LETTER SPECIAL: Wakefield Permanent Art Collection

As a former resident of Wakefield, I was delighted to hear of the opening of the Hepworth Gallery and have made regular visits over the last few years to see particular exhibitions; my last visit was last week, to see the wonderful exhibition of Gertrude Hermes’ work.

However, I have become increasingly frustrated and disappointed at the absence in the gallery of most of the wonderful paintings which form the Wakefield Permanent Art Collection.

I lived with my family in Wakefield from 1977 to 2008. During that time, one of our pleasures on wet Sunday afternoons was to visit the Art Gallery, then housed in a small but elegant gallery on Wentworth Terrace.

Over the years we would revisit old favourites and be surprised and pleased by the gallery’s new editions and temporary exhibitions, but it seemed to me that the balance between old and new was about right. We were told that the gallery owned hundreds of paintings which it didn’t have the space to exhibit, but in time the new gallery (the Hepworth) would provide this space.

What a disappointment! Although I love the work of Barbara Hepworth, it saddens me that there is even less opportunity to see the permanent collection than there once was.

Many of your readers may not know that Wakefield has a magnificent collection of paintings from the medieval period up to the present day. From the early 20th century, there is work by Sickert, Gilmore and Gore from the Camden House group, Roger Fry and Duncan Grant, and artists such as John Piper, Ivon Hitchens, Patrick Heron, Roger Hilton and LS Lowry from the mid-20th century. This is a collection that Wakefield should be proud of.

I have made these comments in writing to the Hepworth, but have been told that if there is a painting that I particularly want to see, and make a formal request, they will get it out of storage. This seems to miss the point of a public gallery where the fun often lies in casual browsing and being surprised by the unknown. A few paintings are displayed on rotation, but only a very few. Could not space be made available for more? Could not a ‘painting of the month’ be given prominence in the entrance foyer?

Hilary Grisewood

Leyburn, North Yorkshire

I would like to comment on the points raised in a letter last week from Hilary Grisewood, who lives North Yorkshire, about the collections on show at The Hepworth.

For some time I have been championing the views of many residents who also want to see more historical art on display at the gallery.

Personally, I very much enjoy modern art but agree entirely that there needs to a greater balance between showcasing the modern works and exhibiting some of our existing older pieces in Wakefield’s Permanent Art Collection, currently in storage.

I also believe that the Hepworth could consider some of these items being shown in Wakefield One or the Town Hall.

I will continue to make my representations to The Hepworth on behalf of residents, and visitors like Hilary.

Coun Peter Box

Leader of Wakefield Council

I was pleased to read Peter Box’s letter (5 February) in response to the Hilary Grisewood’s excellent letter regarding the disappointing absence in the Hepworth Gallery of the wonderful collection of paintings and other art works contained in the Wakefield Art collection, which was previously housed in the former Wakefield Art Gallery on Wentworth Terrace.

I understand from examining the brief but incomplete information that is available on the Hepworth Gallery web site that the collection consists of more than 5,000 art works including many works by notable modern British artists.

It seems a lost opportunity that this major collection of public art has been hidden away from view by the general public since the closure of former Wakefield Art Gallery.

A small selection of the collection (approximately 400 paintings) is available to view on the BBC web site at BBC - Home arts/your paintings/search/located at/the hepworth-Wakefield.

As a resident of Wakefield I would like to record my full support to Peter Box’s suggestion and vision that the Hepworth, as trustees of the Wakefield Art Collection, and other interested parties should give consideration to how to display and promote this very important part of Wakefield’s cultural heritage.

Roger Holmes

Walton Lane, Wakefield