The Walker Art Gallery Explores Groundbreaking 1911 Post-Impressionist Exhibition

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artwork: Vincent van Gogh - "The Oise at Auvers", 1980 - Pencil and gouache on paper - 47.3 x 62.9 cm. © Tate, London, 2011.On view at the Walker Gallery, Liverpool in "Art in Revolution: Liverpool 1911" from June 24th until September 25th.


Liverpool.- The Walker Art Gallery is proud to present “Art in Revolution: Liverpool 1911”, an exploration of a ground-breaking exhibition held in Liverpool in 1911 which displayed international Post-Impressionist artworks alongside local avant-garde artists. Featuring work by van Gogh, Matisse, Gauguin and Signac, “Art in Revolution: Liverpool 1911” looks at the relationship between the pioneering exhibition 100 years ago and Liverpool’s radicalism and will be on view from June 24th through September 25th

“Art in Revolution: Liverpool 1911” celebrates the pioneering exhibition; ‘The Sandon Studios Society exhibition of Modern Art’ including work by the Post-Impressionists, which ran at the Bluecoat (formerly known as the Liberty Buildings), Liverpool, from 4 March to 1 April 1911. Inspired by Manet and the Post-Impressionists, the writer and artist Roger Fry’s controversial London exhibition of 1910, The Sandon Studios Society brought about 50 paintings and drawings from the show to Liverpool the following year. The society’s exhibition was the first time that such a large number of mainland European Post-Impressionist works were shown in the UK outside London and the first time anywhere alongside their British counterparts.

Highlights include “Sister of Charity” by Paul Gauguin, “Saint-Tropez le sentier de douane” by Paul Signac and “Purple Beech Trees near Melun” by Henri Matisse. It also features two delicate drawings and a watercolour by Vincent van Gogh. The exhibition also considers both the wider socio-political context of the 1911 exhibition and the art establishment’s reaction to it. In the summer of 1911 Liverpool was gripped by mass social unrest and strike action which peaked in August, when British troops were dispatched to deal with protesters on the streets and a warship was stationed in the Mersey. The drastic actions of the then home secretary Winston Churchill, which resulted in violent clashes and a number of deaths, have led some historians to conclude that events in Liverpool during 1911 were the nearest the UK has come to a revolution.

artwork: Paul Gauguin - "Sister of Charity", 1902 - Oil on canvas. © Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Bequest of Marlon Koogler McNay. On view at the Walker Gallery, Liverpool in "Art in Revolution"

artwork: Sir John Lavery - "Anna Pavolova", 1910 Oil on canvas - 198.1 x 144.8 cm. Art Gallery & Museum, Kelvingrove  “The works by the European Post-Impressionists represent a momentous shift in the Western art world, which served to encourage radical British artists like those of The Sandon Studios Society to champion their work and try and emulate it. The inimitable style of Gauguin continues to fascinate audiences today but in the early 20th century it was a brave and startling sight. The Sandon Studios Society showed considerable foresight in bringing his work and others like him to wider public attention.” Art in Revolution: Liverpool 1911 features archival material (photographs, film and ephemera) to illustrate this dramatic period in the city’s history and provide a backdrop to The Sandon Studios Society’s visionary exhibition.

For the Society, the 1911 exhibition was an opportunity to assert their own artistic values and distance themselves from the ‘art establishment’ and possibly even be the catalyst for an ‘art revolution’. A section of “Art in Revolution: Liverpool 1911” focuses on this radical group; their members and their beliefs. Featuring six of his works, there is a special focus on Albert Lipczinski, a German-born Polish emigrant who was taught by Augustus John at the Liverpool University Art Sheds around 1902. Lipczinski’s bohemian lifestyle and political connections make him an interesting member of the group and a reflection of their rebellious nature.

The exhibition also features British artists who the society admired and featured in their exhibition. Highlights include “The Horseshoe Bend of the River” by Philip Wilson Steer, “Portrait of Sir John Brunner” by Augustus John, John Lavery’s portrait of the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova .The rest of the exhibition was composed of works by Sandon members, including  and several paintings and prints by James Hamilton Hay. The relationship between the Walker Art Gallery (the ‘establishment’ of the time) and the society is explored. The gallery hosted the annual Liverpool Autumn Exhibition which set the standard for contemporary art and was often in conflict with the free-thinking society. However by 1911 there were signs of change at the gallery. The exhibition includes photographic prints from the Northern Photographic Exhibition, the Walker’s own 1911 exhibition. This relatively new media, which was derided by Gauguin was an interesting choice for such a supposedly traditional institution. It also includes paintings acquired by the Gallery in 1911 such as the impressionist view of St Paul’s from the River, Morning Sun by Le Sidaner.

The Walker Art Gallery is an art gallery in Liverpool, which houses one of the largest art collections in England, outside of London. It is part of the National Museums Liverpool group, and is promoted as “the National Gallery of the North” because it is not a local or regional gallery but is part of the national museums and galleries administered directly from central government funds. The Walker Art Gallery’s collection dates from 1819 when the Liverpool Royal Institution acquired 37 paintings from the collection of William Roscoe, who had to sell his collection following the failure of his banking business, though it was saved from being broken up by his friends and associates. In 1843 the Royal Institution’s collection was displayed in a purpose-built gallery next to the Institution’s main premises. The collection grew over the following decades: in 1851 Liverpool Town Council bought Liverpool Academy’s diploma collection and further works were acquired from the Liverpool Society for the Fine Arts, founded in 1858. The competition between the Academy and Society eventually led to both collapsing. William Brown Library and Museum opened in 1860, named after a Liverpool merchant whose generosity enabled the Town Council to act upon an 1852 Act of Parliament which allowed the establishment of a public library, museum and art gallery, and in 1871 the council organised the first Liverpool Autumn Exhibition, held at the new library and museum.

artwork: Paul Signac - "Saint-Tropez, le sentier de douane", 1905 - Oil on canvas - 73 x 92 cm. Photo © Musée de Grenoble. On view at the Walker Gallery, until September 25th.

The success of the exhibition enabled the Library, Museum and Arts Committee to purchase works for the council’s permanent collection, buying around 150 works between 1871 and 1910. Works acquired included “And when did you last see your father?” by WF Yeames and “Dante’s Dream” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Designed by local architects Cornelius Sherlock and H.H. Vale, the Walker Art Gallery was opened on 6 September 1877 by the 15th Earl of Derby. It is named after its founding benefactor, Sir Andrew Barclay Walker (1824-1893), a former mayor of Liverpool and wealthy brewer. In 1893 the Liverpool Royal Institution placed its collection on long-term loan to the gallery and in 1948 presented William Roscoe’s collection and other works. This occurred during post-war reconstruction when the gallery was closed, re-opening in 1951. Extensions to the gallery were opened in 1884 and 1933 (following a two-year closure) when the gallery re-opened with an exhibition including Pablo Picasso and Paul Gauguin. In 2002 the gallery re-opened following a major refurbishment. The Walker Art Gallery houses a collection including Italian and Netherlandish paintings from 1300–1550, European art from 1550–1900, including works by Rembrandt, Nicolas Poussin and Edgar Degas, 18th and 19th century British art, including a major collection of Victorian painting and many Pre-Raphaelite works, a wide collection of prints, drawings and watercolours, 20th century works by artists such as Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Gilbert and George and a major sculpture collection. The first John Moores Contemporary Painting Prize exhibition was held in 1957. Sponsored by Sir John Moores, founder of Littlewoods, the competition has been held every two years ever since and is the biggest painting prize in the UK. Visit the museum’s website at … http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk