Modern Art at Temple Newsam: Revisiting Philip Hendy’s wartime exhibitions

Clare Nadal’s talk provided an update on her current research project, investigating the extraordinary range of exhibitions which drew crowds to Temple Newsam during the war years when Leeds Art Gallery was closed and the collections safely away in storage. Artists shown ranged from popular established artists Augustus John and Walter Sickert, through to pairings of contemporary sculptors and painters including Jacob Epstein and Matthew Smith; Barbara Hepworth and Paul Nash; and Henry Moore and Ivon Hitchens. Other artists shown included Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Philip Wilson Steer, Ben Nicholson and Stanley Spencer, attracting tens of thousands of visitors before the re-opening of Leeds Art Gallery in 1948.

The surprising discoveries were finding out just how high profile these exhibitions were. Not only was Temple Newsam taking works directly from the National Gallery as a leading regional gallery but they were successfully organising touring exhibitions under the very difficult conditions of the war years. It was fascinating to hear how some of the rooms were transformed into “white cube” spaces suitable for modern art, and how Temple Newsam led the way in showing that historic houses could also be used as venues for contemporary works of art, something we take for granted today.

It’s also easy to forget that siting works there by Henry Moore in 1952 was considered wildly daring – examples from the letters pages of the Yorkshire Post formed a lively counterbalance to critical praise. Clare’s lecture also highlighted purchases made for the city of Leeds by Leeds Art Fund. With time and distance, these can now be seen within the wider context of Leeds’s twentieth century collection and several examples are currently on display in the recently opened exhibition An Axis of Abstraction: Art in Cornwall and Yorkshire – Then and Now at Leeds Art Gallery.

Event report by Olivia Stross

Upcoming events from Leeds Art Fund

Tuscan Summer, Maurice de Sausmarez 1955 © Courtesy of Jane de Sausmarez. Purchased with funding from the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, the Art Fund and the Friends of University Art and Music (Leeds), 2018. Image credit: University of Leeds


Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery Woodhouse LS2 9JT

A Visit to Ilkley Toy Museum


Save the date - more information coming soon

New acquisitions and research at Lotherton Hall


Save the date - more information coming soon

Become a Friend to Art in Leeds

Show your support for arts in Leeds, enjoy exclusive membership benefits and help to acquire great art for the city. Join for as little as £20 per year.