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Over the past year or so at Hull Museums and Ferens Art Gallery, we’ve been talking more about mental health and trying out activities that could improve wellbeing for staff and visitors. In 2019 (before lockdown), we started discussions with Kindmind (a Yorkshire-based Mindfulness training organisation) about how we could engage people in mindful activities with our collections. We then decided this was the perfect time to bring out digital mindfulness resources, when we were all looking for calming activities we could do indoors.
In October we added two mindful artist films to our youtube channel for children aimed at children and young people (but for anyone really).
More recently, we’ve been linking up with the Early Years Team to create mindfulness films for under 5s and these should be available in the spring.
Kindmind created 3 mindfulness videos for us based around paintings from our collection. The paintings themselves were chosen from a shortlist put together by our curators. The 3 paintings represent beautifully 3 different perspectives of nature; a choppy sea on the Cornish Coast, a bustling farmyard scene and sisters enjoying the beauty of nature.
Quite by accident, we discovered a link between our choices of artist and mental health. Derwent Lees experienced mental health problems, being diagnosed with what at the time was said to be schizophrenia and spent much of his adult life in an institution. This has prompted a new area of potential research for us.
The beautiful relationship shown and the unusual colour all add to the enchanting scene set by the artist.
Derwent Lees came to England from Australia at an early age and studied and taught at the Slade school of art in London from 1908 – 1918. In 1918 he became a patient at a mental institution where he stayed until his death in 1931.
This painting is occasionally, simply called the ‘The Sisters’. The sisters are holding each other affectionately, with a small bunch of flowers. The style is symbolic rather than realistic, showing influence from post-impressionists and fauvists in the use of colour and form. This colour and the use of broad brushstrokes made him unusual for a British Edwardian artist and ahead of his time.
The light in this painting is so hopeful, showing life early in the morning, when everything is still possible.
The light is captured so beautifully in this painting, suggesting early morning. A variety of brushstrokes are used, with geese being more representative, with smaller brushstrokes and the ground and trees being done in broader strokes, more reminiscent of impressionist painters.
Very little is known about the artist of this painting, Harry Percy Clifford. Ours is the only painting of his in a public collection. Clifford was born in Kent in 1870 and died in London in 1943.
The atmosphere of this painting transports you to the coast, to the sounds of the waves crashing and the smell of the salty sea air.
Julius Olsson achieved acclaim in his lifetime, being awarded a gold medal at the Paris Salon and joining the Royal Academy in 1920. His works are predominantly maritime themed and Olsson was a keen yachtsman. From 1890 – 1912 he was an important figure in the St Ives school, teaching, despite having very little formal training himself.
This painting was bought by T.R Ferens in 1908.
The composition and technique of the painting is reminiscent of impressionists such as Monet, but with a darker palette, various shades of blue and grey.