A glimpse of the people behind the collections, the artists, collectors and individuals who shaped the Whitworth we know and love today.
As so many of our opening exhibitions demonstrate, collections are created by people: people who acquire and present collections to a gallery; artists who make the works; curators and others who select and assemble works for public viewing; and, not least, the people who feature in the works themselves.
This exhibition puts on display the people who are gathered together by the Whitworth’s collections, crossing centuries, continents and media. Not all the works are conventional portraits. Instead, we focus on the artists. So, from Francis Bacon’s portrait of his friend Lucian Freud to a self-portrait of Adolf Wölfli made in a mental asylum, and from Sir Stanley Spencer’s drawing of Margaret Pilkington, honorary director of the Whitworth for over 20 years, to Mary Kelly’s depiction of intergenerational feminist dialogue in Multi-Story House, we show how artists see themselves and the spaces in which they work, or the relationships that influenced them.
This exhibition, then, is a portrait. Like many of the artworks you will see on display, it is a sketch of a particular moment, from a particular perspective. It is an intimate picture that hints at the complexity of its subject.