Northern Spirit displays opens at Laing Art Gallery

STUNNING art treasures are coming out of storage to grace a new display dedicated to the region’s rich artistic history.

laing art gallery, northern spirit

STUNNING art treasures are coming out of storage to grace a new display dedicated to the region’s rich artistic history.

Among the items being displayed in the Laing Art Gallery’s new Northern Spirit display yesterday was a huge painting of Swan Hunter’s yard at Wallsend.

Painted in 1954 by Newcastle artist Thomas William Pattison, it shows the building of the tanker La Hacienda.

The wall-sized painting, which is called On The Tyne – Shipbuilding, was bought by the Laing in 1956 but has not been on public view for many years.

Another eye-catching exhibit is a wood carving by Gerrard Robinson, a 19th Century Newcastle blacksmith’s son whose talent enabled him to build up a fashionable clientele in London before he moved back to the North East.

The elaborate Northern Spirit woodcarving shows a boar hunt with knights on horseback riding through woodland.

Laing Art Gallery curator Julie Milne said: “It hasn’t been on public view but I’ve been walking past it for years and I thought, I’d really like to show that.”

Northern Spirit replaces the old walk-through Art on Tyneside display which told the history of the area in a series of small rooms.

But Julie said the decision was taken two years ago to replace it with a new permanent display focusing more on the quality of North East art.

She said: “You can still see the history of Tyneside in the new display but it celebrates the intrinsic qualities of the art as well. I think the new display will give people the opportunity to concentrate more on the art and it will enable us to show more pictures.”

Grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Government and Newcastle City Council helped to meet the £1,057,000 cost of Northern Spirit.

The display is divided into three rooms called River and City, Artists’ Stories and Artists and Communities, with glass walls meaning the art is more immediately visible to people entering the Laing.

The Artists’ Stories room includes a dramatic new hanging of the famous John Martin canvas, The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, reputedly an inspiration to some of the 20th Century’s famous cinema pioneers.

A Newcastle University team created the audio visual content for the exhibition.

Dr Chris Whitehead said they worked with Tyneside communities to produce an interactive map which, at the press of a button, will show which areas are relevant to which artists and activities. He said: “It’s in recognition that art is all around us, not just in paintings but in things like the engineering of the Tyne Bridge.”

Northern Spirit opens on October 23.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer