Purchasing for the People! Vincent Galloway Part 1
Ferens Art Gallery - 1929
Between 1929 and 1992, the creation of the collection at Ferens Art Gallery has been, with a few exceptions, the responsibility of three successive curators; the first and longest serving of these curators was Vincent Galloway.
In 1929 the Gallery had been open for a couple of years and a new post was created - curator at the Ferens with specific responsibility for the art collection. At the time this was extremely controversial and angered a Museums Sub-Committee who did not want the Gallery to have independent status. Initially Thomas Sheppard was appointed to run the Ferens but Sheppard was responsible for other museums and this decision was over-ruled by a Property and Bridges Committee who decided the two posts should not be held by one person. Ultimately this decision to grant curatorial independence was extremely far-sighted and was to benefit the Gallery greatly.
The appointee to replace Thomas Sheppard was Vincent Galloway - a young Yorkshire portrait painter who would serve as curator from 1929-1960. His appointment was made on the advice of the Directors of the National Gallery and Aberdeen Art Gallery - it was also supported by local artists Fred Elwell who wrote a glowing reference recommending him for the post. The competition was stiff and the shortlist included Sydney Paviere, an Arthur Devis expert who was pursuing a career at Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston.
Galloway was instrumental in establishing the unique identity of the collection and in shaping its future direction. At the gallery's inception, there were no works by artists of local significance, no old masters and no representation of the Hull School of marine painting of the late 18th and 19th centuries.
Approximately 650 works were either purchased or donated during Galloway's time and approximately 90 of those works are currently on display at the moment. In Gallery 2 at the Ferens Art Gallery seven of the pieces of art currently on display were acquired by Galloway including Beukelaer's 'The Fish Market'. His decisions undoubtedly influenced how the Ferens appears today.
For Galloway, English painting meant portraiture and he himself had an extremely strong local reputation as a portrait painter, undertook many public commissions, including some which are now in the collection of the Guildhall. With the exception of the Arthur Devis, almost all of the 18th century portraits were acquired by Galloway. These include the Portrait of a Lady, originally attributed to Hogarth, current attribution unresolved, and, perhaps most notable of all, the portrait of George Fothergill which has only recently been identified as one of the earliest known portraits by George Stubbs.
Interestingly the painting nearly didn't make it into the Gallery's collection. It was originally offered to the Gallery along with another picture of 'Mrs Fothergill', the sitter's great aunt, but both were rejected by Galloway, possibly because they were by an unidentified artist and simply attributed to the English School. However, in 1954 Galloway changed his mind, approached the owner and offered to buy the work. It is certainly a tribute to Galloway that he bought this portrait now identified as a Stubbs.