My initial months at the Walker Art Gallery have coincided with an eventful time in the Liverpool art scene. Summer witnessed the opening of the 30th John Moores Painting Prize at the Walker, celebrating 60 years since its first show. Judged anonymously, the competition is a remarkable celebration of contemporary artists. The exhibition also features as a key strand of the Liverpool Biennial 2018, which marks its 10th edition this year.
Since starting at the Walker, an important part of my role has been my work with the museum’s collections management database. This has involved updating entries with the latest research and completing additional fields, including provenance. With plans to link this information live to the Walker’s website, this work will contribute to making these collections more accessible. As part of the public programme, I have also been delivering talks on Baroque art, using this opportunity to collect visitor feedback and insight. These activities encourage me to constantly consider our audiences and how we can engage with them.
Much of my work has also been focussed on the planning of a partial re-display of the Baroque gallery for April – June 2019. Keen to get started on this, I have been exploring the Walker’s art stores to study the works off display. One piece is particularly striking, William Dobson’s The Executioner with the Head of John the Baptist, painted between 1640-6. Often referred to as ‘the only English Caravaggesque picture’, it is a unique example of Italian Baroque tastes expressed in a 17th-century British painting.
I am now exploring ways that we can showcase this painting next spring in a way that will bring the Baroque to life. Copied after the National Gallery’s painting by Matthias Stom, produced around 1630-2, Dobson’s work opens up a conversation about the tradition of copying in the 17th century. Excitingly, this gives us a chance to exhibit other impressive 17th-century copies that have not been displayed at all in recent history. I am excited to present a different perspective of the Walker’s Baroque collection, through the unique lens of an extraordinary British painting.