Hats Off to York!

collapsable Opera hat

We’ve recently come back from a few days away in York.  Whilst there, I popped into the city Art Gallery where along with the ceramics, illustrations (wonderful small collection from children’s books) and paintings, there was an exhibition simply called ‘Hats’.  The exhibition which runs from to 18th September 2010 – 23rd  January 2011 tracks the way that hats have been used in social etiquette and trends during the last 400 years.

Jennifer Alexander, assistant curator of fine art, said:

“We have a wonderful collection of paintings from the last 400 years and many show how styles and fashions have changed. From baker hats to bonnets to bowlers, all hats say something about the person wearing it, whether it is their job, their social class or their era.

The hats are delightful and some of the fabrics still in very good condition, the intricate decorations including a dead birds head are fascinating.  But what struck me the most is the size of the hats.  Why are our heads bigger now? The skulls seem tiny compared to our present day ones.  I love hats and have been known to wear a few in my time – after all they can add a good few inches to the shorter person which I think is always a good thing where I’m concerned:-)

Barbara Hepworth Surgeon Waiting

Around the walls of the exhibition are paintings of the hats in their context.  Barbara Hepworth‘s oil and graphite on gesso prepared paper was an unexpected find. 

Miss Mary Arabella Jay exhibited 1819 by William Etty

 York painter William Etty (1787-1849) The Missionary Boy was also on display, unfortunately I couldn’t find an image of it to display here.  Etty was one of the few artists to become successful at large history paintings.  He liked to paint nudes, portraits and later, landscapes.  here’s an example of his work.

English artist Spencer Gore (1878- 1914) was a Founder member of the Fitzroy Street group and was involved with the formation of the Camden Town Group.   He came into contact with Pissarro whose impressionistic style he adapted.  Walter Sickert was another great friend and influence upon his art.  Spencer Gore is an interesting artist in his own right and I shall be writing more about him soon.

Spencer Gore. Balcony at the Alhambra, c. 1911-1912. Oil on canvas

Along with Roger Bissiere‘s Woman in a Straw Hat, other paintings include French artist Jacques Emile Blanche  (1861-1942) whose painting ‘Knightsbridge to Sloane Square’ painted in 1908/9 shows everyone from children to Policeman behatted.  Only the beggars remain bare-headed.

Hepworth image here, Etty image from here Gore image from here and info and more images here

More about York Gallery and the exhibitions here

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8 Responses to “Hats Off to York!”

  1. Hats can be wonderful ‘things’– fun and practical while being stylish.
    Seems you had a very enjoyable adventure.

  2. I’ve been there a few times over the years.
    Shame i cant remember the painting.
    Maybe they weren’t on display last time i went.

    • We’ve been twice this year already – but missed the gallery for some reason or other the first time. I love York! I’d live a very happy life there – if I could:-D

  3. I really like that Spencer Gore painting. It reminds me of that one of Hopper’s with the blonde standing off to the side in a movie theatre in New York. Thank-you for sharing these with us!

  4. artistatexit0 Says:

    I’ve noticed that hats are making a fashionable comeback. Wish I could find one that I felt suited me!

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