Hyde Library, Manchester, Launches New Harry Rutherford Gallery

By Tara Booth | 24 September 2008
An image of four women standing together in front of two large mills which can be seen in the distance, with smoke coming out of the chimneys. The women wear bright blue, green and red clothing and one woman in smiling at the viewer.

The Mill Girls (1948). © The Rutherford Estate

A new gallery dedicated to renowned artist Harry Rutherford has opened its doors to the public showcasing works that span his entire career.

The Rutherford Gallery, which has become a permanent fixture to Hyde Library in Tameside, Greater Manchester, celebrates the life of the 20th Century internationally acclaimed artist.

His work is divided into distinguished areas, allowing visitors to wander through sections of his life. Categories include his early interests in magazines and newspapers, self-portraits, education, local scenes and his television career.

Contextualising the artist is an installation piece accessible in the centre of the gallery. Comprised of his own personal belongings including easels, hats, paint-palettes, books, photographs and brushes, the area provides a real insight into his practice and his studio space.

An image of a busy town. In the distance red-brick town houses can be seen. In the forefront, is a fair complete with a merry-go-round and many stalls selling drinks and food. It is a very busy scene with adults and children walking inbetween the stalls.

"Northern Saturday" depicting Hyde town centre, is arguably Rutherford's most famous painting. © The Rutherford Estate

Further works will be added to the gallery on a six-month-cycle including more of his portraits and images from his time abroad in Spain, Borneo and Pakistan.

Curator Marie Knudsen said: “There is a real sense of pride. He was a popular local person and an internationally famous artist – we really wanted the gallery to happen.”

“He put Hyde on the map. We want people to know that he was a significant person in the neighbourhood.”

An old sepia-style image of a man with a hat holding a paintbrush beside an easel. There is a house in the background and foliage in the foreground.

Rutherford paints outside. © The Rutherford Estate

Often identified as one of the unsung heroes of the Lowry generation, Rutherford was born in Denton in 1903 and worked initially as a draughtsman.

On finishing school, he trained with the eminent artist Walter Sickert at the Manchester School of Art and became a contemporary of LS Lowry.

He worked as a topical cartoonist for the Manchester Evening News and eventually moved to London to work as a freelance artist and illustrator on Fleet Street for many magazines.

He was finally introduced to the world of television in 1936 while working on a cover for the magazine ‘The Listener’.

A black and white sketch of various people on a stage. There is a man looking out to the stage while holding a piece of paper. Three women wearing long dresses stand beside a man in cowboy clothing. A grand piano is in the corner with a man playing. There are also lights and cameras with men operating them.

TV soundstage sketches. © The Rutherford Estate

Highly impressed with his works, a BBC producer employed him to stand in the studio wings for the programme ‘Cabaret Cartoons’ drawing variety acts as they performed.

Following the Second World War, he hosted his own children’s television show ‘Sketchbook’, where he pioneered art, live on television, long before artists such as Rolf Harris or Tony Hart made their screen debuts.

Rutherford travelled extensively throughout his life – to Spain in the 1930s and through Europe to Borneo in the 1950s as a guest of the British Council. However, true to his roots, he remained loyal to his local community and found a niche in Hyde.

He returned to Hyde in the 1950s and worked as a teacher at the Regional College of Art in Manchester until his retirement in 1969. It was during those years when he was elected president of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts – a post he held for eight years.

An black and white image of a cross-legged man wearing a suit and hat. He sits in a chair in the corner of a room underneath shelves filled with brushes, books, drawings and albums. Frames and photographs sit lined up beside him.

Rutherford sits in his room, surrounded by drawings. © The Rutherford Estate

Rutherford retained his studio in Nelson Street next to the house he kept with his brother Donald, and he could often be seen eating breakfast in the local hotel or having a drink at the local pub.

Two plaques commemorating the artist already feature in Hyde. One is on Hyde Town Hall while the other resides on his home in Nelson Street.

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