What do musician Jarvis Cocker, the new Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker, anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce, boxer Nicola Adams, writer Charlotte Brontë, activist/conspirator Guy Fawkes, and artists William Etty, Barbara Hepworth, and David Hockney, have in common? They all originate from Yorkshire.
Far from bucolic scenes of rolling hills and pancake-batter-puds alone, God’s Own County is also home to a tenacious people of ‘game-changers, rebels and influencers’, claims an unusual exhibition at Beningbrough Hall (located just outside of York). Spanning three of the grand Georgian mansion’s main ground floor rooms, Yorkshire! Achievement, Grit and Controversy is the National Trust property’s largest temporary exhibition to date, featuring a wide selection of portraits and sculptures on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, the Arts Council Collection, Yorkshire artist Olivia Hemingway, and York Art Gallery.
Among the many absolute gems that make up the show are Patrick Heron’s semi-abstract depiction of the art critic and leading art education advocate Herbert Read, rendered in striking hyacinth blues and greens, and Hockney’s early etching of himself as a young art student, portfolio under-arm, contemplating a large head of Picasso mounted on a plinth.
A series of personal narratives interweave the mix of sculptures, paintings, photographs and prints on display, providing further insight into the fascinating lives and achievements behind the various personalities highlighted. Other familiar faces include the playwright Alan Bennett, poet Simon Armitage, sculptor Henry Moore and the great British talk show host Sir Michael Parkinson.
Altogether Yorkshire! Achievement, Grit and Controversy combines to offer a fascinating look at the many iconic and, in some cases, controversial figures that have heralded from the northern county. Could it be the colder climes or something in the water? We wouldn’t like to speculate. Whatever the case, this fun and engaging exhibition is well worth a visit.