Shipley Art Gallery
Museum In Gateshead, Tyne And Wear
Purpose built gallery housing the collection of Joseph Shipley.
Working at Gateshead Central Library for 15 years, I got to know the Gateshead area pretty well. Just down the road from the library is the Shipley Art Gallery which looks very similar to it's neighbour from the outside. It's free to have a look around and you can while away 30 minutes or so looking at the collections and perusing the shop.
The Shipley Gallery is named after the enigmatic Newcastle based solicitor Joseph Shipley. Joseph Shipley was born in Gateshead town centre close to the High Street in 1822. He was very successful and spent his fortunes on paintings, amassing over 2,500 by the time he died. He particularly favoured landscapes and religious paintings and one of the most impressive paintings hanging in the gallery now is Christ Washing the Disciples Feet, painted by Tintoretto in 1548. This painting was originally on display at Newcastle Cathedral before being loaned to the Shipley Gallery and eventually purchased.
Joseph Shipley lived at the impressive Saltwell Towers near the end of his life, and he hung huge paintings from floor-to-ceiling around the building. He left his vast collection to the people of Gateshead when he died in 1909, and the princely sum of £30,000 to build a new gallery in his name. The art gallery opened in 1917 and some of the highlights of the collection include 16th and 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings. The collection has grown over the years due to gifts and donations from the public and now contains sculpture, glass and ceramics.
The gallery has links to the ceramics, textiles and crafts dealer Henry Rothschild who loaned and donated a number of pieces to the gallery in his lifetime. The dealer who opened the Primavera Gallery in London left his entire collection to the Shipley on his death in 2009. There is now a £5,000 bursary in Rothschild's name available to ceramic artists in the UK. Successful winners of the bursary will have their work displayed in the Shipley Gallery in 2025.
As well as the permanent collections, there is a gallery dedicated to displaying items from the Saltwell Park Museum. This was based at Saltwell Towers, and was open from 1933 until 1969, displaying thousands of objects. The gallery aims to give new life to these objects and as of September 2023, the gallery is in the process of changing the current display.
The gallery is interesting in itself and there are some original features around the building including the lovely woodwork and black and white tiled floors in the main gallery spaces and in the foyer. It's a fab little gallery which also offers a variety of workshops for adults and children and is currently running glass making, needle felting and ceramics classes. The shop has some very tempting treats including jewellery, books and tote bags and I had to resist all of the temptations on my last visit.
Outside the building there is a statue dedicated to James Renforth who was a world champion rower from Tyneside. Renforth very sadly died in the arms of a fellow rower at the age of 29 during a race in Canada and the statue depicts this scene. The statue was originally in Gateshead East Cemetery but was moved to The Shipley in 1992 to prevent it being vandalised.
How To Find Shipley Art Gallery
Contributed by Sandra Clemens
I love the great outdoors and have been a National Trust & English Heritage member for years. I also love going off the beaten track and finding places like Sharp's Folly or Rothley Castle which are hidden gems in Northumberland. My favourite recent hike was climbing Red Screes in the Lake District on a whim, not fully grasping how high 776m was. It was still an achievement to conquer a Wainwright walk and I hope to do more one day.More Places from Sandra
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