Busy start to 2018

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Behind the scenes at the Mercer Art Gallery and the Royal Pump Room Museum is always extra busy when we return to work after Christmas, writes Jane Sellars of Harrogate Museums.

January is exhibition changeover time at the Mercer and we close the Pump Room for three weeks of cleaning and redisplay, this year from 8 to 26 January 2018. This January we also have paintings going out on loan around the world. The Croatian artist Bukovac’s famous portrait of Samson Fox, a wealthy Victorian Mayor of Harrogate, has gone to Zagreb in Croatia for an exhibition. Meanwhile, our Turner watercolour St Alban’s Head is touring Japan for a year.

Art exhibitions can take years to plan, especially if paintings are coming from other galleries.

There are some big loan shows coming up later this year but the spring exhibitions concentrate on the treasures in our own Harrogate collection. Somebody once said that putting on a programme of art exhibitions is like moving house several times a year.

There is a lot of physical work involved, some serious planning, deadline pressures and of course intensive creativity in organizing the hang, as we call it. We have just two weeks to take down two exhibitions and install two new ones.

In 2018 we are looking at important anniversaries: the centenary of the end of the First World War and one hundred years since women got the vote.

Harrogate has an outstanding collection of War posters by Frank Brangwyn (1867–1956) which went on display in 2014 to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War. The End of the War: Brangwyn’s War Posters (20 January to 20 June 2018) gives you a second chance to see Brangwyn’s powerful graphics. T

he emotion in Brangwyn’s visual imagery still has the power to make us reflect on those four long years of war, which is why we have put the posters on show again. We want the Brangwyn exhibition to be a place of reflection and there will be a book in the gallery where visitors can write about their own family’s connections with the Great War.

Picturing Women: 100 Years of Votes For Women (13 January to 17 June 2018) in the Main Gallery is a celebration of a great event in women’s history. The Mercer collection is strong in women’s art, and over the last 15 years or so we have made some great new acquisitions. Yorkshire women artists stand out, such as Wensleydale born Sonia Lawson, who presented the Mercer with her big vibrant painting Teatime at Haworth with the Brontes.

Images of women created by all artists are explored as well. A series of prints, drawings and paintings represent the woman worker in different guises, such as the fisherwoman, the laundress, the seamstress and the artist, as in Rose Garrard’s Artist as Model. Photography makes an appearance, from portraits by Julia Margaret Cameron, a pioneer in the early days of photography in the 19th century, to a hitherto unseen collection of society photographs of the once well-known local celebrity Lady Bomanji, a generous gift to the Mercer from the family.

On Saturday 20 January at the Mercer we have got free gallery talks about the new exhibitions from 10am to 4pm.

At the Royal Pump Room Museum there is an Open House event 2pm to 4pm when you can drop in for a cup of tea and talk to us about our exciting plans for its refurbishment.