Fine Art

Our Fine Art Collection consists of paintings (oil and watercolour), prints, drawings, sculptures, bronzes and photographs. In total there are around 1750 items in the collection including many images reflecting Doncaster’s importance as a centre of racing, among those a number of works by the famous painter of horses J.F Herring.

Selection of images from Heritage Doncaster's fine art collection

The first work to enter the collection was Miss E.M Wilde’s painting Low Tide which was purchased from the Summer Exhibition of Modern Art held at Beechfield in 1912. From then on the collection has gradually grown through a mixture of purchases, gifts and bequests.

The collection now features works by Sir Frank Brangwyn, Henri Gaudier Brezeska, Eric Gill, Patrick Caulfield, and Sir Jacob Epstein among others.

The most recent addition to the collection is Terence Cuneo’s iconic image of Doncaster Plant Works, Giants Refreshed which is currently on loan to the Science Museum Group for their exhibition Painting Power: The Art of Terence Cuneo at the University of Hull

Giants Refreshed: Pacifics in the Doncaster Locomotive Works, 1947
oil on canvas
Terence Cuneo CVO OBE RGI (1907-1996)

One of our most recent purchases is this powerful painting of the Doncaster Plant Works, by the famous railway artist Terence Cuneo.

Giants Refreshed by Terence Cuneo showing locomotives being painted

©Bridgeman Images/Heritage Doncaster

Cuneo was commissioned to paint the picture by the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1947, as a design for a poster to promote their services. In the following year, after nationalisation of the railways, the poster was re-issued by British Railways (BR).

Cuneo visited the Crimpsall Paint Shop at the Plant on 22 January 1947. Writing afterwards about the visit, he said:

“I was led wide eyed into a huge and clean locomotive paint shop. There before me towered the magnificent Gresley Pacific, her body gleaming in fresh blue livery, whilst beside her and slightly in front stood an equally elegant A1 in contrasting LNER green. God what a picture it made”.

The poster of Giants Refreshed was a great success, helping to establish Cuneo’s reputation as an artist.

Apart from a short period when it was on loan to the YMCA and then Cusworth Hall, the paining had never been seen in public until it was purchased by Doncaster Art Gallery in 2008.

A Yearling Sale at Doncaster, 1885
oil on canvas
Myles Birket Foster (1825-1899) and Lowes Cato Dickinson (1819-1908)

One of the most impressive paintings in our collection, and certainly the most heavily populated, is this painting of a horse sale by Myles Birket Foster and Lowes Cato Dickinson.

Painting depicting a yearling sale at Doncaster races showing the upper and middle classes attending

Painted in 1885, the picture shows a view of the Tattersall Sales Ring, which was situated on land near the site later occupied by Doncaster College in the Waterdale area of Doncaster.

Surrounding the sales ring is a crowd of the great and good of the racing world, fashionably dressed and ready to bid for the horses.

Containing portraits of 149 people, the picture is what is known as a ‘subscription painting’. This means that everyone included in the painting paid to be depicted. The more money they paid, the more prominent their position!

The picture is a real who’s who of everyone of importance associated with racing at that time. It includes figures like the Earl of Scarborough, the Duke of Westminster and the Earl and Countess of Zetland.

A notice in the local newspaper at the time stated that the picture was going to be painted, and that it would “contain the portraits of all the leading owners, breeders, and trainers as well as many of the frequenters of this busy scene, where may be found, year by year, a gathering of every one of note connected with horses”.

A key next to the picture helps to identify all the people in the painting.

Portrait of William Brooke, 1760 Portrait of William Brooke
oil on canvas
Joseph Wright (1734 -1797)

We are fortunate to hold in our Fine Art collection three beautiful oil paintings by one of the most famous English artists of the 18th century, Joseph Wright of Derby. The portraits are of William Brooke and Elizabeth and William Pigot.

Wright is best known for his paintings of the Industrial Revolution, including An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, which hangs in the National Gallery in London.  The three Doncaster pictures come from early in his career, when he was making his living as a portrait painter.

William Brooke (1694-1763), the subject of this portrait, was a man of high social standing and had acted as Mayor of Doncaster on three occasions. He was a wealthy dealer in fabric, and as a leading member of Doncaster Corporation had been involved with the design and building of the Mansion House.

He is shown in the painting dressed in a plain, but beautifully made, velvet suit. In his hand he holds a book, possibly a pattern book for the products that he sold. He is displayed as a man of ample girth, positively bursting out of his waistcoat. While his rosy complexion suggests that he had enjoyed one too many large lunches!

Painted over 250 years ago, the pictures give a sense of the elegant town that Doncaster was at that time, and are a lasting record of three Doncastrians who, although very different in appearance to us, walked the same streets that we still walk today.

Portrait of William Pigot, 1760 Portrait of William Pigot
oil on canvas
Joseph Wright (1734 -1797)

Like his father-in-law William Brooke, William Pigot was a dealer in cloth, and this portrait is notable for the fine costume.

The blue velvet suit, which would have been at the height of fashion when the portrait was painted, is trimmed with gold and brocade, while the jacket falls open revealing its satin lining, as well as the heavily brocaded waistcoat.

William’s pose is deliberately casual. The way in which he leans against the carved table leg, while toying with the beautiful lacquered box in his left hand, suggests a gentleman of means, with time to spare to indulge his pleasures.

As in the portrait of William Brooke, the waistcoat is unbuttoned in the middle, not because it was too small for him, but so that William could slip his hand inside it when he wanted to strike a relaxed pose.

Interestingly, there were guide-books available at this time to explain to ladies and gentlemen what posture they should strike in any given situation.

Portrait of Elizabeth Pigot, 1760
oil on canvas
Joseph Wright (1734-1797)

Elizabeth Pigot (1726-1766) was Portrait of Elizabeth PigotWilliam Brooke’s daughter. In 1758 she married William Pigot, and between then and her death eight years later she gave birth to six children.

At the time of the painting Elizabeth would have been 34, and befitting her status as the wife of a wealthy dealer in fabric, she is presented in a fashionable dress of pale grey silk.

Around her neck and looping underneath her arms is a long string of pearls, while her cuffs and collar are made of fine lace. In her right hand she holds a small posy of flowers, and on her lap lies a solitary petal, a visual reference to the passing of time as the flowers begin to die.

The painting of the costume in the painting is particularly lovely, with Wright capturing to perfection the play of light and shade on the different fabrics and pearls.

Wright’s skill in painting costume was due to the training that he received at the studio of fashionable portrait painter Thomas Hudson. Here,

Wright’s duties included painting the landscape backgrounds and costumes on Hudson’s completed heads. This was because Hudson, like most leading portrait painters of his day, painted only the heads on his pictures, leaving the background and body to be added by an assistant.

There is no doubt that Wright painted the face, body and background in this portrait, and if you look past Elizabeth’s beautiful costume you can see in her face a real portrait of a local person.

Finish of the 1931 St Leger
oil on canvas
Charles Walter Simpson (1885-1971)

The most important day in Doncaster’s social and sporting calendar is without aFinish of the St Leger showing crowds at the race doubt the day of the St Leger, when crowds flock to the town to enjoy a day’s top quality racing.

Horse racing and the St Leger are the subjects of many images in our fine art collection, but none capture the excitement of a day at the races as well as this picture. You can almost hear the roar of the crowd as the horses strain to reach the finishing line.

The view is taken from the main stand of Doncaster Racecourse looking across to the Free Course and, in the background, Bawtry Road.

In 1931, the St Leger was won by Sandwich, and he is shown in full flight, leading the charge to the line.

Simpson divides the painting up into horizontal sections, with the lush green turf of the course being framed by the packed crowds on either side.

The general lack of colour in the spectators’ clothing adds to the apparent brightness of the grass, and focuses our attention on the race as it reaches its thrilling conclusion.

Animals in a Landscape, 1828
oil on canvas
Ramsay Richard Reinagle RA (1775-1862)

The official title for this wonderful large-scale landscape by the Royal Academician Ramsay Reinagle is Landscape with Animals or An African Scene, with Zebus of Three Kinds and Quaggas: The Zebras painted from the Animals.

Animals in Landscape showing zebras, parrots and quaggas

The African scene referred to in the title is an invention by the artist, but amazingly the animals shown in the painting at one time all lived in the parkland surrounding Owston Hall, which still stands to the north of Doncaster near Askern.

The painting was commissioned by Philip Davies Cooke of Owston Hall in 1828. In the following year, it was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London. It was then returned to Owston, where it hung in the library until it was sold along with the contents of the house in 1926. In that same year it entered our collections.

The painting is a celebration of the livestock that Cooke had obtained to live in the park around his residence, and includes a buffalo (to the left-hand side of the painting), red, white and yellow domesticated zebu cattle (originating in Asia but exported to Africa) and zebras.

These latter appear to include quaggas, a type of zebra now extinct, one of which is suckling a foal. In the trees above the collection of animals, some parrots add colour to the scene.

The painting also contains some ghostly heads and legs of animals that were painted over by the artist, but have reappeared as the paint has become thinner with age. Can you spot them?

For more information about quaggas, view the hybrid quagga specimen from Owston, on display in Doncaster Museum.

Cattle Market, c.1920
oil on canvas
Lionel Townsend Crawshaw (1864-1949)

As you might expect of an art gallery in an important market town like Doncaster, there are many images in the collection of the market area of tPainting showing a busy Doncaster Cattle Markethe town. This beautiful painting by Lionel Townsend Crawshaw is certainly the most evocative.

The view is taken from the end of Copley Road, looking across towards Friendly Street with St George’s Church towering over the scene. To the right, in the foreground, a cattle market is taking place, and farmers are gathered around.

The direction of the sunlight and length of the shadows tell us that it is early morning, and some of the farmers are taking the time to catch up on the latest gossip.

L.T. Crawshaw, was born in Warmsworth near Doncaster. He studied law at Cambridge University before going on to study art in Germany and France.

Later he became a member of the Staithes group of artists, who were based on the north-east coast of England.

They painted images of day-to-day life in an impressionist manner. The technique that they used can be seen in this picture, which is built up with thick dabs of paint. Dotted throughout the painting, sharp accents of bright red paint help to enliven the scene.

The Cattle Market moved during the 1960s to the site where the new college building now stands, and was finally closed during the 1980s.

Finish of the 1837 Gold Cup
oil on canvas
J.F Herring (1795-1865)

In 1998, the Royal Academy of Arts in London organised an exhibition entitled The Art Treasures of England; the Regional Collections which brought together some of the most important works of art from museum collections across theFinish of the Gold Cup showing horses racing to the finish line country. This painting was chosen from our collections to represent Doncaster.

The scene in the painting shows the final desperate charge for the line, being led by the eventual winner of the race Mulatto, with Memnon, Fleur de Lis, Longwaist and Tarrare following in his wake.

If you look closely at the painting, you can see the names of the horses written on the canvas underneath them.

The depiction of the horses in the painting might look odd to us. But before the invention of photography in the 1840s it was thought that this was how horses ran.

It was only by looking at photographs of horses that people realised that when they run they always have one foot in contact with the ground.

Herring was one of the most important painters of horses to work in this country during the 19th century. For a number of years he lived in Doncaster. During that time he painted 33 winners of the St Leger and images of the Doncaster Gold Cup.

Visit Doncaster Art Gallery for a closer look at these painting and many more on permanent display.  You can also view more from our collection online at Art UK