The divine art of photography
Portraits from the Harrogate Photography Collection
15 September 2018 until 10 February 2019

Harrogate has an outstanding collection of photographs that ranges from images documenting nineteenth century life in the town and important portraits by the great Victorian artist Julia Margaret Cameron, to major works by contemporary Yorkshire photographers.

Photography was one of the great discoveries of the Victorian age. Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) was a pioneer of the new art and it was she who coined the phrase 'The Divine Art of Photography.' Cameron took up the challenging new technology aged 48 and made more than 1,200 images in her short career.

Alongside classic examples of Cameron's work you will see images by Walter Hanlon (1926 - 2009) who worked as a photographer about 100 years later in the 1950s, specialising in the world of entertainment, especially Jazz, and he would set off into the London Jazz clubs armed with his Rolleiflex camera and hope that the stars, such as Ronnie Scott, John Dankworth and Cleo Laine, would agree to be snapped.

In recent years the Mercer has developed a policy for collecting contemporary art which includes the work of important Yorkshire based photographers, represented in this exhibition by landscape artist Liza Dracup, documentary photographer Tim Smith, portraitist Paul Floyd Blake and international artist Tessa Bunney.


From today painting is dead
Paintings from the Harrogate Fine Art Collection
Opens 22 September 2018 until 10 February 2019

This new Mercer exhibition looks at how the invention of photography in the 1830s shook painting to its foundations and one shocked artist declared 'From today, painting is dead!'

Photographs could depict the world better and faster than painting and threatened to make some types of painting defunct. But painting lives on.

A wealth of paintings from the Harrogate Collection looks at the ways in which painting and photography have complemented each other. Works by artists such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Atkinson Grimshaw, G F Watts and Therese Lessore illustrate how painters use the photograph in their art, and photographers imitate painterly techniques.


A Portrait of Harrogate
16 February until 3 June 2019

Where is your favourite place in Harrogate?

Which of our beautiful buildings or open spaces holds a special place in your life story?

This fascinating exhibition reveals images of our celebrated town from its earliest spa days right through to contemporary views of this unique place. From the gallery stores we are bringing out many rarely seen pictures and displaying them alongside all-time favourites such as LNER railway posters and the witty cartoons of Herbert Templar.


Linescapes by Ian Mitchell
16 February until 3 June 2019

Ian Mitchell's work celebrates the British landscape, coast and countryside. His ideas come from walks during which he takes photographs and makes drawings, then he uses a computer to create the final digital drawings for his ‘Linescape’ prints.

Working in his studio on the North Yorkshire coast, he strips back his designs, simplifying the landscape down to lines and forms, using flat colour to capture the essence of a place.

In his most recent work he has been drawn to human-made, large-scale, modern infrastructure such as motorways, harbours and coastal defences, dams and reservoirs.


WILLIAM POWELL FRITH: The People's Painter
15 June until 29 September 2019

This exhibition marks the bicentenary of the birth of William Powell Frith (1819 - 1909), whose great panoramas of Victorian life made him the most popular painter of his time. Born in Aldfield and raised in High Harrogate, he is the district's best-known and outstandingly successful artist.

Frith was an innovator who filled his ambitious pictures with a multitude of contemporary characters representing various levels of society, from the overcrowded beach at Ramsgate to the bustle of Paddington Station.

This exhibition investigates how Frith put together his paintings - including preparatory drawings and oil sketches, the way he employed models and the nature of his studio.

The exhibition will also explore Frith's popular success and demonstrate the importance of the mass production of large-scale engravings after his paintings. Such prints not only made the artist world-famous but also, as a retail coup, brought great wealth to his publishers. Frith's major paintings were so popular that the Royal Academy, exceptionally, had to protect them with a rail on six occasions, in one instance also employing a policeman to ward off the crowds. These works were toured around this country and overseas, drawing massive crowds who paid a shilling a time to see them, again making money for the entrepreneurs.

Paintings will be loaned to the exhibition from major British public collections. There are also many loans from private collections of works hitherto unseen in public. All of the Frith paintings and engravings acquired by the Mercer over the last 15 years will be on display.

There will be a catalogue for the exhibition with essays by specialist scholars, including the independent art historian Richard Green, who is co-curator of the exhibition with Jane Sellars.


The Harrogate Open
12 Oct 2019 until 12 Jan 2020

Staged every two years, the Harrogate Open is an exciting selection of new work from artists who live, work or have studied in the Harrogate district - this vibrant exhibition is a showcase for established artists and emerging talent, working in many different media.


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Page last updated 05/12/2018