Return to the Hepworth


On Saturday we paid a visit to the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield. Thos time we were accompanied y our friend, Jean who’d never been before. Approaching the gallery in the car, which involves an unusual manoeuvre, driving past the gallery and then doubling back on yourself, Jean commented “what an ugly building” – not a good start as I wondered what she was going to make of the exhibits which included a major exhibition by the Austrian avant garde artist Franz West (more about that in another post). The building does seem to be rather like Marmite – you either love it or hate it – I’m in the former camp.

One of the current exhibitions, in the smaller gallery, Making a Modern Collection, celebrated the Wakefield Council’s art collection

The collection was founded in 1923 and began to develop with the help of Ernest Musgrave, the first director of Wakefield Art Gallery, and his forward-thinking collecting policy. Musgrave’s successors continued to expand the collection, which now has over 5,000 works, with the support of many organisations and individuals. (source)

The exhibition had only a small selection from the collection, but what a selection. It included works by Barbara Hepworth



Two forms (1937)


Forms, (brown, grey and white) (1941)

Ben Nicholson


May 1954 (Delos) (1954)

Patrick Heron


June Horizons 1957 (1957)

Henry Moore, including one of his drawings of miners

Henry Moore Pit Boys

This interesting sculpture by Kenneth Armitage


Girl without a face (version 2) (1982)

A painting by L S Lowry


A nude by Euan Uglow


Gyroscope Nude (1967)

I liked this painting of  Yorkshire Landscape (1937) by Francis Butterfield


The exhibition once again demonstrated that the Council in Wakefield have had an enlightened attitude to art and culture for many years – continuing right up to today as the establishment of the Hepworth Gallery demonstrates. So again I came away feeling disappointed that my home town, with similar working class demographic and links with mining and Rugby League, is such a cultural black hole.

Not so grim up north?

Abbot Hall recently acquired two late LS Lowry paintings on long term loan. Inspired by this they have created a small exhibition of paintings by northern artists from their collection shown together with the new Lowry paintings. There are works by William Bell, Jack Simcock, Percy Kelly and Lowry himself.

Although the exhibition is titled “Not so grim up north”, I’m not so sure that the moody, melancholic paintings they’ve included dispel the image of a dark, grey, gloomy landscape.

The two Lowry loan pictures were interesting. Neither conform to the stereotype of industrial landscapes peopled by “matchstick men”. One of them, Man Waiting, painted in 1964, portrays a monochrome single figure  in the bottom right of what is otherwise almost a blank canvas. He is wearing a bowler hat and carrying a brolly – more of a city gent than a factory worker. A simple, but effective depiction of the figure, almost, but not quite, a silhouette.


To me, he comes across as a lonely individual. I don’t know whether that is what Lowry intended. Who is he waiting for?

The other picture was much more disturbing. A rear view of a man in a hat and coat with arms raised surrounded by three children with a group of children, sketchily portrayed, in the background. It’s viewed through a doorway. One of the children, a girl, in the foreground is looking at the man. Another girl looks away. Is he waving or doing something more sinister?

Or is he the evil Childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?


The boy in the foreground looking out at the viewer is very scary. With his hunched shoulders, a white face, sunken eyes and open mouth, his expression and posture makes him look like a zombie. Very disturbing indeed. I’ve seen some scary kids in Salford but nothing quite like this.

There was a dark side to Lowry. He was

a far more complex character, one prone to depression and loneliness and darker sexual urges that some viewers may feel fit oddly with his much-loved image (Mark Brown in the Guardian)

It’s definitely demonstrated in this painting.