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Art in Revolution: Liverpool 1911

24 June - 25 September 2011

This exhibition has closed

This exhibition was part of the Liverpool and the World Exhibition Series, part-funded by the European Union.

'Art in Revolution: Liverpool 1911' is an exploration of a ground-breaking exhibition held in Liverpool in 1911 which displayed international Post-Impressionist artworks alongside local avant-garde artists.

Featuring work by van Gogh, Matisse, Gauguin and Signac, 'Art in Revolution: Liverpool 1911' looks at the relationship between the pioneering exhibition 100 years ago and Liverpool's radicalism.

"Anarchy in the paint pot, mutiny in the brush" - Liverpool Courier, 1911

The exhibition also examines the reaction of Liverpool's artistic and political establishments to the major unrest in the city, which resulted in mass demonstrations and troops on the streets.

Online catalogue

'Love in a mist', Herbert McNair

Detail of 'Love in a Mist', James Herbert McNair, 1906.

This online version of the 'Art in Revolution: Liverpool 1911' exhibition brings together introductory text panels and labels from the exhibition sections. It also includes a list of loans and their lenders and a scan of the original 1911 catalogue of the Sandon Studios Society exhibition of Modern and Post-Impressionist art.

The exhibition curators used the Sandon Studios Society exhibition catalogue and accompanying press coverage of the day, to identify for the first time many of the works that were shown in the original 1911 exhibition.


'The Oise at Auvers' by Vincent van Gogh

'The Oise at Auvers' by Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, 'The Oise at Auvers' © Tate, London, 2011

Vincent van Gogh arrived at Auvers-sur-Oise in May 1890. He immediately asked his brother to send him paper as 'there is lots to draw here'. He drew this view while standing on a railway embankment.

Van Gogh wrote to his brother:

"Here in Auvers we are far enough from Paris for it to be real countryside, ... there is so much wellbeing in the air... no factories, but lovely, well-kept greenery in abundance."

This drawing represents one of the reproductions of van Gogh's work shown in the 1911 exhibition.

'Sister of Charity' by Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin, 'Sister of Charity'

Paul Gauguin, 'Sister of Charity',  © Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Bequest of Marlon Koogler McNay

Painted in the final year of Paul Gauguin's life, this scene shows a Catholic nun with people of the remote Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Gauguin campaigned against the Church for destroying Marquesan art and culture. In 'Sister of Charity', Gauguin evokes rather than describes the scene, which is typical of his work.

The British artist Walter Sickert especially admired of this painting, noting in particular "the pose of the figure holding a dish behind the little nun".

This picture was exhibited as 'La Réligieuse', catalogue number 19, in the 1911 exhibition, lent by the dealer Ambrose Vollard.

'Saint-Tropez, le sentier de douane', Paul Signac

'Saint-Tropez, le sentier de douane', Paul Signac

Paul Signac, 'Saint-Tropez, le sentier de douane', Photographie © Musée de Grenoble

Paul Signac lived near Saint-Tropez on the French Mediterranean coast. From 1896 he was the main promoter of the 'divisionist' theory and 'pointillist' style. This technique attracted criticism from other Post-Impressionists including Gauguin, who particularly disliked the "small dot style".

In 1911 the Guardian critic thought Signac's landscape tame compared to that of Herbin. He admitted that it would still look 'terribly unconventional' if shown at the Royal Academy.

This picture represents 'Saint Tropez', catalogue number 29, in the 1911 Sandon exhibition, lent by the dealers Bernheim Jeune and Co.

'Portrait of Dorothy Reilly', Albert Lipczinski

'Saint-Tropez, le sentier de douane', Paul Signac

Dorothy Reilly was the wife of Charles Reilly, who held the Roscoe Chair of Architecture at Liverpool's University from 1904. This position placed him as the head of the University's School of Architecture and Applied Art.

Despite ideological differences between the Sandon Studios Society and the University, Reilly became a member of the Sandon. He and his wife were close to a number of the Sandon artists, including Lipczinski.

The original kimono worn by Dorothy Reilly in this painting is also featured in the exhibition. Read more about the kimono on our blog.

Photos of crowds of protesters in 1911

Photo of crowds of protestors on Lime Street in 1911

© Liverpool Record Office, Liverpool Libraries.

Summer 1911 witnessed some of the most tumultuous events in Liverpool's political history, with dock and transport strikes. Huge mass rallies were broken up by police and soldiers, leading to deaths on the streets of Liverpool. The newly crowned King George V cabled his Home Secretary, Winston Churchill from the grouse-moors of Yorkshire: 'Accounts from Liverpool show that situation there is more like revolution than a strike'.

The photo above shows crowds on Lime Street surrounding trams during 'Red Sunday' on 13 August 1911. In the background you can see the Walker Art Gallery and County Sessions House.

Crowds on Whitechapel in Liverpool, 1911

Mounted police and soldiers marching on Whitechapel. © Liverpool Record Office, Liverpool Libraries.

Political activist Tom Mann delivered a speech on St George's Plateau. This dramatised account of the speech was included in the stage play 'Rid The World' written by Rob Johnston:

"A hundred thousand people have come to the centre of Liverpool this afternoon. The authorities have allowed us to 'police' this hundred thousand ourselves. Why? Because they enjoy surrendering their power? Or because they're afraid of being trampled underfoot. There's a thin line between order and chaos. The police force of Liverpool may tread it this afternoon. A step wrong and the Mersey will rise a foot by nightfall, with largely innocent blood.

We're gathered here today, peacefully, to demonstrate our determination to win this long and terrible battle against the employing classes and the state. What does that mean? Only this. All the transport workers of Liverpool are arm-in-arm against the enemy class.

We have sent a letter to the employers asking for an early settlement and a speedy return to work. If that brings no reply, if they ignore us, The Strike Committee advises a general strike.

In the face of the military and the police drafted into this city - and of the threat to bring gunboats into the Mersey - we can see nothing except a challenge. A challenge to every worker who values his job. A challenge to every claim each worker makes of his employer. A challenge to every right a worker should expect under common decency. Brothers, we rise to this challenge. And we meet it, head on."