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New paintings by prominent British artists acquired by York Art Gallery

DATE: 20 November 2020

Artworks acquired from Derbyshire School Library Service            

Four new works of art – including one by influential British artist Prunella Clough (1919-1999) – have recently been acquired by York Art Gallery.

These paintings, by twentieth-century artists Clough, Margaret Mellis (1914-2009), Marion Grace Hocken (1922-1987) and Daphne Fedarb (1912-1992), were acquired following a successful application to the Derbyshire School Library Service, which closed its doors in 2018.

After closing, 90 works were chosen by the closest museum authority, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, with a further 315 offered to other galleries across the country, to ensure they were kept in public collections for visitors to enjoy. This was made possible thanks to funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund. The four new works will go on display at York Art Gallery next year.

Becky Gee, Curator of Fine Art, said: “We are thrilled to have acquired these fantastic works for York’s permanent collection. All four are by brilliant women artists who have played a significant role in shaping their respective areas of the modern British art scene. We are particularly pleased to acquire our first Clough – an artist who was so influential in her depiction of the post-war British landscape in the 1950s. Men and Barges combines Clough’s focus on working men and women with her later abstract compositions and we look forward to sharing this striking painting with our audiences.”

Derbyshire County Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Leadership, Culture and Tourism Councillor Barry Lewis said: “This is part of an exciting and pioneering project for Derbyshire County Council and we welcome the confidence the Museums Association has placed in us to get this right.

“For a long time museums have been nervous about the disposal of objects so this is an innovative project which will see items being re-homed in a transparent way, considering what is the best place for the object while ensuring it is not lost to the public where possible.

“Across the country, pictures of great interest and in some cases great worth, are kept in storage or in private collections. One of the aims of this project is to try to ensure that doesn’t happen with the items in these collections. We are very pleased that York Art Gallery is able to receive these pictures, and to exhibit them in their galleries.”

The other works acquired are Daphne Fedarb’s painting Tropical Birds, Marion Grace Hocken’s, My Room, St Ives, Cornwall and Margaret Mellis’ Vence Landscape (South of France).

Daphne Fedarb’s work, entitled Tropical Birds, makes a key addition to the Gallery’s small number of works by lesser-known British artists associated with the Surrealist movement. As a member of the London Group, this painting also complements work by other members in the Gallery’s collection, such as Mary Fedden and Stanislawa De Karlowska.

Margaret Mellis was one of an influential group of abstract artists working in St Ives at the outbreak of the Second World War. This early figurative landscape – called Vence Landscape (South of France) – helps to tell the story of her turn to abstraction through her use of block colours and simplified forms. Mellis had a varied and exciting circle of artist friends, many of which are present in our collection, as are works by her sister, Anne Stokes, in our ceramics collections.

Marion Grace Hocken also based herself in St Ives and her work, called My Room, St Ives, Cornwall, complements other St Ives School artists in the Gallery’s collection, including Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, with whom Hocken established the Penwith Society of Arts. Hocken was also close to Bernard Leach, who is represented by 72 ceramics in York Art Gallery’s collection.