Five things to see at Ferens Art Gallery

If you're thinking of paying a visit to Hull this year to explore the UK's City of Culture 2017, then the newly refurbished and re-opened Ferens Art Gallery is a must see. The award-winning gallery boasts a magnificent and diverse collection of work, ranging from the medieval period and European Old Masters to contemporary video portraits. Here curators Lucy West and Becky Gee pick five standout works to see in the collection.


Joseph Wright of Derby, Maria, from Sterne, 1777

  • © Ferens Art Gallery

Maria is based on a character from Laurence Sterne’s popular novel A Sentimental Journey (1768), who is heartbroken after being deserted by her fiancé. Her downcast mood is echoed by her dog, Sylvio, here portrayed as a Maltese or Bolognese lapdog. Wright captures the dog’s expression and texture very faithfully and it’s possible the model was a family pet.


Bik van der Pol, Untitled (Gold), 2009

  • © Ferens Art Gallery

Created by an artist collective comprising of Liesbeth Bik and Jos van der Pol, this piece was originally commissioned in 2009 by Wysing Art Centre in Cambridge before being remade in 2015 for Ferens. The text is taken from the poem Miss Kilmansegg and Her Precious Leg by the British humorist and poet Thomas Hood, which describes how money controls actions, resulting in either greed or generosity. This acquisition is a contemporary expansion of our important collection of 17th century Dutch art.


Francis Bacon, Head VI, 1949

  • Francis Bacon, Head VI 1949, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS 2017

This painting was the last in Francis Bacon's group of male heads (1948-49) and the first of his series of paintings of Popes. While it is loosely based on the 1650 portrait of Innocent X by Diego Velazquez, Bacon never actually saw the original painting in Rome – instead he worked from numerous reproductions of the image. The portrait may also reflect the artist's difficult past relations with his father (the Italian for Pope being Papa) and Bacon's chronic asthma, which often left him gasping for breath. The portrait will be on display at the gallery for the duration of 2017.


Frans Hals, Portrait of a Young Woman, c. 1655-1660 / David Mach, Hot Avant Garde, 1998

  • © Ferens Art Gallery

This is the most famous painting in our collection and is regarded as one of Frans Hals' supreme achievements. Most of his later portraits show the old people of Haarlem but Ferens is fortunate to own a work from this period depicting a younger person. In 1998, the gallery commissioned sculptor David Mach to make an alternative frame for the portrait. Mach’s is made of thousands of matches glued together, their charred heads retracing the delicate sculptural form of the original frame’s decoration. As is the case with many of Mach’s match works, once constructed the frame was set on fire in a controlled experiment, then quickly extinguished to retain its original form. This process was filmed and is now projected over the Hals replica.


Pietro Lorenzetti, Christ Between Saints Paul and Peter, c.1320

  • © Ferens Art Gallery

Along with his brother Ambrogio, Pietro Lorenzetti was one of the most active and innovative artists in 14th-century Siena. This is his only fully autograph work in a UK collection. It once formed part of a large and elaborate altarpiece ensemble known as a polyptych, probably for a church in Lorenzetti’s home town. As was characteristic of Sienese painting of the time, the panel has a gold ground and is delicately painted in egg tempera. The emotional connection between the figures, created through their expressions and gestures, demonstrates Lorenzetti’s remarkable originality and inventiveness.

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