National Gallery Masterpiece Tour in Oldham
Our visit this week was to the Art Gallery in Oldham. As part of the National Gallery Masterpiece Tour, Degas’s Hélène Rouart in her Father’s Study was on display.
The title suggests that it is a portrait of a young woman. When you look more closely, however, the stories the painting tells are all about Hélène’s father, Henri Rouart. The exhibition asks: Is this really a portrait of Hélène, or of her father?
This is the starting point for an exploration of the ways in which women are represented within art collections. Oldham Gallery holds many portraits in which the woman is not named. Sometimes she is described as “wife” or “daughter”, sometimes the title completely ignores the fact there is a woman in the portrait at all. The National Gallery partnership is a starting point to try to uncover the identities of some of these sitters, and to find out more about those who we know little.
The exhibition brings together many of the paintings featuring women. Historically, there were generally limited roles for women in art. Paintings were mostly made by men, bought by men for their own or the town’s collection and displayed by men for much of the first part of their history. There are exceptions to this at various points in time, of course.
Men are shown in limited roles as well – very often as businessmen, town leaders or as head of the family. There are no paintings of men sleeping, helping children or carrying out domestic tasks.
Other current exhibitions were the Legacy of Biafra and Oldham Stories.
The latter included Annie Kenney, who was an English working-class suffragette and socialist feminist who became a leading figure in the Women’s Social and Political Union. In 1905 Annie and her sisters Jessie and Jane went to a meeting in Oldham where Christabel Pankhurst spoke about voting rights for women. Annie was so inspired that she was soon organising and speaking at meetings.
She and Christabel attended a Liberal rally at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall in October 1905. There they stood up and asked Winston Churchill ‘If you are elected, will you do your best to make women’s suffrage a government measure?’ When they received no reply, they unfurled a banner with the slogan ‘Votes for women’ – and were thrown out of the meeting. In the ensuing struggle, a policeman claimed the women had kicked and spat at him. They were arrested and charged with assault.
This was the first of thirteen times Annie Kenney was sent to prison. There she wrote: ‘The law may be stronger than I am, but if I may not change the wicked law that holds in bondage the smitten womanhood of this country, I will at least die in the attempt to change it’. A statue was unveiled in Oldham town centre in 2018.
More photos can be seen here.
LGBT Extra Care Scheme Public Consultation
The Scheme is holding two public consultation events to start preparing a planning application.
The exhibition at Whalley Range Methodist Church (2.00pm – 8.00pm Wednesday, 12 January 2022) will give us a chance to explain why we are developing the scheme ahead of more detailed plans that will be presented at a second event in February 2022.
But do not worry if you cannot make this event as the consultation will also go online from Wednesday 12 January 2022 to Wednesday 19 January 2022.