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Our art collections include more than 1,600 works of art and craft and represent more than 700 years of creativity and making from the 15th century to the present day. Founded on the donations of local people, especially wealthy industrialists in the early 20th century, and the subsequent support of organisations such as Art Fund and Contemporary Art Society, substantial holdings include:

  • Northern European 17th century portraits and landscapes
  • British Victorian genre, narrative and landscape painting
  • Early British modernist art
  • 20th century British figurative work
  • Late 19th/early 20th century British Impressionism
  • Topographical and landscape painting by local artists
  • Contemporary art and craft from the 1970s

Highlights include:

Italian painter and illuminator Giovanni di Paolo

Giovanni di Paolo

Born in 1420, Italian painter and illuminator Giovanni di Paolo is considered one of the most important artists of the Sienese School of painting that flourished between the 13th and 15th centuries. ‘The Crucifixion’ by di Paolo is the oldest work in our collection dating from sometime between 1420 and 1426. Originally forming the centre of a predella from a large altarpiece, the crucifixion was one of Giovanni di Paolo’s favourite themes. It was acquired in 1912 (for Heywood Library and then later transferred to Rochdale Art Gallery in 1974) with funds from the Thomas Kay Bequest – Kay was one of the collection’s early benefactors. There are only a small number of works by di Paolo held in UK public collections, including six belonging to the National Gallery, London.

Image: Giovanni di Paolo, The Crucifixion, 1923-6

John Collier (Tim Bobbin)

John Collier (Tim Bobbin)

John Collier, known as Tim Bobbin, was born in 1708 in Urmston and lived his adult life just East of Rochdale town centre in Milnrow, where he was a schoolteacher. A painter, caricaturist and satirist, he was also a dialect poet and writer who styled himself as the Lancashire Hogarth. While aimed at 18th century society, Bobbin’s themes of political ineptitude, corruption, hypocrisy, the condition of the poor and the working classes, as well as the gap between the rich and the poor, still feel very relevant today. The borough holds the largest single body of work by Bobbin with over 20 paintings and prints.

Image: John Collier (Tim Bobbin), Human Passions – The Parson and the Devil, 1773-1780

Edward Stott

Edward Stott

Edward Stott was born in 1895 at Quarry Hill, Wardleworth, Rochdale. His father was a mill owner and twice Mayor of Rochdale. While studying art in Paris Stott started painting in the French countryside with fellow artists George Clausen, Stanhope Forbes and Henry Herbert La Thangue. His rural naturalism was noted for its atmospheric effects and he was referred to as ‘the painter of the field and the twilight’. Although he did not paint his canvases outdoors, he did sketch in the open air, making written notes on the weather, light and colour. Our collection holds 18 of Stott’s finest paintings and drawings.

Image: Edward Stott, Ploughing, Early Spring, c. 1890

Women Artists

Our collection includes art by women artists from the 19th century through to the present day, with strong examples of work by figures such as Henrietta Ward, Alice Havers, Laura Knight, Vanessa Bell, Gillian Ayres, Lubaina Himid, Susan Hiller, Cornelia Parker, Claire Barclay and Hayley Tompkins.

Our commitment to diversity and gender equality continues today, and in 2017 we were awarded an Art Fund New Collecting Award to strengthen our collection with recent acquisitions from Caroline Achaintre, Anthea Hamilton, Susan Collis, Rachel Kneebone, Jasleen Kaur and Helen Cammock amongst others.

Highlights include:

Susan Collis
Image: Susan Collis, Our Wandering Kind, 2011
Susan Hiller
Image: Susan Hiller, Gulf War 1, 1991
Rachel Kneebone
Image: Rachel Kneebone, What is remembered in the body is well remembered, 2017