Spotlight on Gallery 7: Edward Lear – ‘Assouan’ (1848-49)

Art Sheds Collections, Susan Forsyth

In Gallery 7, you can see a selection of artworks from the collections of the Victoria Gallery & Museum.  Susan Forsyth has hand-picked some of her favourite pieces, including works which she considers compliment and/or represent the grandeur and importance of the Victoria Gallery & Museum’s collections. Here, Susan looks at one of those artworks in depth.

Assouan - Edward Lear

Assouan – Edward Lear

Though best known as a writer Lear was a naturally talented draftsman drawing birds for the Zoological Society.  His first publication was not as a writer but a serious ornithological book illustrating the parrot family.

‘The Owl & the Pussycat’, written in 1867 for the children of one of his patrons, is full of the joy and carelessness of childhood.  It is one of my favourite poems and the achievement is all the more astonishing when we consider that it’s author was the youngest of 21 children and his a childhood marred by epilepsy, poverty and what Lear himself called ‘the morbids’.

Lear travelled widely in Greece, Egypt, India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and eventually settled down to live on the Italian Riviera. This peaceful watercolour of an Egyptian coastline from 1848-49 was one of the first paintings I selected for the exhibition. Lear usually drew the scenes from life and worked them into watercolour paintings later in the studio.

Though Edward Lear did struggle with personal relationships and unrequited love affairs and spurned marriage proposals his professional life as a writer, draftsman and painter was a story of complete triumph over oppressive circumstances and makes the childhood poem all the more poignant.


Art Sheds Visitor Gallery

Visitor Interaction

As part of the interactive aspect of the Art Sheds, artist Susan Forsyth designed a limited edition participation medal to be given to anyone who wished to come and try their hand at being an Art Sheds artist.

forsyth medal close-up SMALL

As both the medals and the sheds proved so popular, the medals ran out in record time!  Unfortunately there are no more medals but people are still coming to try their hand at portraiture, still life and nudes painting, sketching and drawing.  It was so very difficult but we whittled down the hundreds of visitor artworks so that we could show you a selection of our favourites.  Please allow time for the images to load.















It’s interesting to see that the flowers in the still life shed, being so colourful and interpretative, have been the most popular, especially with children.  People have chosen to paint individual flowers, part of the flowers, or the whole vase and they have been painted by a range of ages and abilities.  The more serious artists amongst our visitors have preferred the portrait shed overall, loving capturing the detail in the faces of Penelope and David.  The nudes shed has also been popular, but mostly with an older audience with people choosing to use both the ink and to take the sketching pencils from the still life shed into the nudes shed in order to capture more detail.

If you are yet to try out the sheds, we’d love to see you.  Perhaps you will see your artwork online!  The Art Sheds will be with us until 25th October 2014.


Spotlight on Gallery 7: Joseph Mallord William Turner – ‘The Old Mill, Ambleside’ (1798)

Art Sheds Collections, Curatorial, Susan Forsyth

In Gallery 7, you can see a selection of artworks from the collections of the Victoria Gallery & Museum.  Susan Forsyth has hand-picked some of her favourite pieces, including works which she considers compliment and/or represent the grandeur and importance of the Victoria Gallery & Museum’s collections. Here, Susan looks at one of those artworks in depth.

The Old Mill, Ambleside, by J.M.W. Turner

The Old Mill, Ambleside, by J.M.W. Turner

“I grew up with a print of Turner’s exquisite late painting, ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ (1839) and I telling my students that in my opinion the first Impressionist painter was the son of an English wig-maker.

“Though the ‘painter of light’ lived in interesting times he focused his considerable genius on recording the land and sea instead of recording the more profitable events of history. A precocious talent, Turner’s watercolour of Lambeth Palace was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer show in 1790, when he was only 15 years old. Turner spent several years copying classical plaster busts similar to those we have in the current Art Sheds exhibition and developing the drawing and watercolour painting skills.

“The Museum has several impressive Turners but I chose this small, apparently unassuming watercolour as it is firstly less well-known and secondly has a link to the north of England. It was painted when Turner was still a relatively young, age 23. He had been befriended by a wealthy and cultured historian Walter Fawkes. The young Turner visited the kindly patron at his home in Otley, North Yorkshire and painted many local scenes on his many long walks in the inspiring scenery. To this day Farnley Hall in Wharfedale has several hundred of Turner’s early works.

“This small unassuming painting can tell us a lot about how Turner born and brought up in London’s busy Covent Garden became the foremost landscape painter of his, or any, century.”

The Art Sheds exhibition for the Liverpool Biennial 2014 runs at the Victoria Gallery & Museum until Saturday 25th October.

Creating Classes: Kirsty Hall educates in the Art Sheds

Visitor Interaction, Workshops

Kirsty Hall is the Victoria Gallery & Museum’s Education Officer and she is also the winner of the Civic Contribution Award at last year’s Celebrating Excellence Staff Awards at the University of Liverpool. The award for Civic Contribution pays tribute to individuals and teams who have demonstrated a commitment to the University’s civic purpose and its founding principle of ‘the advancement of learning and the ennoblement of life’.

Celebrating Success winner and VG&M Education Officer Kirsty Hall

Celebrating Success winner and VG&M Education Officer Kirsty Hall

Amongst her many duties, Kirsty is responsible for putting on a programme of practical arts and craft-themed workshops for adults. This year, she arranged the workshops that complemented the Art Sheds exhibition and here she tells us of her experience working alongside Susan Forsyth.

“I first heard about Susan Forsyth over a year ago when I submitted a proposal to Culture 24 for Susan to lead an event here as part of Connect 10. Connect 10 gives cultural venues the opportunity to work with an artist for the national event Museums at Night. Whilst we didn’t win the competition to host Susan, we were shortlisted and Susan was keen to work with us, having been impressed with our proposal and venue.

“I was particularly drawn to the participatory elements of Susan’s work. Susan had run a number of ‘Zusammen Choir’ events, where members of the public create and sing songs, so I was keen to hear what ideas she had for the VG&M. In my role I see first-hand the immense benefits of public engagement in the arts, so I was very pleased that Susan proposed another participatory piece. Once Susan discovered that the University used to teach art in sheds in the quadrangle behind the Victoria Building, her ‘Art Sheds’ installation was decided on. I feel that these art sheds give visitors the chance to try out a number of traditional art forms in a calm, comfortable space, and it is this feeling that drove me when planning the Art Sheds workshops.


One of our Art Sheds students taking part in the ‘Seascapes’ workshop

“Susan was keen to involve practising artists and allow them to interpret her broad themes of still life, landscapes and portraiture. These themes link to historic traditions and what was taught in the art sheds during the Victorian era. The media chosen were also influenced in part by Susan’s own artistic practice. The workshops I planned for participants covered an array of media, such as watercolour and oil paints, clay and plaster of Paris for casting. There are many talented artists in the local area who contribute to our learning programmes and whilst we have utilised their craft skills in the past, this was an opportunity for them to draw on more traditional areas of their art practice.

Ceramicist Kirsti Brown

Ceramicist Kirsti Brown

“So far Juliet Staines has led a watercolours workshop and Kirsti Brown has taught two ceramic sessions. In October there will be workshops on Plaster of Paris casting and Josie Jenkins will lead an oil painting tutorial. The workshops are proving very popular and succeeding in introducing new audiences to the VG&M. We like to ask our participants for feedback to know if we’re doing things right, or how we could improve, so I was delighted to read one card from a person who clearly enjoyed Kirsti Brown’s class, which read: ‘Thank you so much for a wonderful and inspiring morning Kirsti!’ ”

The Art Sheds October 22nd oil painting class with Josie Jenkins is now fully booked, and there are limited spaces left for the Plaster of Paris casting workshops on 1st and 4th October. Please call the Victoria Gallery & Museum reception on 0151 794 2348 to reserve a place.

Spotlight on Gallery 7: Harold Chalton Bradshaw ‘Perspective view scheme for inspiring Riverfront of Liverpool’, c.1913

Art Sheds Collections, Art Sheds Teachers, Susan Forsyth

In Gallery 7, you can see a selection of artworks from the collections of the Victoria Gallery & Museum.  Susan Forsyth has hand-picked some of her favourite pieces, including pieces which she considers reflect the time and spirit of the Art Sheds and the professors and artists who taught there. Here, Susan looks at one of those artworks in depth.

“The architect Harold Bradshaw trained at the University just after the Art Shed period. Unlike contemporary technical drawings or CAD files this lyrical and beautiful watercolour from 1913 depicts Bradshaw’s ideas for the development of the Liverpool waterfront. It is one of the largest pieces in Gallery 7 and reminds me of one of Turner’s dreamy watercolours of Venice. I can’t help but wonder what the waterfront in Liverpool may have looked like if a hundred years ago Bradshaw’s ambitious and coherent plan had been adopted by the city.

Inspiring River Front, Liverpool - H. C. Bradshaw

“Bradshaw’s work hangs above a wonderful map of Liverpool.  I chose to include this initially because it’s a local piece and because the scale is pretty bonkers – it’s about 9 foot long and very narrow.  It could be over 150 years old, but the city is still enormous and the river is shown teeming with both steam-powered vessels and sailing boats. I think these pieces complement each other beautifully and I’m delighted to be able to include them both in the show.”

The Art Sheds exhibition runs at the Victoria Gallery & Museum until October 25th 2014.

Art Sheds Workshop: Oil Painting with Josie Jenkins

Visitor Interaction, Workshops

Josie Jenkins studied Fine Art (painting) at Norwich School of Art and Design, graduating in 2002. She has worked as an artist based in Hull and Nottinghamshire before settling in Liverpool. In 2011 Josie was featured in the BBC2 television series ‘Show Me the Monet’ and her most recent exhibition, ‘Pathos and Entropy’ resides in Cork Art Gallery.

Josie will be teaching an oil painting class in the room that houses the Art Sheds, Gallery 6 on 22nd October and talked to us about her teaching techniques.

Josie Jenkins with one of her artworks

Josie Jenkins with one of her artworks

What part of the Art Sheds inspired the themes of your painting workshop?

I was inspired by the Art Sheds as an opportunity for anyone to have a go at making art from observing life and I hope that my workshop will do the same.  My workshop looks at still life but I will be using all sorts of things in my display.  I do like the vase of flowers that Susan Forsyth chose though.  I will have to use some flowers somewhere as they are great for painting.  I was also fascinated with the pieces of work that Susan Forsyth selected to display from the VGM’s collection.  I think that the added information Susan gives about each piece of work brings it to life.  There is something in her selection to inspire everyone.

What teaching techniques did you use in this class?

The workshop will teach some of the basic principles of observational drawing and painting.  It is about looking carefully and representing what you can actually see, rather than what you think you know is there. We spend so much time looking at the things that interest us through the lens of a camera or on a computer screen.  Painting from still life is about trying to create the essence of something existing in the real world and there are different ways of doing that.  I will also teach the basic principles of using the water soluble oil paints we will be working with, but really, the end result is completely down to the person making the painting and their interpretation of what they can see.

How do you approach different levels of skill in workshops like yours?

I usually start by getting an idea of how much painting or drawing the individual group members have done before, but the instructions I give to everyone as a starting point are the same regardless of their skills.  It is the kind of subject where individuals can move at their own pace but still enjoy working alongside other people who have different skills.  What I do find is that some people like to be left alone to work things out for themselves and others respond better to having more direct help, so when I teach one to one, I tailor it to each individual.

Can I take part in your workshops if I am a first timer?

Of course.  It is the sort of thing where anyone can have a go.  Sometimes it’s not even the finished piece that matters to people taking part, but more the experience and what they learn in the workshop.

What do you think of the Art Sheds (either coming from the view of the past real sheds or the present exhibition) as a teaching/learning environment? 

“Until I saw the exhibition I didn’t know about the original “Art Sheds” that had been used to house the School of Architecture and Applied Art.  It was really interesting to learn about this!  My favourite exhibitions are the ones that do many things for the viewer and I think Susan Forsyth’s is a great example.  It teaches you something about local history, it presents some fantastic pieces from the VGM collections, it offers an opportunity to participate and it is also visually exciting.  I love the way the sheds are painted, they are fun!  Art doesn’t always have to be so serious.”

Josie’s Art Sheds oil painting workshop is currently fully booked, but if you want to book Josie to conduct a workshop or find out where she is teaching next, then you can contact her in the following ways: Via her website at  or by calling her directly on 07811 081341.

Curator’s View: Moira Lindsay on the Art Sheds

Art Sheds Collections, Curatorial, Susan Forsyth

Moira Lindsay is the Victoria Gallery & Museum’s Art Curator.  Together with Susan Forsyth they discussed Susan’s original proposal for ‘The Victoria Art School: the smallest art school in the world’.  On Susan’s first visit to us Moira explained the history of our collections and the University’s School of Applied Art and Architecture. Here Moira recaps the process of developing the idea of the Victoria Art School into the Art Sheds and choosing the accompanying artwork.

“We were sitting in my office which overlooks the quadrangle and I mentioned the Art Sheds (pointing out the quad through my window, as this is where they used to sit.) Susan was really taken with the art sheds and keen to respond to the history of the site and went on to develop her proposal to devise Susan Forsyth: Art Sheds.

The original Art Sheds

The original Art Sheds

“Over the next week or so Susan and I talked about our exhibition and I sent her more information on the sheds, the artists and related works from our collection. We then scheduled visits to the stores so that Susan could get a really good feel for the scope of the collections, which are fairly – and wonderfully – eclectic. For Susan it was crucial to see the objects in the flesh, so she patiently spent many hours with us in the stores. Susan was so thorough I think she probably knows more about some parts of the collections than I do!

“What I was most excited about was Susan’s interest in items that perhaps are overlooked, or not the obvious ‘star’ items. We went through as much as we could looking at original objects in the stores, discussing them, and then Susan created her first list of objects that she wanted to display. This list was of course then refined as Susan thought about how the selection of works related to the shed sculptures and her themes.

Moira, Susan and apprentice Jade discussing the works in Gallery 7

Moira, Susan and apprentice Jade discussing the works in Gallery 7

“One of my favourite objects is the Gregson sampler. We have six samplers in the Gregson collection, all made by girls in the Gregson family, one of them is dedicated to a sibling that died at 2 years old. Susan knew in advance about the samplers but when she saw them she was really moved by their history. Working daily in a collection we sometimes forget how amazing it is to have access to these things. It was a delight to work with Susan and I am so pleased that she chose to use our collections in her installation. Looking at historic collections with an artist brings a fresh perspective and hearing what inspires artists is insightful and often unexpected.”

The Art Sheds exhibition for the Liverpool Biennial 2014 runs at the Victoria Gallery & Museum until 25th October.