Monet and Gainsborough in one of National Gallery's largest loans to a UK gallery as Southampton exhibition reveals 92-year collecting partnership
Creating a National Collection: The Partnership Between Southampton City Art Gallery and the National Gallery, London
Issued March 2021
28 May – 4 September 2021
Southampton City Art Gallery
Southampton City Art Gallery and the National Gallery, London are pleased to announce a major new exhibition which explores, for the first time, the 92-year partnership between them, and the role the National Gallery has played in the evolution of Southampton’s collection.
'Creating a National Collection, The Partnership Between Southampton City Art Gallery and the National Gallery, London at Southampton City Art Gallery,' will include outstanding works from Southampton, alongside loans from the National Gallery. The exhibition will include paintings by Monet, Gainsborough, Maggi Hambling and Paula Rego, to tell the story of the long and unique relationship enjoyed between these two institutions. COVID‐19 regulations and guidelines permitting, the exhibition is due to open to the public from 28 May to 4 September 2021.
The historical links between the two galleries are significant, but little known. This relationship was established when Cllr Robert Chipperfield (1817–1911), whose bequest in 1911 led to the creation of the collection and the Art Gallery in Southampton, ensured that future acquisitions would be of national calibre.
Chipperfield stipulated that all purchases using his trust fund should be considered in consultation with the Director of the National Gallery. Kenneth Clark, newly installed in that role in 1934, took a particularly active interest in advising Southampton on acquisitions and wrote its first formal collecting policy in 1936, which essentially remains in place today.
Clark and his successor, Philip Hendy, supported the work of the first two curators at Southampton – (George) Loraine Conran and Maurice Palmer – to build up the collection and its public profile. Until 1975, the Art Gallery’s acquisitions were undertaken with advice from the National Gallery, leading to the accumulation of significant clusters of Western European paintings. Taken together, these allow Southampton to tell the story of Western Art from the Renaissance to the present day, in a way that few other UK regional galleries can match.
The two institutions have worked in partnership as part of the current 2019–21 National Gallery Curatorial Traineeship programme, supported by the Art Fund with the assistance of the Vivmar Foundation, with Curatorial Trainee, Jemma Craig, leading on a project to explore this dynamic and ongoing collaboration. The Curatorial Traineeship programme was jointly established by the National Gallery and Art Fund to address the need to maintain and develop collections expertise, in particular in relation to historic European paintings.
The resulting exhibition – 'Creating a National Collection' – is the first to explore the relationship and influence the National Gallery has had on the evolution of Southampton’s collection. Early purchases under National Gallery guidance included works by 19th-century European painters including Eugéne Louis Boudin (1824–1898), Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) and Joaquín Sorolla (1863–1923), as well as earlier European paintings by Caesar van Everdingen (about 1606–1678) and Sofonisba Anguissola (about 1532–1625), and acknowledged Old Masters, such as Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678).
Significantly, early support from the National Gallery also led to Southampton’s acquisition of works by acclaimed early 20th‐century British figurative painters, including Henry Tonks (1862–1937), Walter Sickert (1860–1942) and other Camden Town Group members. This was an important first step to building what is now considered one of the finest collections of 20th‐century British art in the UK outside of London, and one of the core reasons the collection holds Designated Status, awarded by Arts Council England to collections of national significance.
Central to the exhibition of 58 works are a series of carefully chosen pairings of works from Southampton and the National Gallery’s collection which cover key moments in the history of Western European art. The pairings include works by Cesare da Sesto (about 1477–1523), Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788), and Claude Monet (1840–1926). These juxtapositions highlight the diverse riches in Southampton’s collection and reveal the quality of its holdings through comparison with works held in the national collection.
By the mid‐1970s, the rise in prices for historical paintings meant that Southampton could no longer afford to purchase works by Old Masters, but the gallery continued to make a mark, acquiring comparatively affordable works by up‐and‐coming modern British artists. The new interest in 20th- and 21st‐century British art allowed Southampton City Art Gallery to be a pioneer in the field, as well as build a collection which narrates a broader history of art in the Western European tradition than is possible at the National Gallery – whose collecting remit stops at about 1920. This change in focus meant that the National Gallery was no longer able to provide specialist advice to Southampton on its modern and contemporary acquisitions, so the advisory role passed to Tate; Tate remains the ‘national adviser’ to this day.
Southampton has, however, continued to maintain strong links with the National Gallery, developing its traditional partnership in new directions, not least through ongoing loans and conservation projects. The current curatorial traineeship is the latest expression of this longstanding alliance.
The exhibition concludes with works in Southampton’s collection by artists that have taken part in the National Gallery’s schemes with contemporary artists; including the first and last of its Associate Artists, Paula Rego, and George Shaw, respectively, as well as its first Artist in Residence, Maggi Hambling, and the 2020 Artist in Residence Rosalind Nashashibi. Two more pairings of works by Rego and Nashashibi from Southampton and London underscore mutual interests in the institutions’ support for contemporary artists working in the UK.
The exhibition is accompanied by a significant publication which explores in detail, for the first time, the character of this remarkable part of Southampton City Art Gallery’s history, using untapped historical archives and new oral histories.
'Creating a National Collection' is curated by Jemma Craig, National Gallery Curatorial Trainee, supported by the Art Fund with the assistance of the Vivmar Foundation, and Dr Susanna Avery-Quash, Senior Research Curator, History of Collecting, at the National Gallery.
Carolyn Abel, Head of Culture & Tourism, Southampton City Council, says:
‘Southampton City Art Gallery is the jewel in our city’s crown and we are proud and delighted that the historic relationship between Southampton and the National Gallery will be recognised through the current exhibition and publication. Not only sharing great masterpieces from our two great art collections side-by-side, but fostering Southampton’s young talent through the Art Fund’s support of Jemma Craig on her Curatorial Traineeship at the National Gallery. Bidding for UK City of Culture is, for us, about enriching lives, transforming communities and showcasing everything great we have to offer. This partnership with the National Gallery is a perfect example of what we are bidding for and why we believe that Southampton can win the honour of being UK City of Culture in 2025.’
Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, London, says:
‘I am delighted that through this research project to investigate the untold story of the historical relationship between our two institutions, we have been able to share the findings with a publication and exhibition at Southampton City Art Gallery in 2021. The story that emerges of close collaboration over almost a century is unique in the National Gallery’s annals in terms of its duration and breadth of outputs. Thanks to the National Gallery and Art Fund Curatorial Trainee Jemma Craig and our colleagues at Southampton City Art Gallery, this is certainly a tale worth telling and one that deserves celebration.’
Jenny Waldman, Director of Art Fund, says:
‘The vital experience gained through the Curatorial Traineeship programme enables young curators to develop new, exciting ideas and thinking that enrich our public collections. Art Fund is proud to continue this spirit of collaboration by funding the Curatorial Traineeship which produced this exhibition and its insights into the long partnership between the National Gallery and Southampton City Art Gallery. The exhibition and its related publication affirm the importance of curatorial training and the role the curator can play in enriching regional collections, which is central to the mission of Art Fund.’
Exhibition supported by:
Nicholas Upton, Senior Communications Officer, Southampton City Council: Nicholas.Upton@southampton.gov.uk
Neil Evans, Press Office, The National Gallery: email@example.com
Publicity images can be obtained from: https://press.nationalgallery.org.uk/
NOTES TO EDITORS
Creating a National Collection: The Partnership Between Southampton City Art Gallery and The National Gallery, London
28 May – 4 September 2021
Southampton City Art Gallery, Admission free
National Gallery loans to Southampton:
NG1082: Workshop of Goossen van der Weyden, 'The Visitation of the Virgin to Saint Elizabeth', about 1516 © National Gallery, London
NG2485: Cesare Da Sesto, 'Salome', probably 1510‐20 © National Gallery, London
NG6491: Salvator Rosa, 'Witches at their Incantations', about 1646 © National Gallery, London
NG161: Gaspard Dughet, 'View of the Roman Countryside, possibly Tivoli', about 1670 © National Gallery, London
NG836: Philips Koninck, 'An Extensive Landscape with a Hawking Party', probably about 1670 © National Gallery, London
NG684: Thomas Gainsborough, 'Dr Ralph Schomberg', about 1770 © National Gallery, London
NG6395: Claude Monet, 'The Petit Bras of the Seine at Argenteuil', 1872 © National Gallery, London
H11: Maggi Hambling, 'Portrait of Archie MacDonald', 1980‐1 © Maggi Hambling/National Gallery, London
H21: Paula Rego, 'Witches at their Incantations, after Rosa', 1991 © Paula Rego/National Gallery, London
Works from Southampton City Art Gallery in the exhibition include:
Sofonisba Anguissola, 'The Artist’s Sister in the Garb of a Nun', 1551 © Southampton Cultural Services
Eugène Louis Boudin, 'Moonlight Village Scene, Le Faou, Brittany (Marine Effet de Lune)' © Southampton Cultural Services
Cesare da Sesto, 'Saint Jerome as a Hermit in the desert of Chalcis', 1520 © Southampton Cultural Services
Thomas Gainsborough, 'George, Lord Vernon', 1767 © Southampton Cultural Services
Maggi Hambling, 'Mac with Shadows', 1981 © Maggi Hambling and Southampton Cultural Services
Jacob Jordeans, 'The Holy Family', before 1628 © Southampton Cultural Services
Philips Koninck, 'An Extensive Landscape', 1650s. © Southampton Cultural Services
Claude Monet, 'Church at Vétheuil', 1880 © Southampton Cultural Services
Rosalind Nashashibi, 'South of France', 2018 © The Artist and Southampton Cultural Services
Allegretto Nuzi, 'The Coronation of the Virgin', 1360 © Southampton Cultural Services
Paula Rego, 'Sing a Song of Sixpence II,' 1989 © The Artist and Southampton Cultural Services
Salvatore Rosa, 'A Mountain Landscape', 17th century © Southampton Cultural Services
J M W Turner, 'Fishermen on a Lee Shore in Squally Weather', 1802 © Southampton Cultural Services
Goswijn van der van der Weyden, 'Saint Catherine and the Philosophers', early 16th century © Southampton Cultural Services
Southampton City Art Gallery holds an internationally renowned fine art collection often described as one of the best outside London. Its nationally important collection comprises over 5,000 art works spanning eight centuries of European art from the Renaissance to the present day. The core, however, is British 20th- century and contemporary art. Alongside displays of the collection, the gallery features a regular programme of temporary exhibitions in collaboration with leading artists and arts institutions in its stunning art deco building, opened in 1939. Admission is free. More at southamptoncityartgallery.com
The National Gallery is one of the greatest art galleries in the world. Founded by Parliament in 1824, the Gallery houses the nation’s collection of paintings in the Western European tradition from the late 13th to the early 20th century. The collection includes works by Bellini, Cézanne, Degas, Leonardo, Monet, Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens, Titian, Turner, Van Dyck, Van Gogh and Velázquez. The Gallery’s key objectives are to enhance the collection, care for the collection and provide the best possible access to visitors. Admission free. More at nationalgallery.org.uk
The National Gallery’s Curatorial Traineeship Programme, supported by Art Fund with the assistance of the Vivmar Foundation, was launched in 2011. It has played a key role in addressing the need to maintain and develop collections expertise, providing the trainees with the opportunity to spend six months acquiring curatorial skills at the National Gallery, followed by a placement at a regional partner museum to work on a collection-related project. This opportunity is offered to two curatorial trainees every two years.
Southampton 2025 Trust
Southampton is bidding to be UK City of Culture 2025. UK City of Culture is a designation given to a city in the United Kingdom for a period of one year. Bidding to be UK City of Culture brings tangible economic, cultural and social benefits leading up to, during and beyond the year that the city holds the status. The competition is administered by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and has a panel of independent judges. The delivery of the bid will be led by the Southampton 2025 Trust working with partners and stakeholders from across Southampton and the wider region. Find out more at southampton2025.co.uk