One exhibition which encapsulates both the rural and urban beauty of Sheffield is ‘Picturing Sheffield’ at the Weston Park Museum. Just one room is enough to capture the famously industrial yet green landscape of Sheffield throughout the last 200 years. The exhibition takes you from Sheffield’s earlier history to the city’s present state through four main themes: portraits of the city, lost Sheffield, city of industry and Sheffield at leisure.
Portraits of the city conveys Sheffield through the eyes of various different artists, in various different styles. Patchwork hills hang alongside darker, more abstract paintings like Mark Wilson’s ‘Sheffield from Meersbrook Park’ which uses warm, purple hues to show the city’s skyline in a modern and elegant way. Nearby, a painting from 1840, by an unknown artist, depicts Kelham Island using bright, jolly colours and gives an insight into what Kelham Island, renowned for being one of Sheffield’s trendiest areas, would have looked like over 100 years ago. Emily Taylor uses a ceramic vase to give a more urban take on Sheffield as she etches a young couple, wearing a hoody and hoop earrings, looking out onto a very built up view of the city.
Lost Sheffield gives precious detail about features of the city which no longer exist. The 19th century artist James Poole captured ‘Donati’s Comet’, a comet seen shooting over Sheffield in 1958, over Little London Dam- a dam which no longer remains. Meanwhile, ‘Hole in the Road’, a painting from Anthony Lowe in 1986, pictures the network of shops and underpasses under the roundabout near Arundel Gate. Demolished in the 1990s to accommodate the Supertram, the Castle Square tram stop marks the area today.
City of industry promotes the rich industrial heritage of the city. Once known as a ‘steel city’, the prominence of Sheffield’s steel industry through its history cannot be ignored. Snapshots of the insides of steel factories and the workers that operated them are shown through an array of paintings. Robert Penistone’s 2008 painting depicts a vivid orange scene of an open hearth furnace. The almost cartoon-like portrait observes the factory floor mid-shift, dotted with factory workers chatting, reading the newspapers and, of course, supervising the furnace.
Sheffield at leisure is the final yet most exciting section of the exhibition. Vibrant cityscapes offer a fun and refreshing portrayal of Sheffield. ‘A Perfect Day’ by Pete McKee shows a middle-aged couple and their dog enjoying a hillside picnic with wine and a vinyl record player, peacefully reflecting on some of the city’s landmarks, like City Hall and the Arts Tower. Jo Peel captures Owlerton Stadium, Sheffield’s greyhound racing track devoid of spectators and grey hounds whilst Joe Scarborough portrays a very different scene of, what looks like, the entire population of Sheffield enjoying a party in the streets. The lively atmosphere, filled with live bands, swishing skirts and busy bar staff is tangible.
Picturing Sheffield is a permanent exhibition at the Weston Park Museum. If grey skies cast a shadow over the, usually, bright views of the city then head down to see a more vibrant display.