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MASTERS OF ART

Hemy's famous painting showing the hive of industry on the wear in the 19th century.

INGENIOUS new ways of displaying great works from the permanent collection have been found to enhance the experience of the viewer and to create more display space, in the main art gallery, while, as before, the smaller art gallery will be used for temporary exhibitions – the first being work by the popular marine artist J.W.Carmichael, commissioned to paint great local events such as the opening of the harbour which has been sponsored by local accountants and business advisors Tenon Jennings Johnson.
The main gallery has been divided into sub-sections, with warm terracotta and cool blue walls curving round, to create a different atmosphere and help the eye to bridge the gap between Victorian and contemporary painting, and on to the new ethnography section displaying works of art from different parts of the world.
The authentic feel of a Victorian collector's private drawing room gallery has been created in one section, with paintings crowded on the walls and with the area adorned by sculptures, silver, ceramics, a figure in period costume and furniture, including a Victorian "love seat".
The increased prosperity created by the Industrial Revolution brought a wider interest in art among the middle classes and there were many local collectors. Some of them made bequests to their new municipal Art Gallery – the first outside London – that they were so proud of.

The opening of the South docks as portrayed by previously mentioned artist J.W. Charmichael.


The largest of these bequests came from John Dickinson, head of an engineering firm. It included a portrait of the donor by the artist Ralph Hedley, and shows the range of Victorian taste, including, for example, the exotic Sunny Climes, Tahiti, by Nicholas Chevalier; the romantic portrait of Shakespeare's heroine Juliet, by Thomas Francis Dicksee, and the idyllic Sunset, the Woodman's Cottage, by Henry Mark Anthony.
Also in the Victorian section are some favourite local scenes such as the misty Sunderland Harbour by Louis Hubbard Grimshaw, and the original Winter Gardens by Daniel Whiteley Marshall.

Here, too, is the Portrait of Thomas Dixon, painted as a demonstration piece by the famous artist Alphonse Legros on the afternoon of November 6, 1879, at the opening of the Museum and Art Gallery.
An entirely new method has been found for displaying watercolours, prints and drawings in the gallery. A special unit with sliding screens has been designed to give extra space to make more exhibits accessible and also to protect them from damage caused by exposure to light for extended periods.
The pictures in this unit will be changed at regular intervals and the first selection is of highlights from the collection, including such items as a Burne-Jones drawing and watercolours by Clarkson Stanfield and T.M. Hemy.
The watercolour unit is an island in the middle of the gallery, while on one wall there is a selection illustrating the range of the permanent collection of 19th and 20th century art, and on another wall a selection of contemporary art. This includes work never before on display, such as a painting of welders at Nissan, by Andrew Tift, and the museum's latest acquisition, Gun Street, by Edward Harper.
It is fitting that a special section should be devoted to L.S. Lowry, the famous artist with a special affinity with Sunderland. He first visited in 1936, but from the early 1960s, Sunderland became a second home and he would stay in the Seaburn Hotel for weeks rather than days, using it as a base from which to go out painting not only industrial landscapes, but also the countryside and the coast.
Lowry was particularly fascinated by the sea and shipping, and the 20 works on show range from early works to views of places in the North East and the strange, imaginary images he produced towards the end of his life.


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