Art Fund curatorial trainees take up their placements at Compton Verney and Walker Art Gallery

  • Published 8 May 2018

Eleanor Hutchison and Kate O'Donoghue are the current Art Fund curatorial trainees. After six months at the National Gallery, they've just taken up their respective placements in Warwickshire and Liverpool.

The Northern European Gallery at Compton Verney © Compton Verney

The Northern European Gallery at Compton Verney


© Compton Verney

Eleanor Hutchison

After six months at the National Gallery in London, I have now moved to the Midlands and started working at Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park. I’m really enjoying getting to know the team here as well as exploring the towns and cities nearby, including Leamington Spa, Warwick, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Birmingham, just to mention a few.

One of the main projects I'm now working on is the re-display of the Northern European collection. I'm thinking about how to display the works thematically and place them in the context in which they were made during the dramatic period of the German Reformation.

I want to present this information in a way that is accessible to all and have been working with Compton Verney’s learning team to get their insights into how different age groups engage with the art on show. I'm also working with curators to put together an exhibition celebrating the artist Lucas Cranach the Elder, whose paintings are a highlight of the collection.

In my final weeks in London, I continued to attend re-hangs and installations at the National Gallery. I found it particularly eye opening to see the lighting being adjusted for the one-room exhibition Murillo: The Self Portraits (open until 21 May 2018). Subtle adjustments to the brightness of the lights made the self-portrait busts of Murillo become three-dimensional, as if the artist himself had just stepped into the room.

Another experience I had was learning how to undertake provenance research. This was a fascinating task that added intriguing layers to the history of works and their ownership. I also gave some more 10-minute talks to members of the public on pictures from the gallery’s collection, and attended a variety of lectures and conferences at the National Gallery as well as other institutions in the UK.

A particular highlight of the last few weeks with the National Gallery was being able to go on a courier trip to Norwich Castle. Not only was it great to meet new colleagues, it was also fascinating to see the logistics involved in moving pictures in and out of host venues. Seeing how conservators check over a picture thoroughly to make sure it always stays in tip-top condition was a really valuable experience. After such a diverse and exciting six months in London, I'm really looking forward to seeing what experiences my time at Compton Verney will bring.

Kate O’Donoghue

Having just arrived in Liverpool and started my placement at the Walker Art Gallery, it is remarkable to look back over the last number of months in London. My final weeks at the National Gallery were busy with the opening of Monet and Architecture (open until 29 July 2018). It was an exciting period, and I had the opportunity to meet different colleagues and hear their perspectives on display and curatorial practice.

Murillo, Virgin and Child in Glory, c.1673 © National Museums Liverpool

Murillo, Virgin and Child in Glory, c.1673


© National Museums Liverpool

Since my last update, I've continued my training and become involved in new ways in the work of the National Gallery. In January, I undertook a courier trip to the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. Overseeing the de-installation and packing of four works on loan, as well as travelling with them, allowed me to put some of my training into practice and to represent the National Gallery in another institution.

I have also been encouraged to explore methods of display and interpretation. One way I have been doing this is by considering four National Gallery paintings by the Le Nain brothers, three artists working in 17th-century France, and how they could be exhibited in a new manner. Working on labels and wall text for these unique paintings has been a thought-provoking exercise as I consider methods of engagement.

In February I returned to the Walker Art Gallery, where Murillo’s Virgin and Child in Glory is back on display alongside its oil sketch. After looking at these works in the conservation studio, I was interested to study the labels and see how the fascinating conservation work was presented to the public.

Over the past few months, I have started to experiment with some of my own redisplay ideas involving paintings from the Walker’s Italian Baroque collection. Now that I am based in Liverpool, I am excited to gain the insights of my colleagues at the Walker, and to discover the ways in which they engage with their local and wider audiences.

These traineeships have been made possible through the National Gallery Curatorial Traineeship Programme supported by Art Fund with the assistance of the Vivmar Foundation.

Tags: Traineeships