Art and art books – Print Room decant

30 09 2013

IMG_1089IMG_1091Art and art books - Print Room decant

The latest collection to be relocated during our current decant phase is the Fine Art collection usually housed in the Gallery’s Print Room. Several hundred (quite heavy) boxes and numerous high value books have been carefully checked out from one location, moved by hand and on trolleys and pallets, wrapped as necessary and checked onto new temporary shelving units. A good few days hard graft, but brilliantly and efficiently executed by our skilled technicians, conservators and curatorial team.

We have all been so absorbed recently in thinking about the future of the collections and how they will be stored and used, that we forget how it all began. Looking back at the detailed information the Gallery submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund, as part of its original bid, the formation of the Gallery’s watercolour collection was described as follows:

The fine art collections at the Whitworth Art Gallery have their origins in the Royal
Jubilee Exhibition staged in Manchester in 1887, the year the then Whitworth
Institute was established. Amongst the machinery and industrial design at the
Royal Jubilee Exhibition was a section devoted to the leading practitioners of
watercolour painting in England. Reviewers praised the works on display and
called for a ‘representative Exhibition of English Water-colour painting from its
crude beginnings … up to the present time’ to be available for public viewing in
Manchester. The reviewer commented further that: ‘This branch of art has long
been looked on as peculiarly English’. A total of fifty-four works were acquired for
the Whitworth from the profits of the Manchester Royal Jubilee Exhibition,
including a handful of works by Turner (the Whitworth now owns 60 watercolours
and drawings by Turner spanning the artist’s entire career), which formed the
basis of the collection and enthused the Whitworth’s earliest visitors.

The fine art collection has grown since these early days, and now comprises over 18,000 works of art on paper, including prints, drawings and watercolours, (the majority mounted in acid-free mounts and stored in a series of different sized Solander boxes, as in the main photograph), as well as a smaller number of oils and sculpture. Whilst the Whitworth has proudly opened its collections to all interested parties via its study rooms since the 1970s, this facility was rather tucked away behind the scenes – the future will be very different and we hope will inspire all our visitors to engage even more closely with what we have to offer.

In the meantime keep in touch with all our wonderful collections by following Andrew Cheetham’s fascinating and elegant blog, Whitworth Work of the Week at: http://whitworthworkoftheweek.tumblr.com

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