The recently refurbished Gallery in the centre of Leeds made a very enjoyable visit last week. It is the home of the best public collection of twentieth century art in the UK outside London, recognised as a collection of National Importance. It was a pity that the Ziff Gallery, home of the nineteenth century work was closed which meant that I missed one of my favourite pre Raphaelite artist, Evelyn De Morgan’s Valley of the Shadows. The twentieth century collection is very well presented however with a number of Jacob Kramer paintings including The Day of Atonement and The Rite of Spring (see painting of the day) and Praxitella by Percy Wyndham Lewis (1921). There is, as expected sculpture from Henry Moore, Mother and Child, Barbara Hepworth, Hieroglyph, and Anthony Gormley, The Leeds Brick Man (1986). Among the temporary displays are a polycarbonate and cast polyurethane rubber sculpture, Arena,(2000) by Alison Wilding and as part of the national “Artist Rooms” project an exhibition devoted to Joseph Beuys. Highlight for me is the portrait wall with work by many of the iconic twentieth century portraitists including Gwen John and Francis Bacon. Adjoing the gallery are the Henry Moore Institute and Leeds Library with a terrific section devoted to art History.
As regards the day out the gallery is easy to access in the City centre, surrounded by great cafes and restaurants and the gallery’s own ‘Tiled Wall Café’ is itself a delight; a spot where the original neo-classical architecture is allowed freedom. Leeds is of course well served by motorways but I went by train where the station, with trains from all over the country is virtually in the city centre.
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Yes, a great pity the nineteenth century gallery was closed. Leeds was where I first saw an Atkinson Grimshaw painting – a revelation. Must have been back in the late 1970s when his reputation was much more subdued than now – but the Leeds gallery had a good display.