Off the wall look at changing lives

Oh, how families have changed over the centuries.

By Nancy Fielder
Thursday, 10th November 2011, 7:22 am

In fact, for some of us, our families are now in many ways unrecognisable from our relatives who ruled the roost just a couple of generations ago.

So just imagine how different your ancestors would have been as far back at the 16th century.

The changing faces of family are being put under the spotlight by an exhibition at Weston Park Museum next year.

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There will be plenty of Sheffield smiles among some of the better known works of art - and you could even get a photo of your family included.

Museums Sheffield are asking The Star readers to help create a Sheffield-focused interactive display to complement the works going on show for The Family in British Art: 16th Century to Now.

They want you to email in family snapshots to form part of the Sheffield Family Tree, which will show images of local families on video screens.

The aim is to create a snapshot of family life today in the Steel City while celebrating a topic which has provide rich inspiration for artists down the centuries.

The exhibition will include everything from formal portraits of powerful families long before the dawn of photography, to intimate glimpses into our home lives. It aims to show how images inspired by those closest to us have always been some of our most revealing.

As well as everyday shots of local families, it will bring together more than 65 historic and contemporary works from some of the UK’s finest collections.

The displays will span 400 years of British art and includes loans from national galleries such as Tate, Victoria & Albert and the National Portrait Gallery alongside private loans and work from Sheffield’s visual art collection.

Highlights include the historical portraiture of Thomas Gainsborough and candid photographs of Richard Billingham.

Exhibition curator Louisa Briggs said: “The idea of the family unit is so diverse - family can be your parents and grandparents, your siblings, your partner, your children, your close friends, or even your pets. We hope our Sheffield Family Tree will showcase some of the different types of families that live in the city today. The concept of family means many different things to different people today.

“The wonderful collection of work which forms The Family in British Art illustrates just how radically the British idea of family and the way it’s been represented has changed over the centuries.”

Amongst the works on display will be William Hogarth’s A House of Cards from 1730; Sir Robert and Lady Buxton and their daughter Ann by Henry Walton; Stanley Spencer’s The Lovers from 1934; and Vanessa Bell’s portrait of her sister Virginia Woolf dated 1912. The exhibition will also include My Parents by David Hockney from 1977 and A Jan Steen Kitchen by Jonathan Leaman from 1995.

Photography and video featured in the exhibition will include Julia Margaret Cameron’s Devotion; Martin Parr’s Two Children Eat Ice-creams on the Seafront from the series Last Resort: Photographs of New Brighton; 2 into 1 by Gillian Wearing and Alison Jackson’s William is King.

It will also include a new commission from photographer Jonathan Turner who will be producing a new series of images of Sheffield families for the exhibition.

The Family in British Art has been curated by Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service as part of the Great British Art Debate. It will be open at Weston Park from February 2 until April 29 next year.

Museums Sheffield would welcome any digital photos of family life, from recent snaps of birthday parties to digital scans of old family photos.

If you would like to see your family photos on show in the exhibition, email them in jpeg format to [email protected] by Sunday, December 11.

Anyone who contributes images to the Sheffield Family Tree will be entered into a draw to win six tickets to a special preview of the exhibition on Wednesday, February 1 including an exclusive tour of the works with the curator.