What was good and why?
There were many aspects of the visit that I thought were good. My art form is painting, so I was naturally most interested in the paintings. I thought all the paintings were excellent, and I admired how all of the paintings were painted differently, obviously, as all painters have slightly different painting styles. That is what I enjoy most about galleries; you are guaranteed to see no two similar paintings, unless painted by the same artist. My particular theme in my own paintings was nature, so I loved all the nature-related paintings, like the painting ‘Edinburgh from Leith Roads’ by Samuel Bough, as I think the sea and the sky are painted so perfectly that they look almost photographic.
I also thought ‘When the West with Evening Glows’, by Joseph Farquharson also looked, especially from a distance, like a photograph. I find that intriguing because I think it’s incredible that colourful liquid-like substances, and paintbrushes, can create something that is usually made using technology. I also thought the ‘In Pursuit of Beauty’ gallery was good. The paintings were all beautifully and delicately painted; their beauty enhanced by the subject of the paintings: often a beautiful lady. My favourite painting from this gallery is probably ‘Girl Reading’, by Charles Edward Perugini, 1878. I particularly like this painting because I love the relaxed, gentle position of the woman, and I like how, among figures of women poised like objects, there is a painting which captures the beauty in a girl encapsulated by her book. I also loved Sylvia Pankhurst’s working women gallery, which featured paintings and drawings of women working in their professions. I think this gallery was particularly inspiring because of Sylvia’s evident dedication to her role in the women’s suffrage movement, and because of how she drew and painted her work quickly, in order to convey the ‘truth of what she saw’, and not the ‘prettiness or pathos’.
What was not so good and why?
In terms of the visit itself, as I find with most galleries, it was very hard to be able to see everything the gallery had to offer without just running through the different collections and not really taking in the art itself. I pretty much only saw the paintings galleries so I don’t have a lot to comment on apart from that. I cannot say that any of the paintings were bad. Each and every painting is painted in a different way, for a different reason, about a different thing, so because of that, no piece of artwork could really be bad. The paintings at the gallery were all made by extremely talented artists.
Would you recommend it and why?
I would definitely recommend the Manchester Art Gallery to someone else. It has a wide range of things to see, not just paintings. The gallery contains many different types of art, from costume to pottery, to oil paintings. The art was all amazing and it's always great to be so close to such wonderful talent in the form of paintings. The gallery gave me lots of inspiration about my own artwork, and even to someone who is not interested in art, the gallery shows some really beautiful work, and because every single square centimetre of each painting could be analysed in so much detail, the galleries give endless entertainment and anyone could watch them all day. The whole experience was really good, and the gallery makes a wonderful day out for everyone.
What did you learn from it?
I learnt a lot from the galley. Each painting had a text beside it, giving detailed information on the individual painting and the artist in relation to the painting. After reading the texts, I obviously found out a lot about each painting. However, in amongst all the information that I read about the paintings and the artists, there were a few facts that stood out to me. For example, I found out that the model for the painting of the dead lion was in fact a dead lion at London zoo, and that the artist (Edwin Landseer) then went on to sculpt four large lions, again using a dead lion from the zoo, which then went on to be cast in bronze for Trafalgar Square. I found this really interesting, and it also made me think about the number of public sculptures we do not know the backstory of. Another interesting fact that I found out, not from the information given, but from a family friend who works at the gallery and was a sort of tour guide for us, was that for the painting ‘Cheetah and Stag with Two Indians’ by George Stubbs, the painter studied the live and dead body of a cheetah to be able to paint the subject with such anatomical accuracy. The cheetah in the painting is extremely realistic, while the stag is far from that, and is not even close to being realistic or anatomically perfect. Another aspect of the visit that I found interesting was John William Waterhouse’s ‘Hylas and The Nymphs’. I not only enjoyed this painting because I thought it was very good, but the painting is a famously controversial one, as it was taken down recently because of controversies over how women’s bodies should be displayed. However, there are many paintings in the gallery that portray women’s bodies in a similar way. For example, the painting ‘Sirens and Ulysses’ by William Etty could also be accused of presenting the female body as a passive, decorative art form, and as an object. The temporary removal of the painting sparked many debates, and the gallery left post-it notes by the side of the painting to let the visitors express their views. I personally think that the painting had just as much right to be displayed as many other of the paintings, and I think that the painting portrayed women as powerful rather than solely ‘pretty’.