William Powell Frith - Many Happy Returns

15 June until 29 September

A rare exhibition of the works of William Powell Frith (1819-1909), whose great panoramas of Victorian life made him the most popular painter of his time, will be mounted at Harrogate's Mercer Art Gallery this summer.

Marking the bicentenary of Frith's birth at Aldfield near Harrogate, this exhibition will draw together some 70 paintings and prints from major national collections, including Tate Britain, the Royal Academy, the Royal Collection, the V&A and the Mercer Art Gallery's own extensive archive. There will also be several - previously unseen - works of art loaned from private collections and descendants of the artist.

Moving to London in 1835 to become a student at the Royal Academy, Frith quickly become one of the great masters of the Victorian era, painting multi-layered modern scenes that highlighted the social tensions and complexities of the times. Indeed his immense popularity reputedly necessitated additional security at the Royal Academy - which exhibited over 140 of his paintings during his lifetime. Frith also became one of the most commercially successful painters of the era, as the mass produced engravings of his masterpieces transported his art work to the parlours of the world and catapulted him to fame.

Frith was a skilled narrator and innovator, filling his pictures with a multitude of contemporary characters representing the various levels of Victorian society. Highlights of the exhibition will include his depiction of the overcrowded beach at Ramsgate, in Life at the Seaside (on loan from the Royal Collection Trust), the bustle of Paddington Station in The Railway Station (on loan from the Royal Holloway College, London) and Derby Day, arguably one of his greatest masterpieces, which will be on loan from Tate Britain.

William Powell Frith, The People's Painter is grateful for the generous support from the Friends of the Mercer Art Gallery, The Arts Council, The Art Fund and Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers.

Page last updated 14/02/2019