Manchester Art Gallery host Art Bites every Wednesday at 12:30. It’s a free 45 minute guided tour to two art works which allows you the opportunity to view the works with a group of others and talk about them. The two works are usually connected in some way and that connection guides the topic of conversation. I went along to my first Art Bites the other week.
When I went along, it was National Mental Health Awareness Week and so our guide took this as her inspiration for two paintings that depicted compassion.
The first, a painting of two women, one embracing the other in a supportive fashion and one holding a new born baby in her arms. Both dressed in peasants’ attire. We talked about the composition, the colours, the way the women looked into the distance, off frame, and how they seemed worried or troubled. We contemplated the scenario, why we’re they worried? Who’s baby was it? Was the baby being taken away?
Our guide told us that the painting is called Italian Women in Church and was painted by Susan Isabel Dacre, presumably based on a visit she took to Italy. (Dacre also set up the Manchester Society of Women Painters!)
The second, a work many who have visited the Manchester Art Gallery will have seen, The Good Samaritan. A large piece that once hung in the old Manchester Town Hall on King St as an example to Manchester citizens, painted by G F Watts. The painting depicts the Biblical tale of the good Samaritan, capturing the moment the Samaritan picks the Jewish man up from the ground to carry him to safety. The way the Samaritan’s robes seemingly wrap around both men, and how the burgundy stands out against the bleak backdrop was the topic of conversation.
What stood out for me in both works was the hands. The women’s hands, holding, embracing, the baby’s innocently open to the world, the Jewish man’s clinging to the Samaritan, his in turn carrying the Jew. They took centre stage for me, and did more to depict compassion than any other trope in the paintings.
What do you think?
Find out more about Art Bites.