Art Fund curatorial trainee: September update

Eloise Donnelly updates us on her last six months working with the National Gallery and York Art Gallery as an Art Fund curatorial trainee.

Eloise Donnelly, curatorial trainee Photo © the National Gallery, London

Eloise Donnelly, curatorial trainee


Photo © the National Gallery, London


The past three months have been an extraordinary period at the National Gallery: from the rare chance to see two of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers side by side in January, to the unveiling of Bellows’ Men of the Docks in February, to the opening of the sumptuous exhibition Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice. It’s been fascinating to get an insight into what goes on behind the scenes as I continue my research and training.

After Christmas, preparations for the Strange Beauty: Masters of the German Renaissance exhibition were finalised. Seeing the complete exhibition, with stunning loaned works of art juxtaposed with familiar National Gallery masterpieces, was a fantastic moment. Witnessing George Clooney stage a press call in Room 5 of the exhibition was a particularly surreal point in my training!

In the meantime, my research on the Lycett Green collection of Italian paintings at York has been gathering pace. Earlier this month I gave a lunchtime lecture on the two Lycett Green paintings on loan to the National Gallery from York, which was a great chance to present some of my recent findings.

I’m now thoroughly looking forward to moving to York and embarking on the next stage of the project. The paintings are in storage while the Gallery undergoes redevelopment, but I’ll have the chance to visit the stores next month to examine the paintings themselves. It certainly promises to be a very exciting trip!


Spring 2014 was a fantastic moment to move to York – just as the city was gearing up to host the Tour de Yorkshire, welcome Grayson Perry to Museums at Night, launch Art in Yorkshire and stage the Mystery Plays. I’ve felt really lucky to have been part of the city at such an exciting time.

Meanwhile, progress has been gathering pace on the redevelopment of York Art Gallery, and we are beginning to get an inkling of how spectacular the building will look in less than a year’s time. With the project all on track, I’ve been buckling down with my research and exhibition proposals.

As well as immersing myself in the archives here in York, I’ve made trips to see the collection stored off-site with experts from the National Gallery’s Curatorial and Conservation teams. It was fascinating to finally look at the paintings themselves, to physically examine the exquisite gold tooling and handling of paint, and to spot tree rings, labels and markings on the wooden panels. We made some really exciting new discoveries that will be revealed in the displays next year.

I’m working on two exhibitions drawn from Lycett Green’s collection, punctuated with important loans selected to enhance the significance and nature of his collecting. I’ve been busy drawing up object lists and considering contemporary interventions to highlight the themes and techniques displayed in the Old Masters.

Over the next few months I’ll be thinking about how to interpret the paintings, devising text, audio guides and interactive tools to make the exhibitions as exciting and engaging as possible. After this summer’s cultural offerings, I’ve got a lot to live up to!

Venue details

National Gallery Trafalgar Square Greater London WC2N 5DN 020 7747 2885

Entry details

50% off with National Art Pass

Daily, 10am 6pm (Fri, 10am 9pm) Closed 24 25 Dec and 1 Jan

Tags: curatorial-trainee-blog