During a recent visit to the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston I was particularly impressed by the variety of portraits that were on display and so I thought it might be interesting to begin a series of blogs which document some of the finest portraits which can be seen in collections across Lancashire.
Prior to writing about the portraits though I thought it would be fitting to dedicate a blog to each of the venues that house them. First up, the Harris Museum and Art Gallery.
Preston’s landmark museum and gallery opened in 1893 and was largely funded by money left to Preston Corporation by the lawyer Edmund Robert Harris in memory of his father Reverend Robert Harris.
Designed by a local architect, James Hibbert, he opted for a Neo-Classical style which, as the Harris Museum and Art Gallery website explains:
“The design for the building reflects 19th century ideas and attitudes. The Victorians felt that if classical art and architecture were viewed by the public it would have an uplifting and moralising impact.”
What stands out about the gallery’s exterior is the decision not to build a central entrance from the market square and instead use two stairways at either side of the building’s front.
“To Literature Arts and Sciences”
Some of the intriguing inscriptions that decorate the exterior of the building include:
‘To Literature Arts and Science’ which references the main purpose of the building while others include ‘Reverence in man, that which is supreme,’ from the mediations of Marcus Aurelius.
However my personal favourite has to be – ‘The mental riches you may here acquire abide with you always.’
Some of the most exciting portraits within the collection include Pauline in the Yellow Dress by the fantastic Herbert James Gunn and the works of Preston native Arthur Devis.
While I will go on to look at these portraits in future posts, there are a number of other notable works in the gallery’s fine art collection.
Still Life with Squid and Sea Urchin by Lucien Freud is held by the gallery while no North West fine art collection would perhaps seem complete without a piece by LS Lowry. Painted in 1948, Millworkers shows Lowry’s iconic matchstick figures in a northern mill town setting.