From wood shavings to an art collection: the early history of the Laing Art Gallery (Newcastle) and the creation of its permanent collection (1904-1957)

Anguix Vilches, Laia (2020) From wood shavings to an art collection: the early history of the Laing Art Gallery (Newcastle) and the creation of its permanent collection (1904-1957). Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral Thesis)
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This thesis investigates the creation, early history and development of the permanent collection of the Laing Art Gallery - the first public art museum in Newcastle upon Tyne - between its opening in 1904 and the death of its first and perhaps most emblematic curator, C. Bernard Stevenson (1874-1957). The Laing arrived late in comparison to the Victorian boom of ‘civic pride’ which motivated the creation of most regional art galleries in Britain during that period. Besides this belated opening, the gallery faced additional problems: it was built on an inadequate and awkward site which constrained its ability to function properly and to expand its permanent collection, and it carried a starting debt. Moreover, it possessed no nucleus collection, nor funds to purchase one. This thesis analyses the way in which Stevenson succeeded in overcoming these adverse opening conditions, managing to put together three quarters of the Laing’s current collection and undertaking ‘the work of two lives’ to build up a comprehensive and diverse display of British painting.

The thesis also reveals the impact of the main historical events of the first half of the twentieth century upon the early history of the gallery and in the creation of its collections. It studies the relationship of the Laing with collectors and dealers, artists, and other regional art galleries, as well as management details such as financing, acquisition policies, and the connexion established with its audiences and with public powers. Beyond the local relevance of the Laing as the flagship venue of Tyneside museums, the significant contribution to scholarship of this thesis is the light it sheds on the unique way in which this permanent collection was formed. Moreover, the investigation enhances knowledge of British provincial art galleries at a more general level: because the Laing’s history mirrors the evolution of other local authority museums at the time, this thesis provides an extensive case study which helps to establish the singular importance of regional art galleries to British cultural history during the first half of the twentieth century.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Museum history, History of collections, Newcastle local history, Twentieth-century British cultural history, Nineteenth and twentieth-century British art
Subjects: V300 History by topic
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Arts
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2021 08:13
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2023 12:15

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