Mercer gallery’s fascinating fashion exhibition

An example of the fashion exhibition at Mercer Art Gallery.
An example of the fashion exhibition at Mercer Art Gallery.
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Fans of fashion and art are being treated to a fascinating new exhibition at Harrogate’s Mercer Art Gallery.

All Dressed Up: Costume, Fashion and Style in Paintings will tell the story of fashion across the centuries and across the social classes.

The paintings, all selected from The Harrogate Fine Art Collection at the gallery, offer an engaging look into costumes and their wearers: from the fashionable garb of 16th century Knaresborough aristocrat Sir Francis Slingsby, who was beheaded for treason, to the working clothes of 1930’s Kentish Hop Pickers.

Jane Sellars, curator, said: “The focus is on costume but there are many more ways to look at these paintings. I think our visitors will really enjoy this show.

“There are short commentaries with the pictures that present the works either from a social-historical view, or from an art historical angle.”

The Mercer Art Gallery is home to Harrogate district’s fine art collection which consists of some 2000 works of art, mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries.

The collection includes works by William Powell Frith, Atkinson Grimshaw, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Dame Laura Knight, Alan Davie and many more.

Viistors to the new exhibition, which is free, are invited to search for clues in the costumes to discover more about the wearer’s wealth, status and social aspirations through paintings which include:

Dame Laura Knight’s Rehearsal which portrays 1930’s dancers in their practice clothes.

Knight was a prolific painter and draughtswomen whose favourite subjects were the circus and the theatre, all of which she drew or painted from life.

Henri Guillaume Schlesinger’s Girl and Lovebirds depicts a young girl wearing a fine silk dress typical of the 1870’s, of the kind only the wealthy middle-classes could afford.

The painting also uses a time-honoured code to symbolise the emergence of female sexuality – from the cooing lovebirds to the rose bud pinned to the girl’s clothes.

John Flanagan’s portrait of Dolores portrays a woman with a short boyish haircut dressed in the Bohemian style of the 1920s.

All Dressed Up: A closer look at Historic Costume runs from January 26 to July 7.

There will be a study day on Monday, April 22 focusing on historic costume in Harrogate’s fine art and museum collections with talks from costume curators from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

To book please phone 01423 556188, email or visit the gallery’s website at Mercer Art Gallery.