The opening at Weston Park Museum of the Picturing Sheffield art gallery and new displays in What on Earth natural science gallery mark the completion of the final phase in a year-long programme of redevelopment supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
They follow the summer launch of the Beneath Your Feet showcase for the city’s archaeology collection and various new additions to Sheffield Life & Times chronicling sport, protest and shopping in the city.
Picturing Sheffield represents a transformation of the museum’s art gallery and is displayed in a Victorian salon-style hang of more than 60 scenes of Sheffield dating from the early 1800s through to the present day.
The improvements to Weston Park have been facilitated by a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, support from a range of trusts and foundations, and contributions to Museums Sheffield’s I Love My Museum fundraising appeal.
In return the public were consulted on what they would like to see in the gallery which was once part of the Mappin art gallery. “They said they wanted to see lots of pictures and something about Sheffield,” said Liz Waring, curator of visual arts. It fits both criteria with the four walls packed with paintings of various sizes depicting the city. Though a permanent exhibition, there will be changing elements each year. It has developed from a popular exhibition at the Millennium Gallery in 2015, also called Picturing Sheffield.
In pride of place is a visitor favourite, The Misses Vickers by John Singer Sargent from 1884, one of the few portraits on show which depicts members of the steel dynasty at their estate in Bolsover Hill.
Also highlighted is the choice of the University Discovery group, a Hopeless Dawn, Stanley Robert Jones’s 1963 view of the grim prospect of people arriving at the railway station.
There are four sections to Picturing Sheffield. Portraits of Sheffield include all four of Stanley Royle’s Sheffield Quartet from 1923, first reunited for the Graves Gallery exhibition of 2014, ceramicist Emilie Taylor’s High I Almost Touch the Sky, and a 1957 painting by Sheffield-born John Hoyland before he moved into abstracts, one of the long-term loans augmenting the majority of exhibits from the city collection.
The second section is Lost Sheffield showing landmarks that are no longer there. So we see the Kelvin Flats by Pete Clarke during his residency there in the Eighties, Anthony Lowe’s Hole in the Road, a Tinsley Towers plate by contemporary artist Jonathan Wilkinson and Norwood Hall, which along with another painting by an unknown artist, Bridge Houses and White Rails at Bridgehouses, has benefited from funding to enable it to be rescued through conservation.
The City of Industry section includes The Two Grinders by Godfrey Sykes among evocative pictures of steelmaking.
Finally Sheffield at Leisure features Joe Scarborough’s 1996 painting People Dancing to Bands, Pete McKee’s A Perfect Day and Jo Peel’s Owlerton Stadium, Sheffield.
Visitors can share their own views of Sheffield in the gallery among several interactive elements.