Sensational £12m artwork at new Harrogate exhibition

12 million painting on show in Harrogate this weekend - The Private View (at the Royal Academy) by William Powell Frith. (1883)
12 million painting on show in Harrogate this weekend - The Private View (at the Royal Academy) by William Powell Frith. (1883)

Four years in the making, boasting one painting valued at £12m. one of the most remarkable exhibitions ever held in Harrogate will be launched this Saturday.

William Powell Frith – The People’s Painter will not only present a blockbuster collection of the superstar Victorian artist’s greatest works, it will also include THAT painting worth £12 million.

In her last act as Harrogate Borough Council’s curator of arts projects, Jane Sellars MBE said the show was a huge coup for the publically-owned Mercer Art Gallery on Swan Road.

Jane Sellars said: “It is quite remarkable that a small gallery like the Mercer has managed to put on yet another big exhibition of such style and importance.

“Huge exhibitions like these take years to prepare, and they require a lot of outside funding, which fortunately we have managed to bring to Harrogate for this great event.

“This bicentenary celebration of the work of William Powell Frith is very significant, as it draws together the most comprehensive collection of his work in the town of his birth, surrounded by the rich backdrop of the landscapes and influences of his early life.

“It is already looking stupendous with all of Frith’s famous pictures on the walls.”

Many of the 70 panoramas of Victorian life by Frith have journeyed to Harrogate from some of the UK’s most famous galleries to sit alongside the Mercer’s ownimpressive collection.

Interest is expected to be high, in particular,The Private View (at the Royal Academy) which was recently sold on the open market for £12 million.

A new book to accompany the exhibition by Jane Sellars and Richard Green called William Powell Frith: The People’s Painter will also be available.

The exhibition will run from June 15 to September 29.

Factfile: Who was William Powell Frith?

William Powell Frith was born in Aldfield, near Ripon in North Yorkshire on 9 January 1819. Frith was encouraged to take up art by his father, a hotelier in Harrogate.

Moving to London in 1835 to become a student at the Royal Academy, Frith quickly became one of the great masters of the Victorian era, painting multi-layered panoramas that highlighted the social tensions and complexities of the times.

Frith’s major paintings – Ramsgate Sands (1851-54), The Derby Day (1856-58), The Railway Station (1862) and The Private View (1881) – were so popular that the Royal Academy had to protect them from crowds with a rail on six occasions.

These works toured the UK – including Frith’s home town of Harrogate – and overseas, drawing huge crowds who queued up and paid to see them.

Frith also became one of the most commercially successful painters of the era, as the mass produced engravings of his masterpieces transported his art work to the parlours of the world and catapulted him to fame.

William Powell Frith – The People’s Painter: Credits

William Powell Frith, The People’s Painter has been made possible thanks to the generous support from the Friends of the Mercer Art Gallery, The Arts Council England, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers. The Mercer Art Gallery is a public gallery and free for everyone to enjoy.