9 June – 13 September 2015
From JMW Turner to Jeremy Deller, exploring British history painting over the past 300 years.
While inclusive of historical painting, the genre is actually far more encompassing than its name suggests. Its meaning aligns more closely with the Italian 'istoria' – a narrative that pleased the eye and stimulated the mind. Artworks not only engage with narratives from the past, but those from scripture, literature or key events in current affairs.
History paintings are characterised by their drama; often vast in scale and brilliantly vibrant, they capture heroic acts, tragic deaths and harrowing individual plights. Included in this display is John Minton’s portrayal of the death of commander Nelson, JMW Turner's interpretation of the Deluge – the biblical flood that symbolises both the end and the beginning of history – and John Singleton Copley's depiction of the collapse of the Earl of Chatham in the House of Lords.
Contemporary artworks aim to dispel the notion that history painting died out in the 19th century. Richard Hamilton’s The Citizen is one example of this, highlighting the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland in the late 20th century.
Also featured is Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave – a re-enactment of a 1984 miners' strike protest in South Yorkshire. Comprised of videos, a map, a miner’s jacket and a shield, the installation immerses visitors in a pivotal moment in British history.