Even in southwestern Yorkshire, the countryside is rolling hills and the dales, lushly green in September. Think of those peaceful long shots in All Creatures Great and Small and you’ll get the idea. We saw a lot of this natural beauty as we drove from Leeds to Saltaire, and to Bradford, and to York, and returned to Leeds, which was our home-from-home during our brief vacation.
Leeds is an interesting and architecturally fascinating city. It’s a small city, human scale, and the new buildings, with their reflective windows, mirror a skyline of Georgian and classical revival facades built during the industrial revolution of the last half of the nineteenth century, alongside the angular and spare geometrics of its new renaissance of the last 20 or 30 years.
But I was on a quest to see the art of this region, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was astonished to find the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, and outdoor installations of Henry Moore sculptures all around such a small city. Very exciting to see them there, in unexpected places, unmistakably Moore’s work.
The Leeds Art Museum’s collection, not surprisingly, was very poorly maintained. I kept saying to Ian, “That one could do with a good cleaning.” But they have some unexpected pieces, including (of course) a lot of Henry Moores, several Francis Bacons (both painting and sculpture) and some gorgeous Pre-Raphaelites. It’s a small set of galleries, and you can see the most important works in less than an hour. But many of the lesser know paintings, and much of sculpture, is worth seeing as well.
There’s also an unaffiliated shop in the basement selling local crafts and small art works. Some of these are near museum-quality, and the prices reflect this. The museum shop itself couldn’t be in a less advantageous place, hidden back behind the gallery/classroom where they hold children’s programs.
We also visited the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds. What a treasure trove! This small collection was curated for many years by Quentin Bell, who managed to gather a nice cache of Bloomsburys, including portraits by Roger Fry, several paintings by Duncan Grant and a stunning collage by Vanessa Bell. Going through all the postcards I collected, I managed to find only one without copyright notice, one of the many portraits by Fry of Nina Hamnett:
The painting is significant because of the Omega Studios connection. The dress fabric and the cover of the pillow at the right were both designed by Vanessa Bell and are exemplars of Omega Studios style.
In this collection is also one of the famous floating women sculptures that Quentin Bell repeatedly sculpted throughout his career, and some pieces of his brilliantly coloured pottery. The permanent collection is very small, but very choice, and the information provided for each work includes not only the title, date and artist, but also a context of history and place. There is also a gallery for student works, and the exhibition there was on the theme of place, sense of place, in abstract works. Absolutely fascinating what some of the students did. It’s a wonderful gallery for any art lover, not just Bloomsbury afficionados.
Henry Moore information:
Henry Moore Institute: http://www.henry-moore.org/hmi
Henry Moore Foundation: http://www.henry-moore.org/
Tribute to Henry Moore (including photographs of some of his works: http://www.henrymoore.com/
Francis Bacon information:
Estate of Francis Bacon (including paintings): http://www.francis-bacon.com/
Web Museum (with a few paintings): http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/bacon/
Leeds Art Gallery: http://www.leeds.gov.uk/artgallery/
Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/gallery/