Exhibition: Cory’s gloriously surreal version of Brontës story

The Birthday Party by Charlotte Cory at Mercer Art Gallery.
The Birthday Party by Charlotte Cory at Mercer Art Gallery.

By Graham Chalmers

Fans of the Brontës and art lovers, in general, are enjoying a new exhibition at Harrogate’s Mercer Art Gallery by one of the country’s leading surrealist photographers.

In an inventive piece of installation art, Charlotte Cory has created an intricately detailed museum within a museum telling an alternative history of the times.

The exhibition is the result of her investigation of the history of photography, her admiration for Victorian paintings and her affection for the writings of the Brontës and their Haworth Parsonage home.

Cory first visited the Brontë Parsonage when she was just 10-years-old and the experience has haunted her ever since.

She said: “I walked round mesmerised committing every room and item in it to memory. Here in Harrogate all these years later, I ask about all the things I did not see at the Parsonage - and then I recreate many of them.”

Charlotte’s previous work has won Royal approval. HM The Queen owns a corgi queen image in the photography collection at Windsor Castle.

Cory’s Visitoriana at Harrogate has been organized in partnership with the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth and the Long and Ryle Gallery in London.

Among the realistic memorabilia Cory has created in her museum within a museum are a shipwrecked trunk, the lost treasures, the unpainted pictures.

Cory said: “The Brontë sisters themselves never went into a photographic studio - so I take them, retrospectively. And since they all clearly preferred animals to humans, I think they would be delighted with the results.”

Inspired by their powers of literary invention she has even tampered with the image of one of William Powell Frith’s most famous paintings, Many Happy Returns of the Day, transforming the members of the Frith family into birds and animals in a surreal photo-collage.

Charlotte Cory, Visitoriana runs at The Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate until January 12, 2014.