Information about locations and events
Nothing Beautiful Unless Useful
7 March – 31 May 2013
Victoria Gallery & Museum, University of Liverpool
From works by the Pre-Raphaelites and L.S. Lowry, to delicate Victorian glassware and artist-designed ‘Pilkington Pots’, this display presents works from public collections across the North West of England and addresses art’s ability to bring social change.
Taking its title from the motto used by the architect Charles Barry of Manchester Art Gallery, the first display looks at 19th Century industrialisation and the making and patronage of art. Centering on the relationship between art and social reform between 1850 and 1940, it focuses on Thomas Horsfall’s Manchester Art Museum, Leeds Art Club and Mass Observation.
Highlights include works on paper by Edward Burne-Jones and Ford Madox Brown and watercolours by John Ruskin and William Holman Hunt, which were used to instil knowledge of art and beauty amongst workers. In contrast, Frank Brangwyn and Edward Wadsworth present gritty depictions of working life whilst photographs by Humphrey Spender and a film by Humphrey Jennings set the social and cultural context. The display also includes ivory carvings of a crayfish, banana and fig, highly crafted curiosities which educated and intrigued visitors at the time.
This exhibition originated at the Whitechapel Gallery, London and is one of a series of displays exploring the theme of art and philanthropy. It is conceived in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Society by Arts Council-funded Curatorial Fellow Anna Colin, supported by the Harris Museum and Gallery, Preston.
For over 100 years, the Contemporary Art Society has encouraged an appreciation and understanding of contemporary art by donating works to museums and public galleries across the UK. These displays draw on the collections of Contemporary Art Society Member Museums.
Special Event: Nothing Beautiful Unless Useful
Thursday 14 November, 2pm – 8pm
An afternoon of talks, tours, film and music investigating the historical relationship between art, education and social reform in Britain through radical regional initiatives. Featuring contributions from curators and researchers Anna Colin, Michael Harrison, Russell Roberts and Tom Steele followed by an evening concert hosted by Ed Baxter from Resonance FM.
2pm: Kirsty Ogg, Curator, Whitechapel Gallery, in conversation with Anna Colin, curator of the Contemporary Art Society display
2.30pm: Michael Harrison: ”A Ruskinian Venture: T.C. Horsfall and the Manchester Art Museum”
The Manchester Art Museum was the brainchild of the philanthropist T.C. Horsfall (1841-1932). It was inspired by John Ruskin and sought to bring the benefits of art and nature to the working classes of Manchester. An assessment will be made of the Art Museum, as well as a brief attempt to show how the scheme fitted into Horsfall’s wider quest to achieve ‘an ideal for life in Manchester’.
3.30pm: Screening of The Poor Stockinger, The Luddite Cropper and the Deluded Followers of Joanna Southcott (dir. Luke Fowler, 2012, 61 min)
Luke Fowler’s film mixes archive footage with newly-shot material in an evocative video essay that reflects on the life and times of the critic, historian and activist E.P. Thompson. Tracing Thompson’s influence on the post-war cultural scene, from his early days as youthful firebrand at the University of Leeds to his commitment to the Workers’ Education Association (WEA) teaching literature and history to miners, factory workers and the unemployed, the film explores issues at stake for educationalists at that time, a struggle that resonates today within the current market-led higher education system.
5pm: Tom Steele: ”From Ruskin to Nietzsche, Michael Sadler and the Leeds Arts Club”
Sadler took over the leadership role in the Leeds Arts Club from Alfred Orage, its founder, in 1911. Originally a devout Ruskinian, Sadler embraced a futurist machine-age aesthetic. He took the Arts Club in the direction of post-impressionism, as the most prominent British patron of the Russian abstract impressionist Wassily Kandinsky, and nurtured the careers of local painters like Jacob Kramer and intellectuals like Herbert Read.
5.45pm: Russell Roberts: “Mass Observation – This Is Your Photo” *Unfortunately due to unforeseen events this talk has been cancelled*
This talk explores selected photographic dimensions within different phases of Mass Observation’s history considering the various methods that have been used to visualise social lives.
6.30pm: Songs of Dissolution and Practicality, a deconstructed radio ballad by the Resonance Radio Orchestra. Don’t expect songs exactly, but an electro-acoustic meditation on truth and beauty by the country’s foremost radiophonic ensemble and house-band at Resonance104.4fm.
“Their delicate aural signals seemed to emanate either from the cosmos or from deep within the Earth.” The Times
Location: Zilkha Auditorium, Clore Creative & Study Studios, Whitechapel Gallery
Price: £10, free to members of the Contemporary Art Society’s National Network