Ferens Favourites
A virtual exhibition of paintings from the Ferens collection chosen by you!

Humber Museums Partnership - Ferens Favourites

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About Ferens Favourites

In summer 2020 we launched Ferens Favourites, inviting visitors to select the works for an exhibition of Hull’s best loved paintings. After months of closure during the (first) Coronavirus lockdown, we were hoping to reunite the people of Hull with the paintings they love in person in the gallery.

We asked you to choose a favourite painting in the collection and tell us why it moves you. The entries submitted bring together a wonderful variety of paintings. Subjects include religious and historic events, genre scenes and portraits, landscapes, wonders of nature and marine works. Among the most popular pictures are Rosa Bonheur’s The Lion at Home (1881), Elizabeth Butler’s Return from Inkerman (1877) and Frans Hals’ Portrait of a Young Woman (c.1660).

The exhibition was planned for late 2020. However, the pandemic continued to restrict work in the gallery during the late summer and autumn. Then on 5 November Ferens doors closed again for the second national lockdown. Like everyone, we had to adapt to the changed circumstances. While the gallery presentation of Ferens Favourites has been postponed, we’re delighted to share the paintings chosen by participants to date in this digital exhibition.

St Sebastian Tended by the Holy Irene, Nicolas Regnier

The comments accompanying the chosen works reveal the multiple ways art can inspire us. They convey the pleasure in looking closely at an artwork, entering its universe and letting the imagination roam. Some participants highlight personal connections to an artwork, others take us on a journey of escape. All of them draw on lived experience to enter into conversation with the artwork. They show us that time spent engaging with a favourite work of art is time well spent. Art sparks our creativity and invites us to look at the world with fresh eyes.

The Lame Duck, Thomas Jacques Somerscales

Thanks to everyone who has taken part. Their responses breathe new life into the Ferens collection. New entries are welcome and will mean the exhibition can continue to grow in 2021. (You’ll find information on how to participate at the very end.)

Lockdown Favourites

Between April and August 2020 visitors chose their favourite painting in the Ferens collection and explained what it means to them. Two international artists with close links to Ferens, Sabine Jeanne Bieli and Ian McKeever, also participated. We hope their chosen artworks and comments will inspire you to take part too!

Greenhouse and Garden (1937), Stanley Spencer

Chosen by international artist Ian McKeever
Just occasionally one sees a painting which for what ever reason sticks in the mind, becomes a part of one’s living consciousness, so to speak. Such a work for me is Stanley Spencer’s modest painting of a bunch of onions hanging on a greenhouse wall, Greenhouse and Garden, which I first saw as a boy at the Ferens in the 1950’s. Of all the things one could paint, the grand themes of life, why paint a bunch of humble onions? This question mystified me.

The Lion at Home (1881), Rosa Bonheur

Chosen by Justine Hunt, Hull
As a young child in the 1950s my mother brought me to the Ferens to see this picture. I was frightened by the size of the lions and the way they were looking at me! In those days we didn’t have a TV and I had not seen film of real lions- so it made a huge impact on me!
Now, as a volunteer at Ferens, I like to talk to visitors about the picture. It is a popular painting for young people still. I have such an emotional connection to it – I was amazed to see it there when I started volunteering. Funny how we remember things which evoke strong feelings!

Chosen by Val Maybury, Hull
This painting holds deep family associations. This reassuring painting captures a child’s eye view of the bond between members of a loving family. The parents are protective, watchful: the young are encircled and relaxed. It is idealised reality but the depiction of their physical beauty is breath-taking. My boys loved hearing too how Rosa had lions in her studio.
I gave the postcard to my son when he was 6 and upset. I sent other copies when he was struggling at university and when my lovely father died. The painting belongs to us and always will.
My mother who is now 86 loves this painting too. She had a jigsaw of it when her father was away in a prisoner of war camp.

Chosen by Gaile Scaife, Hull
I just think it is a stunning painting but more because I love wildlife and the Lion is one of my favourite wild animals. My friend and I were booked on a Safari dream of a lifetime holiday in Kenya at the end of June but sadly we won’t be going. It was to be an early joint 70th birthday present to ourselves. We will just have to enjoy live footage on line, saving lives and staying safe are more important than a once in a life time holiday.

Princes Dock, Hull (1882), John Atkinson Grimshaw

Chosen by Graham Jackson
The painting somehow is both comforting and slightly ominous at the same time. Comforting with the lights, especially from the windows; the woman opening (?) her umbrella; and even the rain itself, possibly still falling, maybe stopped. But then there are the dark silhouettes of the ships, the dock offices and the Wilberforce Monument which give the whole thing an edge. And that overall green hue is brilliant.
For me as well personally it echoes the dock as it was in the 70s and 80s. I like Princes Quay, it looks good in the setting, but the dock as empty, open water (and unfenced, if memory serves!) was always evocative of what it used to be and what it still was when Grimshaw painted the scene.

The Exhibition (1980), Kenneth Fowler

Chosen by Fionn (aged 12), Waterford
I chose this painting because I really liked the almost 3D art style the colours were really vibrant so it stood out from the rest. I also liked the detail put into each individual miniature painting and how each of them had a slightly different art style.

    Click here to see images in full size

  • Greenhouse and Garden, Stanley Spencer

  • The Lion at Home, Rosa Bonheur

  • Princes Dock, Hull, John Atkinson Grimshaw

  • The Exhibition, Kenneth Fowler

Sensitive Skin (1986), Graham Crowley

Chosen by Helen E, Hull
I really like the detail within this artwork but like the fact that the face painted really stands out too.

A Game of Patience (1937), Meredith Frampton

Chosen by Cynthia Ward, South Holderness
Initially, it’s appeal to me is in the sense of utter silence, conveyed by the sitter’s still pose and far away gaze and also by the cool, almost monochromatic colour scheme.
But then I’m drawn to the obvious symbolism of the items on the table.
A game of Patience? A card reading?
Apples, wild oats, buds.
I love the mystery.
Chosen because it is an unusual pose, exquisitely painted but also because there’s a mystery to solve. I’m interested in Symbolism.

Chosen by Claire Bell, Hull
Whenever I visit the Ferens Art Gallery I’m always drawn to this painting it seems by some sort of hypnosis. It is mysterious and uber realistic simultaneously. The woman appears so still and poised; I feel calm observing her. My favourite part of the painting are her hands, particularly the fingers. The skin is so very life-like; I’m mesmerised.
I love the way she holds the card, as though pausing to listen or ponder on something other than her card game. I wonder about the symbolism within the painting. It is Autumn/harvest time; why is this significant? The cool marble walls and hard terracotta tiles in the background contrast with the activity in the fields beyond.
This painting entrances me every time.

Beau Site (Margaret Morris, 1891-1980, the Dancer) (1923), John Duncan Fergusson

Chosen by Sue Pizzey, Hull
Painted in 1923 and shows the dancer Margaret Morris who was also the painter’s wife. This was painted at Cape d’Antibes and shows the strong French sunlight, so different from the sunlight in Britain. This is colourful, shows Margaret in a solitary but thoughtful pose.
I do so hope this painting will be chosen because it is so bright and lifts the mood of the viewer.

    Click here to see images in full size

  • Sensitive Skin, Crowley, Graham

  • A Game of Patience, Meredith Frampton

  • Beau Site (Margaret Morris, 1891-1980, the Dancer) (1923), John Duncan Fergusson

Jupiter and Ganymede, Jacob de Wit

Chosen by Olwen Evans-Knibb, Hull
I didn’t look at this painting properly for a long while, and I assumed it was plaster in relief. It gradually crept more clearly into my range of vision and I realised that it is an incredibly skillful and extremely beautiful painting. I have rarely seen such a perfect optical illusion, and I find it almost uncanny. It lurks there high on the wall, quite unassuming, but once you look at it and actually see it, it’s completely mind-blowing. How does a person develop such talent and vision? It always leaves me with a strong sense of peace and beauty.

The Transfiguration (c.1620), Giuseppe Cesari

Chosen by Paul Soulsby, Hull
The subject matter is taken from the New Testament and depicts Christ’s transfiguration on Mount Tabor. The New Testament prophecy foretells Christ’s return to earth in the Second Coming.
Although classed as one of the last exponents of a then old fashioned highly stylised ‘Roman Mannerism’ approach within the epoch of change in Renaissance painting this is countered by the respect his former students, Caravaggio and Andrea Sacchi expressed for their former teacher.

Palmyra, Syria, Clarence Henry Roe

Chosen by Souzana Haggi Hassan, Hull
It’s a very old monument which I’d love to share with you because it’s in my country and I really miss it. There’s an amazing view of the desert and mountains. A lot of tourists visit Palmyra every year. You can ride on camels. There are tourist guides who explain the history to you.

Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon (1869), Fredric Leighton

Chosen by Ailsa Oliver, Skirlaugh
A painting at which I always stop and gaze. There is something about her face, the way she stands, the despair and grief that is so apparent. I can’t help but wonder at the skill with which raw emotion is depicted in such an understated way. I also admire the way the artist has painted the drape of her robe so beautifully – I can almost sense how it would feel to the touch.

    Click here to see images in full size

  • Jupiter and Ganymede, Jacob de Wit

  • The Transfiguration, Giuseppe Cesari

  • Palmyra, Syria, Clarence Roe

  • Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon, Frederic Leighton

Portrait of a Woman (c.1660), Frans Hals

Chosen by Anne Benson, Hedon
The reason I am choosing this painting is because I love art of the Netherlands during this period.
I felt really inspired by paintings in the Mauritshuis, The Hague and reading Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach. The women always covered their hair with a starch cap and a highly starched collar. The maid servants found the laundry to be really hard work, washing by hand and having to bleach the whites in the Sun, dry them and use a flat iron. A long and laborious process.

Chosen by Dave Rowe, Cottingham
This painting always stops me I my tracks when I’m walking past it usually in its normal place in Gallery two. I love how he has caught the innocence of a young girl and her eyes are amazing.

Girl in Grey (1939), Louis Le Brocquy

Chosen by Una, Waterford
I love the sense of reverie and contemplative essence of the scene, a girl suddenly lost in her own thoughts, book forgotten. The ability of the artist to confidently paint a background in large blocks of contrasting colour, while the subject matter is beautifully executed in a delicate detailed sensitive manner. The balance between light and dark, the use of space, the pared-back palette, the detail of the dress, there are many reasons to love this painting.

Interior with a boiler (1973), John McAllister Gray

Chosen by Molly, Bradford
The simplicity and muted tones of this painting caught my interest – I’d never seen it before. Through the lens of art it compels the viewer to consider the practical application of science – and offers beauty in a boiler! This exercise showed me Gray’s work for the first time – perhaps not the intended result, but a useful one for me.

A Nobelwoman (1590s), William Segar

Chosen by Don Knibb, Hull
I really like the vibrancy and clarity of the colours in her dress, and the artistry and detail in the painting, particularly her ruff. Her expression suggests she’s not someone to cross swords with!
The painting also points up huge contrasts between her society and ours, and always makes me wonder what sort of life she led. How many servants did it take to keep her looking like that? And on a more mundane level, how long did it take her to get dressed and undressed? She presumably considered it time well spent!

Queen Victoria Square, Hull (1935), James Ashton

Chosen by Zohal Shakouri, Hull
I like this painting because I live here and my feelings are good for my city, Hull.
Hull is quiet and clean. People are friendly. There are lots of helpful organisations that help me learn English.

In a Bar (1943), Fred Elwell

Chosen by Robbie, Saltaire
In a bar caught my eye as I scrolled through the collection.
I thought she could be me or I could be talking to her, comfortable looking old fashioned bar.

The Student (1917), Nina Hammnet

Chosen by Becky Gee, Hull
I love how Hamnett’s use of colour reflects that of the Omega Workshops, with whom she was affiliated. Also, how the objects in the background almost become abstract shapes. Hamnett was an important figure in 20th century British art and I’m so proud that the Ferens holds one of the few paintings by her in UK public collections.

Vincent Galloway (1894–1977) (1970), George Kenneth Beaulah

Chosen by Jack (aged 15), Waterford
My favourite of the paintings at Ferens art gallery is ‘Vincent Galloway’ by George Kenneth Beaulah for its pleasing stylised look and soft brushstrokes as well as the use of a brilliant red and yellow to contrast the blue background.

Return from Inkerman (1877), Elizabeth Butler Thompson

Chosen by Paul Benson, Hedon
Whilst the artist did the most amazingly detail paintings depicting the glory and heroism of war, she also showed what it was like to be the common soldier. The hardships suffered by the military man are plain to see whether in victory or defeat.
When looking at this painting you can see the realism, the detailed painting enables you to be there and experience the sadness and dejection seen in the soldiers faces. Researching her a while ago, I was intrigued by the great care she took to make sure details in her painting were correct. Soldiers who had taken part in the battle would pose for her wearing the actual uniforms and carrying the weapons that they had used.

Chosen by Jenny Harrison, Hull
My favourite picture has always been The Return from Inkerman by Elizabeth Thompson. The depth of field and the weary soldiers helping each other home are excellently portrayed. I can find something new every time I see it.

Chosen by David Pattison, Hull
This painting has a special significance for me and my wife, Polly. As the poem [below] outlines, the work featured in two events, the first in 1954, and the second in the early 1990s – following a gallery refit.
We will visit the Ferens tomorrow (22/07/2020) to look at the painting in part celebration of our 59th Wedding Anniversary.

General Staff of the 3rd Grade (1944), Edward Ardizzone

Chosen by Paul Soulsby, Hull
A pencil and ink watercolour that is rarely shown due to environmental considerations. Ardizzone depicts a humorous pair of officers, a juxtaposition of the horrors of war for the ordinary ‘tommy’ at the sharp end of fighting. I imagine the converation of the two men, “Are you having a good war old boy…bloody marvelous dear heart!”

The Lame Duck (c. 1917), Thomas Jacques Somerscales

Chosen by Andrew Carrick, Hull
The first thing that caught my attention is the quality of the painting of the sea, the colours, wave shapes, everything about it is of the highest quality. Stand and stare at it and you feel you are at sea, and the floor beneath you starts to move. Add to that the theme, of survival, endurance; you’ve taken a battering but you’ve come through. This chimes in with the current times, I think.

A Sussex Farm (1904), Henry Herbert La Thangue

Chosen by Fatuma, Hull
The painting of the man feeding the chickens is awesome. The background and countryside move me. I like chickens. They are so amazing. In this painting, what caught my attention is the style of painting. I love the shadows and the way he is looking at the chickens. It’s truly great. Wow!
I also like the other man who is pulling the horse, and the mountain in the background. Really, it’s wonderful!

Fairy Tales of London (1992), John Keane

Chosen by Philip Evans, Hull
John Keane was an official war artist during the first Gulf War. He was concerned with propaganda, as represented by the images of a television, skull and telephone. The young mother in the painting seems pulled in all directions by her children, husband and maybe a desire to escape her domestic life. Although it is 28 years old, the painting has modern parallels with fake news and balancing work & careers.

Boulogne Sands (Children Shrimping) (1891), Philip Wilson Steer

Chosen by Julie Corbett, Hull
I chose this painting because it was and still is the only painting I have tried to copy. A few years ago, possibly 8 or 9 I took part in some free art classes. The artist leading was called Bridget and we were introduced to several things, such as perspective and blending and all the classes took place in Ferens or the Maritime museum. It felt quite transgressive to take water and paint into the shinny, clean Ferens. This painting reminded me so much of holidays and days out at Mappleton and St Bees where I was shown how to use and then showed my children how to use nets to catch shrimp and juvenile flatfish. Trying to copy it made me look at it in a different way.

The Housekeeper’s Room (1911), Fred Elwell

Chosen by Gabby, Hull
I like all Elwell’s paintings because they look like you have stepped into a story , but this is my favourite.

Sunlight and Shadow (c.1925), Harry Percy Clifford

Chosen by Najat Hussin, Hull
It’s siesta time under the shade of the trees, time for eating, drinking and relaxing.
I’ve chosen this painting because I like ducks a lot and I’m interested in every detail of their life.
I fell in love with this picture for its colours. They are so very similar to reality. The artist has painted it in an attractive and accurate way, focusing on every detail: the ducks, their feathers, their movements and the shadows around them.
I think they might be tired and relaxing after their long journey in life.

Chosen by Ayman Chakouch, Hull
I like to go to parks and lakes to see these beautiful geese.
I also like swans. There’s a story about swans, when there’s no food and their babies are hungry, the mother sacrifices her own body to feed them.
For me, birds are a symbol of freedom. They can go where they like.

The Golden Wedding (c.1900), Pompeo Massani

Chosen by Ann Jepson, Tickton
It is our golden wedding in July this year and we had loads of special celebrations planned, holidays with family, parties with various groups and a return to our honeymoon village in Austria.
None of that is now happening but we are just glad that we are all safe and well and happy and……. the weather is being so kind to us – imagine this in the winter.
So we feel like the couple in the painting, still content.

Chosen by Graham Ibson, Hull
My favourite is ‘The Golden Wedding’ by Pompeo Massani. The reason is I was one of the volunteers who put the exhibition ‘Silent Conversation’ together in 2018. It was one I chose because that year was my own Golden Wedding. Every time I see it it just makes me smile.

The Night School (1892), Edgar Bundy

Chosen by Nigel Wood, Hull
Thought provoking.

January (1960), Denis Booth

Chosen by Moritz, Lismore
Composition, proportions, layout, horizontal division of landscape and sky. Interrupted with vertical vegetation giving the feeling of new or change.
Pleasing low use of colour, encouraging imagination.
Capturing the cold wet yet hopeful and new year.
This painting leaves an impression and is inspiring.

Saint Sabastian Tended by the Holy Irene (1650s), Nicolas Regnier

Chosen by Sandra Cooper, Hull
I chose this painting because it has been my favourite since I was 12 years old – a total of over 50 years. I went to secondary school near the city centre and whenever time allowed, lunchtimes or after school, my friends and I would visit the Ferens Art Gallery to take a look around – we were all keen art students. I was always drawn to this painting. It has the ability to shock, but it’s difficult to look away. The translucent skin is fascinating. Each time you look at it you are drawn into the story, it’s wonderful.

The Seated Woman (c.1910-1920), Gwen John

Chosen by Kevin Delaney
Loved her work and particularly love this painting.

Portrait of an Unknown Lady (formerly thought to be Mme de Staël, 1766–1817) (1805), François Joseph Navez (possibly)

Chosen by Frances Stevens
I visited the Ferens for the first time in February 2020. When I saw this painting, I was powerfully moved. On the canvas, there was what seemed to be a living woman; an intelligent woman fixing you with her fierce but warm gaze, with a slight smile. I was entranced by the voluptuousness of her neck and bosom and her beautiful curls. I went back to look at it several times, with tears in my eyes. I bought a postcard of the painting, and later that night I studied it and wept. This is something I cannot fully explain; I think I was crying because the woman in the picture was not someone I could ever meet. I have not experienced anything like this before and is the single most explicit experience of the power of art I have ever had.

Curled Nude on a Stool (1982-83), Euan Uglow

Chosen by international artist Sabine Jeanne Bieli
I find a tender human-ness in this picture. The bowed figure radiates something comforting, round and warm. And yet: naked and bent forward in an uncomfortable position, she looks vulnerable.
There is concentration and peace in this painting and in the clarity of its composition. At the same time, something stirs and unsettles emotions below a seemingly calm surface.

Get involved in Ferens Favourites

If you haven’t already chosen your favourite painting, we’d love to hear about it. To get involved please visit the exhibition website for the entry form and instructions on how to take part: ferensfavourites.co.uk

You can enter as an individual or as a family or school. There’s a special entry pack for children, young people, school groups and families, offering lots of ideas to participate individually or as a group.

Creative responses
If you’re feeling creative, you can make your own artwork inspired by your chosen painting – write a poem, story or song, create a drawing or collage, or re-create the artwork using anything you have to hand, and then take a photo of it. The website has examples to inspire you.

Other useful links
Discover the entire Ferens painting collection on Art UK: https://artuk.org/visit/venues/ferens-art-gallery-3518

Check our social media channels for updates and to share your #FerensFavourites

Humber Museums Partnership