Art Fund curatorial trainees: September update

As they approach the end of their first year of training, Henrietta Ward and Philippa Stephenson update us on their time in the Art Fund's curatorial scheme.

Henrietta has been working with the National Gallery and Manchester Art Gallery

The move from London to Manchester went smoothly and I have fully settled into life and work at the Gallery. Much of my time has been spent getting to know the 17th- and 18th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings and continuing with the historic research.

I am very fortunate to be working with such a diverse and fantastic collection. In fact there are so many great paintings that it is difficult to decide which ones will go into the new permanent display next May! I am looking to reduce my ‘top’ 80 to around 50 key paintings.

One of the many things that have stood out to me is the abundance of activity and humour in these scenes. By thinking about the five senses, I hope to bring to life the humorous, raucous tavern scenes, the turbulent, choppy seas as well as the peaceful domestic home.

The new display will also include a contemporary intervention in order to provide new ways of looking at Dutch paintings. The aim will be to create links, juxtapositions and encourage debate. Researching contemporary art and seeing where the potential relationships are has been a challenge, but a worthwhile and rewarding one. Over the next month I hope to be able to finalise the contemporary loans and I’m currently looking at links with the still lifes and seascapes.

I am working closely with other departments, particularly Conservation, to ensure that the key paintings are ready for display. The Learning and Exhibitions teams have been actively involved with decisions and ideas as well, and I really enjoy working alongside them.

Philippa has been working with the National Gallery and Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums

Since moving to Newcastle I have seen some fascinating exhibitions. From Sunderland Museum's display of Lowry's monochromatic marvels, to the large-scale video installation of Kelly Richardson's Mariner 9 at Whitley Bay's Spanish Dome, to BALTIC's current Mark Wallinger exhibition, there is certainly a lot to see and do in the North East. I'm looking forward to contributing to this rich cultural programme with my 2013 exhibition, Divine Bodies.

Held at Newcastle's Laing Art Gallery, this exhibition will be the result of the research and learning I have undertaken on my curatorial traineeship at the National Gallery and Tyne and Wear Archives and Museum. Alongside a selection of TWAM's Old Master paintings, we will be showing a number of carefully-chosen contemporary artworks.

With complementary and contrasting juxtapositions, I hope to demonstrate how artists over the last thirty years have re-embraced the figure, looking at the themes and concerns relevant to the Old Masters. Traces of Old Master influence can be detected in these modern works, showing the dialogue between art created today, and over 500 years ago.

These last few months have seen the genesis and quick development of Divine Bodies, and I have been busy making a number of exciting loan requests, contacting artists, dealers and galleries across the country. With responses returning, I am excited at the prospect of showing some truly exciting paintings, photographs and sculpture, both celebrating and challenging constructs and conceptions of Divine Bodies.

Back to top