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.


Free gallery talks
15 June until 29 September
Daily at 11.30am and 2.30pm Monday to Saturday and 2.30pm on Sunday

Daily short introductory talks focusing on particular works in the exhibition, delivered by gallery staff. Learn about Frith's picture making process, the importance of his oil sketches and his constant search for models; he was just as likely to hire a girl selling oranges on the streets to model for him as he was to depict members of high society.

Frith's armchair
Free daily as part of the exhibition, from 27 June to 29 September

The Victorians looked at and studied paintings very differently to audiences today. This mindful looking chair placed within our current exhibition William Powell Frith: The People's Painter will encourage contemporary audiences to take inspiration from Frith's audiences and look closely at a single work on display using simple mindful techniques.

Mini Mercers
Monday 22 July and Monday 29 July at 10.30am until 11.45am
Monday 22 July at 1.30pm until 2.45pm
£3 per child

Mini Mercer sessions are a fun morning of children's movement, meditation and mindful art activities inspired by the art in the gallery, aimed at children aged 18 months to 7 years. The sessions will encourage children to be active, build confidence and manage their emotions. We'll do yoga moves, simple meditation, breathing and relaxation exercises, and enjoy being creative together with some making activities!

Book online

Coffee and culture
Wednesday 31 July
10.30am until 11.30am

Visit the gallery for a free informal welcome session including tea, coffee and cake, and an opportunity to make new friends.

Whether you come on your own or with a friend, we'll guarantee a warm welcome. Let us know what you'd like these sessions to feature, but they might include one of our gallery talks, a look around the gallery, or perhaps a simple making or creative activity.

No need to book, just drop in.

Family art sessions
Saturday 3 August
11am until 4pm

Drop in to the gallery on Saturdays for these free family-friendly creative sessions, led by artist Jennyanne Smith.

Inspired by our current exhibition William Powell Frith: The People's Painter, these sessions will look at the work on display and invite you to make your own marks and try new techniques with clay, printmaking and paint.

No need to book, just drop in.

Mindful looking
Sunday 4 August 11am
Sessions last 45 minutes

These free open-to-all mindfulness events led by Kindmind create an opportunity to take time out in the gallery setting, and use mindful techniques to explore an artwork on display. Our first two sessions will explore guided looking at a single work in the gallery. The final session involves moving around several works in the exhibition before coming together at the end to talk about our experiences as a group.

Sessions are free.

Book online

Page last updated 21/07/2019