Salford Library and Art Gallery

The Art Gallery in Salford, on Chapel Street, has a modestly-sized but interesting and well-chosen collection of Victorian paintings and sculpture, and is only about 15 minutes walk north and west from the centre of Manchester.

Most of the Victorian art is collected together in one large hall. We can start with G. F. Watts' picture of the Meeting of Jacob and Esau, typical of his sculptural style for figure subjects. Also typical in everything but the sheep is Frederick Goodall's The Sheep Shearing. Another picture that draws the eye is Charles Landseer's Aesop composing his fables, typically concentrated on the animals.

A group of Victorian genre pictures are headed by E M Ward's pair of pictures, originally painted for the Palace of Westminster, Execution of the Marquis of Montrose and the well-known Last Sleep of the Earl of Argyll. Other historical genre includes work by Eyre Crowe and a good and representative work by P. H. Calderon called The Queen of the Tounaments. In this context we may also mention pictures by Leslie, the senior Herring, and a big figure subject by Keeley Hallswell called The Image Dealer.

There is an well-selected little group of marine paintings, headed up by Mrs Webb-Robinson's bleak A Volunteer for the Lifeboat, and also including representative minor works by the noted marine painters Napier Hemy, E. W. Cooke, and Edwin Hayes. Landscapes include a satisfying study of three ptarmigan against a mountain backdrop by Ansdell.

Other names to look out for include Daniel Maclise, small but good things from George Clausen and Herbert La Thangue, and a typical cow picture by Thomas Sidney Cooper. Of particular historical interest is Philip Homer Miller's Workmen and Workwomen, interior of a salt works. Finally among the pictures, we must mention the remarkable and eery Famine, by J. C. Dollman, showing a snowscape with hosts of wolves, crows and Death.

There are several sculptural works in the gallery. Foremost is the excellent allegorical figure of Genius of Lancashire, from her leaning-forward pose better known to the philistine as 'the breasts of Lancashire', so the gallery attendant told me. The sculptor was Percival Ball, and the work is a small version of a piece in the collection of the Manchester gallery. Also anonymous is the amusing The Cupid Dealer, a small statue of a girl with a bucket of cupids, from which she is in the process of hauling one out by the wing. Also notable is a group by Swynnerton, showing Cain and Abel.

Most of the rest of the gallery is devoted to temporary exhibitions of contemporary work, but there is a busy picture by Edwin Hayes (who we met earlier as a marine painter) recording the visit of the Queen and Prince Albert to Peel Park, adjacent to the gallery, in 1861. The park was actually bought with the aid of money from Peel, who was born in the nearby town of Bury, and there is a portrait of him in the gallery by J. Green.

Outside the gallery, and the walk through to Manchester

The gallery itself forms the Renaissance centrepiece of a cluster of buildings, and is an 1850s work of Travis and Mangnall, who also put up the largest extant warehouses in Manchester. To the left is the so-called Peel Building, once the Technical Institute (1896, by H. Lord), in bright terra cotta, with three panel scenes showing workmen, spandrel figures above the door, and higher up, 5 classical girls, all in the best manner. In the green space in front of the gallery, a young Victoria and Albert, in rather worn stone, face each other. They are of different dates, but both are by the sculptor Matthew Noble, who also has work in Manchester. Across the street is a war memorial to those who perished in Egypt, with a quite lively sphinx in stone on top.

From the gallery, turning left along Chapel Street and proceeding for 10 or 15 minutes walk and then turning right takes the visitor to central Manchester. There are one or two interesting buildings along the way on the left hand side. First is St Philip's Church, a good classical building with a round tower above a semicircular style porch with ionic pillars - dating from 1825, it is the work of Thomas Smirke. Next is the Catholic Cathedral Church of St John, with a strong pointy steeple and two stone figures of saints on the front. This dates from the 1840s and is by the architectural partnership of J. G. Weightman and M. E. Hadfield, who did much Roman Catholic work. Next door is the rather impressively grand Doulton terra cotta Salford Education Office, 1895, originally a Board School, by Woodhouse and Willoughby, architects not familiar to me. However the decorative panels of scrolls and masks on the building are by W. J. Neatby, the ceramic sculptor and designer responsible for the decorations in Harrods food hall. Then on the right, opposite the corner of Oldfield Street, is a Boer War Memorial, bearing a statue of a soldier holding up his hat, other hand on his bayonetted rifle. Accomplished work by George Frampton, dated 1905. Finally, a little further on the left is another terra cotta clad building, the former Salford Cinema (1912), with a cupola.

Turning immediately right down Irwell Street, or a bit further on down New Bailey Street, takes us over the river Irwell into the centre of Manchester.

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Manchester pages

Manchester Art Gallery // Manchester Town Hall and Albert Square // Artists associated with Manchester

Victorian art in Britain