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"Portrait of Nina Hamnett" (1917) by Roger Eliot Fry (1866-1934)Original Source: University of Leeds Art Collection

Portrait of Nina Hamnett by Roger Fry
One of at least five portraits which Fry painted of Hamnett after they started an affair in 1916, this painting serves as a singular visual testimony to the Omega Workshops, which Fry founded in 1913.

Painted in Durbins, Fry's house near Guildford, it depicts Nina Hamnett wearing the plaid dress that Vanessa Bell had designed for Omega two years previously, and the cushion appears to have been covered in 'Maud' - one of two printed linen designs that Bell had produced for the workshop in the year it was founded.

"Runswick Bay" (1924) by Mark Senior (1862-1927)Original Source: University of Leeds Art Collection

Runswick Bay by Mark Senior
Mark Senior was a member of the Staithes Group, a group of artists living and working in and around the Yorkshire coast village of Staithes, during the late 19th and early 20th century. Artists were drawn to Staithes and the surrounding area, as it offered a variety of subjects and inspiration, from the sea and moorland to the narrow streets, cottages and what would have been a bustling fishing port. Staithes was also accessible by rail until the 1950s.

Born near Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, Senior settled in nearby Ossett with his wife Alice and their children. The family would spend the spring/summer months living at their second home in Runswick Bay, situated 2 miles south of Staithes. Senior had studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, where he was introduced to new developments in French painting techniques and colour theory. In the background of this scene, Senior depicts the white painted fishing cottages clinging to the side of the cliff, in a shaded part of the bay. The artist has used vibrant yellows and greens for the cliff in the foreground. Figures can be seen on the beach, as the sun shines down on Runswick Bay.

"Portrait of Edmund Gosse" (1886) by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)Original Source: University of Leeds Art Collection

Portrait of Edmund Gosse by John Singer Sargent
'The Van Dyke of our times' - as Rodin named him - Sargent was favoured by the wealthy and privileged of Europe and America for the technical brilliance and mastery of colour, allied to an often bravura presentation, which lent a striking elegance to his sitters without compromising his perception of their individuality. He met Edmund Gosse (1849-1928), a distinguished critic and man of letters, at Broadway in the summer of 1885, when the latter was Clark lecturer in English Literature at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Enchanted by lilac reflections of sunlight in Gosse's hair, Sargent immediately proceeded to sketch him where he stood. A more conventionally formal and less animated work, painted in 1886, is in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

"Briggate" by John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893)Original Source: University of Leeds Art Collection

Briggate by John Atkinson Grimshaw
During the Victorian era, Leeds-born artist John Atkinson Grimshaw became associated with moonlit urban landscapes. As well as Briggate, Leeds city centre's busiest commercial street, Grimshaw painted other Leeds streets including Boar Lane (1881) and Park Row (1882), both part of Leeds Museums and Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery) collection. Grimshaw was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and their principles of realism and attention to detail, which can be seen in this painting: note how the light from streetlamps and shop windows is reflected on the delicately painted wet cobbles.

Like the Pre-Raphaelites, Grimshaw romanticised his cityscapes; in reality, Leeds was a very over-crowded and dirty city, surrounded by mills and factories. There is now a Leeds Civic Trust blue plaque on what was Grimshaw's home from 1866 to 1870, at 56 Cliff Road, Headingley. There is also a blue plaque to honour the artist on the side of the chapel in St George's Field (formerly Woodhouse Cemetery) where the artist is buried, now part of the University of Leeds campus.

"Mistress Page in 'The Merry Wives of Windsor'" by Henry Fuseli (1741-1825)Original Source: University of Leeds Art Collection

Mistress Page in 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' by Henry Fuseli
Henry Fuseli was born in Zurich, Switzerland. He trained as a priest, although he never practiced. In the 1760s, Fuseli moved to England where he met the portrait painter Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792). It was Reynolds who encouraged Fuseli to pursue a career as an artist, after seeing some of his drawings. During the 1780s-90s, Fuseli was commissioned to produce artwork for the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery, which was founded by the publisher and engraver John Boydell (1720-1804), in the wake of a resurgence of interest in William Shakespeare. It is not certain whether this painting of the character Mistress Page from Shakespeare’s comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor (first published in 1602) was included in the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery.

In The Sadler Gift, published by the University in 2012, Keeper of the University Art Collection Dr Hilary Diaper quotes from a letter by Professor of Fine Art Lawrence Gowing regarding the painting: ‘...I have a feeling that it is a fragment of a destroyed Boydell picture...The figure was in fact originally leaning more forward as she made her satanic gesture at the unfortunate Falstaff...’ (letter dated 24 February 1969, University Art Collection Archive). Dr Diaper then goes on to add: ‘[i]t is possible that the Leeds painting was once in the collection of the actress Harriot Mellon (1777?-1837)...Harriot is known to have played the role of Mistress Page, and it may be that Fuseli’s painting commemorates her performance although there is no firm evidence to support this idea.’

"Flowers in Sunlight" (1909) by Gerard Chowne (1875-1917)Original Source: University of Leeds Art Collection

Flowers in Sunlight by Gerard Chowne
After studies at the Slade School and in Rome and Paris, Gerard Chowne began exhibiting at the New English Art Club in 1903. From 1905, he taught painting at Liverpool University, and he was a founder of the Sandon Studios. At the outbreak of the First World War, Chowne joined the Artists’ Rifles, and served with the Salonika Force in Macedonia. He died of wounds in May 1917.

Sir Michael Sadler, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds from 1911-1923, owned several paintings by Chowne. Though he presented four Chowne paintings to the University when he left in 1923, the whereabouts of only two of these pictures is known, this Flowers in Sunlight and Portrait of Mrs. Chowne (1905). Both paintings were given for University Hall.

"River Landscape with Trees and Mountains Beyond" by William Mellor (1851-1931)Original Source: University of Leeds Art Collection

River Landscape with Trees and Mountains Beyond by William Mellor
Barnsley-born artist William Mellor specialised in painting unspoiled landscapes, especially local views in Ilkley, Harrogate and Scarborough, but also around the Lake District and North Wales. He painted mainly on location, in painting trips during summer or early autumn. Like other landscape artists at the time, he took special care to capture the effects of light, evoking the peace and serenity of these countryside scenes. William Mellor’s father Joseph Mellor (1827-1888) was also a landscape painter – though he had taken up this career later in life.  Joseph was first a weaver and then Jacquard card stamper in the Barnsley linen industry, following his family’s trade.  However, when the weaving trade in Barnsley became more precarious, he moved his family to Leeds, where his brother Henry owned a small weaving business.  William and his younger sister Emmeline got work as weavers with their uncle once they came of age.  Joseph took up landscape painting, a long-held interest, from the late 1850s; he likely taught his son how to paint. 

William began painting professionally from 1881; he moved his family frequently around Yorkshire and the North West, finally settling in Harrogate. William’s eldest son Everett Watson Mellor also followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps to become a landscape painter.

William Mellor was known for his attention to detail and technical skill, in accurately capturing foliage and locations. Normally he labelled the locations of his paintings on the reverse, but this painting’s location has not been identified. Do you recognize it?

"Flying Figure (Towards the Dawn)" (1889) by Emily Susan Ford (1850-1930)Original Source: University of Leeds Art Collection

Flying Figure (Towards the Dawn) by Emily Susan Ford
This dynamic flying female nude graces the staircase of the Great Hall of the University of Leeds, where its students congregate to receive their diplomas. It is one of seven artworks in tempera and chalk given by the artist to the University of Leeds in 1923. These are some of the few remaining artworks by the artist, Emily Ford, a (now) rather forgotten Pre-Raphaelite painter and social campaigner. Emily Ford was born into a wealthy, socially-engaged Quaker family in Leeds.  She was one of the first students to study at the Slade School of Art, in the 1870s. Though she did not make a living from her artwork, she was successful, exhibiting at both the Royal Academy and the Grosvenor Gallery.

Actively involved in the promotion of women’s rights, she founded the Leeds Suffrage Society in 1890 with her more famous activist sister, Isabella Ford. Later, Emily was Vice-President of the Artists Suffrage League, which created the memorable posters, banners and regalia for the women’s suffrage movement. A spiritual person throughout her life, Ford converted to Anglicanism in 1890. In honour of her baptism, Ford created an impressive suite of panel paintings for the font of All Souls’ Church, Blackman Lane, nearby the University. A campaign by the Victorian Society recently enabled the conservation of these paintings – which had not been cleaned in over 100 years – now revealed in their full glory.

"Chelsea Public Library" (1920) by Malcolm Drummond (1880-1945)Original Source: University of Leeds Art Collection

Chelsea Public Library by Malcolm Drummond
Malcolm Drummond was born in Boyne Hill, near Maidenhead, Berkshire. He studied at the Slade School of Art in the early 1900s, under the surgeon and artist Henry Tonks (1862-1937) and afterwards at the Westminster School of Art, under the painter and printmaker Walter Sickert (1860-1942). Drummond was a founder member of the Camden Town Group and The London Group.

Drummond followed his master Sickert, who – inspired by the French artist Edgar Degas – held drawing to be an integral part of realising pictures. In the 1920s, Drummond produced a number of paintings of Chelsea Public Library, including this version presented by his widow, Margaret. The painting was first exhibited at the Allied Artists Association in 1920, as Silence.

Four drawings relating to this painting are also part of the University of Leeds Art Collection. When viewed together, the sketches help us to understand how Drummond constructed the final painting.

"Hop Pickers" by Thérèse Lessore (1884-1945)Original Source: University of Leeds Art Collection

Hop Pickers by Thérèse Lessore
Thérèse Lessore was born in Southwick, West Sussex and came from a well-known family of artists. Her father Jules Frederick Lessore was a French painter; her grandfather Émile Lessore was a ceramic artist who worked as a designer for Wedgwood; her sister Ada Louise Powell was also a pottery designer for Wedgwood; and her brother Frederick Lessore was a sculptor.  Lessore studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, London. She was associated with the Camden Town Group and was a founder member of The London Group. In 1926, Lessore married the painter Walter Sickert (1860-1942). He had long been an admirer of her work, praising both its human interest and her ability to grasp the essentials of being and movement. He declared that she brought together her compositions ‘by some strange alchemy of genius...in ordered and rhythmical arrangement of the highest technical brevity and beauty’ (Whitechapel , published in The New Age, 1914).

The art critic and former curator of Leeds City Art Gallery Frank Rutter admired her ‘tremulous, fluttering lighting’, which gave life to all her subjects (Modern Masterpieces, 1940). In 1934, Lessore and Sickert moved to Kent, where the annual hop harvest provided a rich source of material for her painting. Each September, a huge migration of London East Enders, itinerants and travellers arrived to join the local men, women and children for the hop picking. This great labour force was needed to collect the hops from the tendril-like growths trained up strings onto a network of poles and wires set out across the fields. Handpicking continued until the 1960s, when it was replaced by mechanical methods.

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