This long decade marks the tenure of Lawrence Gowing as Professor of Fine Art and the establishment of new and vigourous programmes of exhibtions, acquisitions and teaching.
By 1954 Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton were established as members of staff, joining longer-serving staff such as Leonard Evetts, Murray McCheyne, Louisa Hodgson and art historian Ralph Holland.
Pasmore print image, 1948
Victor Pasmore (1908-1998) - 'Abstract (London Group Poster)'.
The Fine Art Department’s first ‘official’ contact with Pasmore was the purchase of this, for the period, dramatically abstract work, which was in fact Pasmore’s design for the background of the poster for the 1948 London Group exhibition (the poster version had text over-printed).
NEWHG : SP.0055. Lithograph, purchased from Redfern Gallery December 1948.
Letter to Roderic Thesiger, 1952
This painting along with the Sabatini and Palma il Giovane, as Gowing’s letter suggests, marks the start of his desire to develop a teaching collection for the Department, from which the students could get some real benefit. He used his many contacts in the London art world to source affordable, but good quality paintings. Gowing’s early acquisitions used funds from the Shipley Bequest – originally intended to provide equipment and material to the Department.
1960s record sheet for ‘Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Statuette’
This typical 1960s record sheet is a mine of information and shows that, as with many old master paintings in the Collection, the attribution has changed over time. It was Ralph Holland who identified the statuette being held as being very similar to one in the Edinburgh University collection.
Letter from Gowing to Benedict Nicholson, 1954
In May the following year, having had the painting cleaned, Gowing offers Nicolson the painting back, thinking it an eccentric choice for the collection and historically unrepresentative of anything in particular, thankfully nothing came of this and painting remains in the Permanent Collection.
Letter to Roderic Thesiger, 1953
Thesiger was a Director at the long established gallery P&D Colnaghi, however he also operated independently and Gowing would often act on his suggested acquisitions and deal directly with him. This letter demonstrates the relatively informal method by which Gowing dealt with acquisitions, there certainly wasn’t any committee, or other internal University approval process.
St. Francis and St. John the Baptist & St. Bartholomew and St. John the Evangelist, 1360
Giovanni del Biondo
After Giovanni del Biondo (d.1399) 'St. Francis and St. John the Baptist’ and 'St. Bartholomew and St. John the Evangelist’, c.1360.
NEWHG : OP.0044 & OP.0045. Tempera on panel, purchased from the Ashburnham Estate sale at Sotheby’s, 1953.
A letter from Professor Richard Offner, 1963
Letter from Professor Richard Offner to Ralph Holland in 1963 with his suggested attribution, which we currently retain. Offner’s research on Florentine art culminated in the vast print project ‘Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting’, a many volume description of Florentine renaissance artists, methods, and workshop production.
Sotheby’s catalogue and letter, 1953
Page from the Sotheby’s catalogue showing lot 75, a pair of Gaspar Poussin (Gaspard Dughet) paintings selling for £400. Gowing had earmarked these for acquisition, but with buying the altarpiece first had insufficient funds. Anthony Blunt from the Courtauld Institute had bought the pair on behalf of the Art Gallery of Ontario, however he willingly relinquished one to Gowing for £200.
Exchange of letters with Benedict Nicolson, 1953
Gowing had been alerted to the Mortimer by Benedict Nicolson, then editor of The Burlington Magazine, who evidently Gowing had asked to look out for suitable pictures for him. Gowing is initially enthusiastic, apart from a concern about the painting’s decency.
"The picture is not at all indecent, and not in need of cleaning (I daresay a surface clean and revarnish is all that is necessary.). I am glad to hear you are interested, and I hope the purchase goes through without a hitch. Yours ever Ben".
Boy Giving Water to a Dolphin, Cupid and Psyche, The Infant Lyrist Taming Cerberus & Sabrina
John Graham Lough
John Graham Lough (1798-1876)
Boy Giving Water to a Dolphin. NEWHG S.0007, Cupid and Psyche. NEWHG S.0008, The Infant Lyrist Taming Cerberus. NEWHG S.0006 (and not pictured Sabrina. NEWHG : S.0005). All in marble and presented by the Duke of Northumberland, 1953.
This group of dramatic marble carvings by the local sculptor John Graham Lough has graced the entrance hall of the Fine Art Department for many decades, they may have suffered an occasional indignity at the hand of a misguided student, but they are generally much admired.
The Facade, St. Jacques Façade, 1899
Walter Sickert (1860-1942) - 'The Facade, St. Jacques Façade' 1899.
NEWHG : D.0001. Chalk and wash on paper, presented by the Contemporary Art Society, 1954.
The finished painting based on this squared up drawing is in the collection of the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester. The drawing had been in the collection of Sir Edward Marsh, part of which had been exhibited at the Hatton in early 1953. On his death Marsh left much of his collection to the Contemporary Art Society to be distributed to collections around the country.
Still life With Bowl, Spoon and Apples, 1913
Mark Gertler (1891-1939) - 'Still life With Bowl, Spoon and Apples' 1913.
NEWHG : OP.0061. Oil on board presented by Contemporary Art Society, 1954.
This painting originally belonged to Sir Edward Marsh and had been shown in the Hatton exhibition of his collection the year before it was acquired.
The Artist’s Mother Reading in Bed, 1917
Harold Gilman (1876-1919) - 'The Artist's Mother Reading in Bed' 1917.
NEWHG : D.0014. Ink on paper purchased from the artist’s widow, 1954.
This small drawing was purchased directly from the artists’ widow, Mrs Sylvia Gilman, at around the same time as the Arts Council had organised a major retrospective exhibition, which had done much to re-establish his reputation.
The Case History, 1952
Claude Rogers (1907-1979) - 'The Case History' 1952.
NEWHG : OP.0009. Oil on canvas, purchased from the artist, 1955.
Gowing selected this painting and three additional drawings to purchase from Rogers’ exhibition at the Hatton in 1955. The subject is from a series (for example ‘The Patient Opposite’ in the Tate collection) Rogers completed after a period of convalescing in St Mary's Hospital, Paddington. Rogers regularly served as one the annual external examiners to the Fine Art Department between 1954-66.
Letter from Roderic Thesiger, 1955
Gowing again used his connection with Roderic Thesiger, though this time through Colnaghi’s rather than directly with him, to purchase this painting which had hung in Broadlands since Viscount Palmerston had bought it around 1780. Considerable doubt has been cast on the attribution of this painting to Domenichino, as with over 40 known copies still in existence, da Volterra’s original in the la Trinità dei Monti was one of the most copied images in Rome.
Sotheby’s catalogue, 1954
As can be seen from the page from the original Sotheby’s sale catalogue, the painting was originally acquired as ‘The Earl of Montrose’ by the French portraitist Hyacinthe Rigaud. It is not clear exactly how or when, but Ralph Holland recorded that Oliver Millar (Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures 1972-88) reattributed the painting to Voet.
A letter to William Roberts, 1956
Roberts was apparently encouraged to paint ‘The Goats’ at the suggestion of Wilfred Evill, who was not only a Roberts collector, but also a buyer for the Contemporary Art Society between 1946-56. Simultaneous with the acquisition Gowing was also trying to persuade Roberts to exhibit in the Hatton, unfortunately due to other commitments he declined. The Hatton held a major William Roberts exhibition in 2004.
Letters from Gowing, 1956
Following the purchase of the ‘The Holy Family’ Gowing engaged in a range of correspondence, which show how personally, if occasionally haphazardly, he was involved in acquisitions. The commissioning of a new frame proved ‘grossly expensive’ and the question of the use of oil or tempera in the extensive restoration required detailed correspondence.
1960s record sheet for ‘The Lamentation’
Hugo van der Goes
Unusually two old master works were acquired locally rather than through London dealers or auctioneers. Both this painting and the Jacob de Wit had belonged to the Silvertop family of Minsteracres. In 1950 Charles Silvertop had sold the family home for conversion into a religious retreat, and a few years later he sold much of his art collection. Similarly to ‘The Descent from the Cross’ attributed to Domenichino, also in the Hatton Collection, numerous versions of this image, from the 16th and 17th centuries, can be found across Europe, the nearest being in the Bowes Museum collection.
Letter from Mawson, Swan & Morgan Ltd, 1957
Also purchased from the Silvertop sale at Anderson & Garland, the required restoration work on the painting was also undertaken locally, as this wonderfully formal letter from Mawson, Swan & Morgan Ltd confirms. This grisaille painting, imitating the effect of a relief sculpture, would originally have been painted for a specific architectural setting.
Letter to the Gulbenkian Foundation, 1958
During the 1950s Gowing had been utilising funds provided by the 1909 Joseph Shipley bequest to the College, originally intended for equipment and materials, Gowing had persuaded the University authorities that by 1952 these were in plentiful supply and the money would be better put towards the Permanent Collection. By 1958 the Shipley funds were diminished and a fresh source of money was required. In this letter Gowing lays out his justification for developing the Collection to the Gulbenkian Foundation, who would ultimately make £2,000 available for this purpose.
Pasmore and Hamilton worked to develop a new ‘Basic Course’ for first year students, aimed at encouraging them experiment with the fundamental principles of line, shape, colour and form.
Gowing focused on developing a permanent collection for the Department aimed at givng the students access to examples of Europen Art from the 14th-17th centuries, making full use of his art world connections to acquire some significant works.
Press cutting, 1959
Leading up to and following Gowing’s departure, acquisitions slowed down. However, as this local press article celebrates, his successful application to the Gulbenkian Foundation meant that his successor, Professor Kenneth Rowntree, could continue the development of the Collection through the 1960s.
Letter from Contemporary Art Society, 1959
Letter to Leonard Evetts, who was briefly the Acting Head of Department between Gowing and Rowntree, from Pauline Vogelpoel, who worked at the Contemporary Art Society from 1954 to 1976, confirming the allocation of the Heath painting, apparently the 4th choice.
Sotheby’s invoice, 1962
Invoice for the Mark Gertler drawing purchased from Sotheby’s. This acquisition would mark the start of a year of focused purchasing by Rowntree, of particularly 20th Century British drawings, which was mirrored in the exhibitions programme, with two significant displays of drawings taking place that year.
Study of a Nude, 1909
Walter Sickert (1860-1942) – ‘Study of a Nude’ 1909.
NEWHG : D.0013. Purchased from Sotheby's, 1962.
Sickert made a number of very similar studies to this one, with both a threatening male figure (eg. ‘Study for L’Affaire de Camden Town’ in the Whitworth Art Gallery), relating to a contemporary murder in Camden Town, and another with an apparently friendly female figure (eg. ‘The Conversation’ in the Royal College of Art Collection).
Portrait of Lady Perdita Jolliffe, 1938
Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957) - 'Portrait of Lady Perdita Jolliffe' 1938.
NEWHG : D.0031. Pencil and watercolour drawing on paper purchased from the Zwemmer Gallery, 1962.
Lady Perdita Jolliffe (1910–1996) was the daughter of Herbert Asquith, the Liberal Prime Minister (1908-16), in 1931 she married William Jolliffe, the 4th Baron Hylton.
Letter to the Contemporary Arts Society, 1961
Having viewed the display of potential acquisitions at the Contemporary Art Society’s annual exhibition, Rowntree placed the Bacon at the top of his priority list to be submitted to Pauline Vogelpoel and the Committee, making his case in the context of the development of the Collection. Given the probable competition for the Bacon, Rowntree’s application can be seen as a great success, unfortunately however the potential Ben Nicholson mentioned came to nothing.
Merz Barn Wall, 1947-48
Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) – ‘Merz Barn Wall’ 1947-48.
NEWHG : S0028. Presented by Harry Pierce, with moving costs provided by the V&A Purchase Grant and the Rothley Trust, 1965.
In early 1959 while the Hatton hosted an exhibition of Schwitters’ work, Gowing reported to the Arts Council’s Arts Panel that a ‘building in Ambleside, now rapidly disintegrating, which housed a construction by Schwitters, should, he felt, be preserved.’ This set in train a complex chain of events that led to the Merz Barn Wall being permanently installed in the Gallery.
A letter to Harry Fairhurst, 1962
As the date of this letter from Rowntree to Harry Fairhurst, Harry Pierce’s son-in-law, indicates, the University were showing interest in the Barn from 1962, Richard Hamilton having first persuaded Rowntree, who in turn convinced the University authorities to get involved. However, after the Tate Gallery declined the offer of a gift in June 1962 nearly three more years of discussions about the Merz Barn’s future followed, involving the University, Abbot Hall in Kendal, Marlborough Gallery in London, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Barn’s owner, Harry Pierce.
Ripon Cathedral, 1933
Charles Ginner (1878-1952) - 'Ripon Cathedral' 1933.
NEWHG : OP.0058. Oil on canvas purchased from Miller's Saleroom, Newcastle, 1965.
This painting was originally commissioned from Ginner by the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) for a poster promoting rail travel to the ancient cathedral city of Ripon in Yorkshire (‘Its quicker by rail’). The painting turned up in a Newcastle auction room, apparently having once belonged to the local newspaper The Chronicle.
Contemporary Art Society Annual Report, 1961
Like the Tate, the Contemporary Art Society acquired a Brett Whiteley painting from the Recent Australian Painting exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1961, which they then reproduced (upside down!) as the frontispiece for their 1961 Annual Report, it was few years later that it was eventually allocated to the Hatton. Whiteley spent time in Britain and Europe in the early 1960s before returning to Australia, where he became widely acclaimed for his figurative paintings.
Letter from Dunstan Skilbeck, 1967
Unusually this acquisition was partly arranged through Charles Bosanquet, the University’s Vice-Chancellor who was in direct contact with Dunstan Skilbeck, the Principal of Wye College in Kent. It is not clear whether the painting came from Skilbeck’s or the College’s collection, however the University found the requested £200 and then allocated the painting to the Hatton collection.
1970s record sheet for ‘Portrait of a Boy’
This record card, probably from the early 1970s, confirms that when purchased at Sotheby’s it was catalogued merely as by ‘Monogrammist B’, Ralph Holland seems to have favoured Benoist as an attribution, where Boilly came from is not recorded.
Letter from Pierre Rosenberg, 1998
In 1998 the portrait was included in the exhibition ‘The Art Treasures of England: the regional collections’ at the Royal Academy, seeing the painting there led Pierre Rosenberg, the then ‘President-director’ of the Musée du Louvre to write, suggesting yet another possible attribution: “I do not believe it can be attributed to Boilly. I wonder if the monogram which appears on the artwork is not rather that of Blondel, but this is only a hypothesis that I would like to point out in all modesty.”
Study for a Painting, 1920
David Bomberg (1890-1957) - 'Study for a Painting (Imaginative Composition)’ c.1920.
NEWHG : OP.0119. Oil on paper purchased from Sotheby's, 1968.
This painting is from an unusual group of about 50 transitionary works, which Bomberg referred to as ‘Imaginative Compositions’, made around 1920, between his fragmented ‘Vorticist’ works and more painterly landscapes and portraits.
Letter to the V&A Museum, 1968
P&D Colnaghi, and particularly Roderic Thesiger, remained under Rowntree, as with Gowing, the main source of old master works for the Collection. With prices increasing and the funds available dwindling, Rowntree again had to apply to the V&A Purchase Grant Fund to raise sufficient money to complete the acquisition.
A letter to Judge Lyall Wilkes, 1968
By the end of the 1960s occasional gifts would become the main source of additions to the Permanent Collection, here the new University Vice-Chancellor, Henry Miller writes expressing his thanks to Judge Lyall Wilkes (1914-1991), an English historian, circuit judge and Labour Party politician, for the gift of the Minton work on paper.