Three months as a curatorial trainee

  • 24 January 2012

Henrietta Ward and Philippa Stephenson began their ArtFunded traineeships with the National Gallery in October 2011 and here give us an update on how its gone so far.

Our curatorial trainees Philippa Stephenson and Henrietta Ward © The National Gallery, London

Our curatorial trainees Philippa Stephenson and Henrietta Ward

Last year we announced our partnership with the National Gallery to offer two fully funded curatorial traineeships. Aimed at nurturing the next generation of curators, the scheme will deliver practical guidance for each trainee at the National Gallery and an appointed regional museum.

Henrietta Ward and Philippa Stephenson began their traineeships in October 2011 and here give us an update on how it's gone so far...

Henrietta is working with Manchester Art Gallery

My first five months at the National Gallery have been absolutely brilliant! I have found them incredibly productive, informative and enjoyable.

My major project is based in Manchester Art Gallery where I will research their important 17th and 18th century Dutch and Flemish collection to go into a new permanent display. Very little has been discovered or researched about these paintings so I am really looking forward to revealing something new and presenting them in a different way. I have plenty to keep me busy here as I can make use of the National Gallery’s valuable resources such as the extensive library, expert curators, and of course an important Dutch and Flemish collection of its own. I have particularly been looking into the Assheton Bennetts, who bequeathed their collection of Dutch paintings to Manchester. I have revealed some fascinating information already and hope to find out more!

In addition to research, I have also been having regular 2 hourly lessons with a Dutch teacher. I have enjoyed these lessons and they have given me the confidence to translate an article into English which will prove useful for late 19th and early 20th century Dutch material, particularly on obscure, little known artists.

I have also had the chance to be involved with the National Gallery’s next temporary exhibition Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude. This has been really exciting, and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to write captions, be involved with design meetings, publicity, and write a joint article for Art Quarterly amongst many others. I am really looking forward to seeing its installation and to be involved with the exhibition’s supporting programme by giving a lunchtime lecture.

Philippa is working with Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums

The collection of Old Master paintings at the Hatton, Shipley and Laing galleries is rich and varied. From Northern European altarpieces, to handsome Italian portraits, there is a wealth of art to be discovered in Newcastle and Gateshead.

My task involves creating an exhibition of paintings from across these 3 galleries. With their varied collections spanning over four hundred years, the biggest challenge is creating a unified and coordinated exhibition that will include the best works of art.

Working with Curators at the National Gallery, I have been busy creating an initial selection of paintings, aiming to identify the top fifty prime paintings. The next step will be to tie these works into a cohesive exhibition; this may be thematic, chronological or otherwise.

Alongside this preliminary project work, I have been meeting the various departments across the National Gallery, learning the part that Curators play within this organisation. I have been involved in work for the spring exhibition, Turner Inspired: In The Light of Claude. It has been invaluable experience to witness the final 6 months of such an exhibition.

The next stage involves moving to Newcastle, and I look forward to learning about the operation of regional galleries. I am excited by the prospect of studying each painting in depth, with the aim of bringing new information about these fascinating works of art to an audience across Newcastle and beyond.

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