of the statue of Queen Anne by Andrew Carpenter when it was installed at Leeds Art Gallery for its opening in 1888. In 1853 Bromley exhibited at the short-lived Leeds Academy of Arts and by 1861 he had moved to Chelsea in London and exhibited twice at the Royal Academy of Arts.

James Kitson (1835–1911) was a local politician and locomotive manufacturer. He managed the Monk Bridge Iron and Steel Company on Whitehall Road with his brother, which was later combined with their father’s Airedale Foundry in Hunslet. Kitson was President of the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics' Institutes and a supporter of the Yorkshire College along with Obadiah Nussey. First lord mayor of Leeds, 1896–7. Kitson sat on the Executive Committee and was Joint Treasurer for the National Exhibition of Works of Art at Leeds in 1868. Kitson is represented as an older man in another marble bust in the Leeds Sculpture Collection, by local sculptor Edward Caldwell Spruce (1865–1922) from around 1907. It is on display alongside William Day Keyworth’s bust of Walter Farquhar Hook in the entrance of the Civic Hall.

Photograph of the work of art: Bust of Thomas Pridgin Teale

Thomas Earle (1810-1876)

Bust of Thomas Pridgin Teale
1867
Marble
Presented by United Leeds Hospitals, 1972

Thomas Earle (1810–1876) was born in Hull into a family of stonemasons, builders and architects. He began to sculpt as a child and first studied at the Hull Mechanics’ Institute, who were his first patron when they commissioned a statue of the local physician John Alderson. Earle moved to London in the early 1830s and entered the workshop of the prestigious sculptor Francis Chantrey, who encouraged him to study at the Royal Academy Schools. Earle developed a successful practice and was awarded important commissions, notably the statues of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert for Peason Park in Hull. He exhibited at the International Exhibition in London in 1862 and was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy of Arts.

Thomas Pridgin Teale (1801–1867) was born in Leeds and became a surgeon at the Leeds Public Dispensary in 1824 and then at Leeds General Infirmary between 1833 and 1864. Teale pioneered a method of limb amputation which allowed the patient to use prosthetics with more comfort than had previously been possible. He was one of the founders of the Leeds School of Medicine in 1831, where he was Lecturer on Anatomy and Physiology. His interests extended beyond medicine and along with Peter Fairbairn he was a supporter of the proposed art gallery in Leeds Town Hall in 1858. Teale was interested in anthropology and geology and held the position of Honorary Curator of the Zoological Department of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society before becoming their President between 1861 and 1863.

Photograph of the work of art: Bust of Obadiah Nussey

John Throp (1819-1889)

Bust of Obadiah Nussey
1876
Marble
Purchased circa 1906

John Throp (1819–1889) was born in Liverpool to a stonemason father and had moved to Leeds by 1840, where he studied at the Leeds School of Design after 1847. By the mid-1850s he was carving busts of local figures and exhibiting in the town. Throp began to undertake commissions outside Leeds and by 1861 he was working in London with his son before returning to Leeds by 1870. Throp was responsible for carving the only marble public sculpture in Leeds, representing former mayor Henry Rowland Marsden and completed in 1878. It is said that the marble he used was left over from the Albert Memorial completed six years earlier. Throp exhibited at the Summer Exhibitions of the Royal Academy of Arts (1857-80); the Yorkshire Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures (1875), the Yorkshire Fine Art Society (1880 and 1881) and the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures at the Walker Art Gallery (1884-86).

Obadiah Nussey (circa 1837–1901) was wool manufacturer and textile merchant who was mayor of Leeds between 1863 and 1864. He was a member of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society and president of the Leeds Mechanics’ Institution in 1866. Nussey was a founder of the Royal Exchange–a building at the intersection of Park Row and Boar Lane–which was constructed between 1872 and 1875, altered in 1925, storm damaged in 1962 and finally demolished in 1964. Both the exterior and interior were ornamented with sculptures of historical figures by John Throp, which is where their association may have begun. Along with James Kitson, Nussey was a supporter of the Yorkshire College (the predecessor of the University of Leeds) and particularly the Department of Textile Industries and Dyeing, which was established in 1880.

Photograph of the work of art: Bust of John Deakin Heaton

Henry Hugh Armstead (1828-1905)

Bust of John Deakin Heaton
1882
Marble
Presented by United Leeds Hospitals, 1972

Henry Hugh Armstead (1828–1905) was born in Bloomsbury in London. After training under his father, a heraldic chaser, he entered the Government School of Design at Somerset House (the forerunner of the Royal College of Art) at the age of 13 before continuing his studies at private art schools in the capital. Armstead spent the first part of his career as a designer and metalworker for the silversmiths Hunt and Roskell. He began to favour sculpture above applied art for its more prestigious and high-profile status and took on commissions for architectural ornament, which led him to work with the celebrated architect George Gilbert Scott (1811–1878) at the Palace of Westminster. Armstead was responsible for part of the model of the Albert Memorial and contributed reliefs and four statues to the final memorial in Kensington Gardens. Armstead was associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and early developments in the New Sculpture Movement.

John Deakin Heaton (1817–1880) was a physician and active participant in the civic life of Leeds. He studied at Leeds Grammar School before being apprenticed to a local surgeon. Heaton continued his training at the Leeds School of Medicine and concluded his training in Cambridge and London. He went on a grand tour through Europe collecting art, although his purchases were confiscated by customs officers on his return. He came back to Leeds and became a physician at the Public Dispensary in 1843. He was a council member of Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society from 1845 and President from 1868 to 1872. Heaton campaigned for improvements to the town through culture and education, notably through his support for the campaign to build a new Town Hall and the provision of a public art gallery within it. His sister Ellen Heaton (1816–1894) was an art collector and early donor to the Leeds School of Design.

Photograph of the work of art: Bust of John Barran

John Adams-Acton (1830-1910)

Bust of John Barran
c. 1886
Marble
Acquisition source unknown

John Adams-Acton (1830–1910) was born in Middlesex to a father who was also an artist. He received his early sculptural training from Matthew Noble (circa 1817–1876) before continuing his education at the Royal Academy Schools from 1853–58. He was a successful student and was awarded the Academy’s travelling scholarship to Rome in 1858, where he met the British sculptor John Gibson (1790–1866) who helped him to secure portrait commissions from prestigious patrons. After spending a short time in India Adams-Acton returned to London to set up his studio. He continued to attract commissions for portrait busts in marble and for public statues, including Titus Salt for Bradford (1874).

John Barran (1821–1905) was born in Surry but made his reputation as a ready-to-wear clothing manufacturer in Leeds, where he arrived in 1842. His business quickly expanded and he was an early adopter of new mechanical technologies to improve and expand production. He was a patron of the architect Thomas Ambler (1838–1920), who designed his Moorish warehouse on Park Square. Barran was a benefactor for the purchase of Roundhay Park for the town and was mayor of Leeds between 1870–71. Barran was an important early donor to Leeds Art Gallery: he presented Gustave Doré’s ‘L’Aube, Souvenir des Alpes (1877) and Joesph Farquharson’s ‘Yon Yellow Sunset Dying in the West’ (circa 1896) to the collection.

Photograph of the work of art: Bust of Thomas Walter Harding

Alfred Drury (1856-1944)

Bust of Thomas Walter Harding
1898
Bronze
Purchased 2017

This bronze bust is Drury’s second portrait of his patron Thomas Walter Harding (1843–1927); the first was a plaster roundel for the decorative scheme for the Engine House of Harding’s Tower Works in Holbeck. A second-generation industrialist, Harding was Chairman of the Art Gallery Committee between 1887 and 1904 and provided £2000 to build the collection. Harding was also the single most important patron of public sculpture in Leeds: he not only instigated the City Square sculptural scheme, but donated a number of the works including Drury’s statue of Joseph Priestley (1899) and his eight figures of ‘Morn’ and ‘Even’. The Leeds Sculpture Collection holds two important sculptures by Drury: ‘Circe’ (1893) on display at Leeds City Museum and ‘The Age of Innocence’ (circa 1897).

Alfred Drury (1856–1944) was born in London and studied first at Oxford School of Art before continuing at the National Art Training School in South Kensington (the forerunner of the Royal College of Art). There Drury studied under the French émigré sculptor Aimé-Jules Dalou (1938-1902) and became his assistant when Dalou returned to Paris. Drury came back to London in 1885 and slowly began to establish his reputation apart from his mentor. His breakthrough was ‘Circe’–awarded the gold medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900–a bronze version of which had been purchased for Leeds Art Gallery in 1895. Drury won commissions for public sculpture throughout Britain and executed a number of statues of Queen Victoria (including for Bradford) and Edward VII, memorials to the First World War and allegorical figures. He had a long career and continued to work on large sculptures in later life, most notably his bronze statue of the painter Joshua Reynolds (1723–92) for the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, unveiled in 1931.