Our art collection was founded in 1883 with Richard Newsham’s bequest to Preston of his remarkable Victorian art collection.
The Harris’ fine art collection includes oil paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints, sculpture and books, from the 12th century to the present day.
The museum received a steady stream of gifts from the Contemporary Art Society from 1910 onwards. From the early 20th century to the late 1960s, the Preston Corporation made annual purchases for the collection from the Royal Academy. Since 1985, the Harris has acquired works by contemporary British artists through funding from Preston City Council, the Friends of the Harris, the Contemporary Art Society, the Art Fund, Arts Council England, the DCMS/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Granada Foundation.
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This collection is open all year round, however if you would like to check a certain piece is on display, email email@example.com.
This collection is located on the 2nd floor Fine Art gallery.
This collection is free to visit
Object number: 2015.379
Artist: Ana Rosa Hopkins
This art work is made from broken glass collected by Manchester-based artist Ana Rosa Hopkins after riots in the city in August 2011. On 4 August 2011 29-year old Mark Duggan was shot by police in Tottenham, which triggered violent protests in London. Between 8 and 11 August there were riots in many other UK cities – including Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester. Ana Rosa Hopkins collected some of the broken glass from the Manchester riot and turned it into this art work. You can see this and other examples of historic and contemporary glasswork in the Harris collection.
Photograph: © Alan Sams
NS-02 Forms in Succession
Object number: 2013.21
Artist: Shigekazu Nagae
This ceramic can be displayed from any angle: it doesn’t have a front, back, top or bottom. It is made by melting two slip-cast porcelain rectangles together in the kiln. The intensity of heat warps the rectangles into these two interlocking shapes. This ceramic is part of the Harris’s ongoing collection of contemporary ceramic practice.
View of Penwortham from Preston
Object number: PRSMG: P1618
The sunny harvest scene in the foreground is a picture of rural life as it had been for centuries. Across the Ribble and Penwortham Bridge looms the darker atmosphere of industrial Preston, with its rapidly expanding streets of mills and houses.
In the early 19th century, farming was being relocated from the town centre to the green spaces outside its boundaries. The desperate need to provide housing for the rapidly expanding population meant that many of the narrow garden plots and town fields, used for centuries to grow crops, were now packed with dangerous, cramped and unsanitary houses.
Windmills are visible in the distance – Preston was an important corn-milling centre at this time – but smoking chimneys now dominate the skyline
Object number: PRSMG: 2011.88
Artist: Richard Dadd
Puck was painted by Richard Dadd, the infamous Victorian artist best know for his ‘fairy paintings’. Puck is a character from Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The painting once belonged to Preston solicitor Thomas Birchall. After many years the painting has returned to Preston and is now part of the Harris’ permanent collection. This is an oil painting on canvas.
The Semiotics of the Kitchen
Object number: PRSMG: 2015.1.3
Artist: Mel Brimfield
The framed photograph is part of a sprawling pseudo-archive of staged performance documentations produced for This Is Performance Art. The career of fictional artist Alex Owens (in fact the lead character in 80’s dance movie ‘Flashdance’) is imagined for the first episode of the multi-part spoof TV series at the centre of the project.
The juggling and balancing skills of 30’s music hall performer Jenny Jaeger are co-opted for Owens’ feminist performed sculptural practice in a skewed photographic ‘re-do’ of Martha Rosler’s seminal film Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975.
Adam and Eve (the fall of Man)
Object number: PR275
Artist: Albrecht Durer Engraver. Johannes Ladenspelder
Andromache Fainting at the Unexpected Sight of Aeneas on his Arrival at Epirus
Object number: P347
Artist: Angelica Kauffmann, 1741-1807
This drawing by Angelica Kauffman is a study for a painting commissioned by the Earl of Derby for his London home in 1775. Based on a story in the Aeneid, an epic poem written by Virgil between 29 and 19BC about the Trojan Wars, the scene depicts Andromache who has been invoking the spirit of her husband Hector. Aeneas, who she believes might be a messenger from the dead, appears and confirms that Hector has been killed and Andromache collapses in grief.
Kidwelly Castle, South Wales
Artist: JMW Turner, 1775-1851
The Harris’ collection of watercolours includes paintings by JMW Turner, David Cox, Arthur Rackham, Helen Allingham, and Laura Knight.
Kidwelly Castle has occupied its commanding position above the River Gwendreath in South Wales since the 12th century. Turner visited Kidwelly during his 1795 tour of Wales and returned to the subject in 1835 for a series of Picturesque Views in England and Wales. In this atmospheric painting the gatehouse glows in bright sunlight while the rest of the castle emerges from a swirling river mist.
The Rev. Streynsham Master and his Wife, Margaret, of Croston, Lancashire
Artist: Anthony Devis
The Harris holds an important collection of paintings by artists who were born or who have lived in Lancashire that dates from the 18th century to the present day. The collection includes mostly portraits and local landscapes.
Arthur Devis was born in Preston, he was the son of a cabinetmaker. Although he lived mostly in London, he maintained strong links with Lancashire and received a number of commissions from local families.
This portrait of the Rev. Streynsham Master, Vicar of Croston, and his wife Margaret is a type portrait known as a ‘conversation piece’. Fashionable in the 18th century, they show family groups or friends in informal domestic or rural settings.
Channel and Breakwater
Artist: Paul Nash
The Harris has a small but notable collection of Modern British art, including paintings by Walter Sickert, Stanley Spencer, Matthew Smith, Ivon Hitchens, David Bomberg, and Lucian Freud.
After serving in the First World War, Nash suffered a breakdown and was diagnosed with ‘war strain’. To recuperate, he and his wife rented a cottage at Dymchurch on the Kent coast.
His experiences during the war led him to consider the coast line as a conflict between the sea and land. The geometric lines reflect Nash’s early experiments with abstraction, and suggest a coordinated battle between the sea and the man-made defenses built to protect the land from invasion.
In the Bey’s Garden
Artist: John Frederick Lewis
The first major addition to the Harris’ art collection was a bequest from Preston lawyer Richard Newsham in 1883. This collection of over one hundred oil paintings and watercolours by prominent Victorian artists, is still considered the core of the collection today.
A favourite painting in the Newsham Collection is In the Bey’s Garden, painted in 1865 by John Frederick Lewis. The woman in the painting is meant to be the wife of a Bey, or Turkish provincial governor but is actually the artist’s wife, Marian.
Lewis travelled widely and lived in Cairo for 10 years. Back in Britain, he continued to paint Orientalist works for the rest of his career.
Pauline in the Yellow Dress
Artist: Sir James Gunn
There are over 800 oil paintings and over 6,000, watercolours, drawings and prints at the Harris. The collection includes 18th century portraits and landscapes, Victorian and 20th century paintings, prints and drawings by British and European artists from around 1400 to the present day, and work by regional artists.
This portrait of Pauline Gunn, the artist’s wife, caused a sensation when it was first displayed at the Royal Academy in London. It was voted picture of the year and described as ‘the Mona Lisa of 1944’ by the Daily Mail.
The Harris purchased the painting. Visitors flocked to see her when the painting first arrived in Preston. They were captivated by her gaze and sometimes outraged by the yellow dress, made with extravagant amounts of fabric during war time rationing. At the time, Gunn was one of Britain’s most popular portrait painters. His seemingly effortless style brought him numerous commissions, including the Royal Family, prime ministers, and leading artistic and literary figures of the day.
Today, Pauline in the Yellow Dress is still our most popular painting.
A Meteorite Lands in Epping Forest
Object number: PR11480
Artist: Cornelia Parker
A back-lit cibachrome transparency in a light box, image of sparks flying from meteoric rock in Epping Forest
The artist has taken a meteorite that originally landed in Africa and crushed it to make a firework. When lit, it rises up as though going back into space. Parker has then photographed the meteorite/firework as it lands in Epping Forest.
Much of Parker’s work features changes in physical properties. She is famous for her complex installations of materials that have been exploded, burnt or squashed.
Cornelia Parker was born in Cheshire, England in 1956. She studied at Wolverhampton Polytechnic and Reading University. In 1997 she was shortlisted for the Turner Prize and in 2010 she was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list.
Purchased in 1998 with the assistance of V&A Purchase Grant Fund and Thurnhills Solicitors, Preston.
Object number: 2018.17.1
Artist: Rebecca Chesney
In 2018 Rebecca was invited to spend time in the Harris Museum archive to discover any objects in the collection connected to the theme of dandelions. The exhibition comprised objects from the artist’s Dandelion Archive and items from the Harris collection they were placed in sixteen different locations within the museum’s displays and galleries for visitors to find.
Although seen by many as a weed, dandelions are a symbol of hope in folklore, and have fond associations with traditions like making wishes and telling the time.
The Dandelion Archive is an ongoing project where the artist explores the dandelion’s symbolism, and how it is represented in cultural collections of prints, textiles and ceramics.
The distance travelled through our solar system this year and all the barrels of oil remaining
Object number: PRSMG : 2012.119
Artist: Thomson and Craighead