Dorothy Cross, Willie Doherty, Siobhan Hapaska, William McKeown, Paul Seawright, New Art New Nature

Ulster Museum

10 October 2014 - 28 June 2015

A new exhibition examining the role of nature in the work of Irish and International artists over the past seventy years opens to the public at the Ulster Museum.

New Art, New Nature includes work by world-renowned figures including Henri Matisse, William Scott and Willie Doherty.  Paintings by one of Northern Ireland’s most important artists of the last century, William McKeown, will also be displayed at the museum for the first time, together with work by Dorothy Cross, Siobhan Hapaska and Paul Seawright amongst others.


The exhibition showcases how artists have responded to the beauty and energy of the natural world over the past seventy years.  The display opens with two splendid textiles by Henri Matisse - Océanie, le ciel (Oceania, the sky) and Océanie, la mer (Oceania, the sea) (1946/7) and continues through the 1950s and 1960s, featuring many artists who responded to nature in unexpected and innovative ways made possible by new media and artistic practices. The exhibition also contains the Altnagelvin Mural (1961) by William Scott and work by Willie Doherty: a video Segura (2010) and new photographs Damage (2014).

William Scott was commissioned in 1958 to produce the Altnagelvin Mural (The Four Seasons) for Altnagelvin in Derry/Londonderry; the first National Health hospital in the United Kingdom. The work was originally intended to represent the four seasons, but gradually Scott translated the cyclical rhythms of the seasons into pure abstract forms.

Recently acquired work by William McKeown – Untitled (2008), a large scale abstract oil painting secured with funding from the Art Fund - the first McKeown work to enter the Ulster Museum’s collection, will also be featured.  This will be displayed alongside Waiting for the Corncrake – 30 watercolours on paper - which were donated by the William McKeown Foundation.

Anne Stewart, Curator of Fine Art, National Museums Northern Ireland, said the exhibition is about artists’ responses to nature but not in an obvious way; “We titled the exhibition ‘New Art, New Nature’  to reflect the new and challenging ways in which Post-war and contemporary artists have used nature in their work. Irish and international highlights include work by Henri Matisse, Francis Bacon, Siobhan Hapaska, Paul Seawright, Willie Doherty and William Scott.”

Anne Stewart added, “William McKeown’s work ‘Untitled’ is an important acquisition for the Ulster Museum and will be on display for the first time. The painting has great resonance and presence, and will sit very well with the Ulster Museum collection of post-war and contemporary painting”.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: “This is the first time that the Art Fund has supported a William McKeown acquisition, and we were struck by the sheer physical presence of his painting, which we can see will have great impact once on public display.  McKeown’s time in Ulster played an important role in his development as an artist, so we’re glad to support the Ulster Museum in acquiring his work for the first time.”

New Art, New Nature will be supported by a programme of talks which will allow various themes reflected in the exhibition to be explored. The first gallery talk on William McKeown will be delivered by Caroline Hancock, independent curator and representative of the William McKeown Foundation at the Ulster Museum on Thursday 30 October at 11am.

Caroline Hancock commented “The entry of this first major painting by William McKeown in the national collection of the Ulster Museum is of great significance for the legacy of the artists' work locally and on an international level. The William McKeown Foundation is delighted to support this acquisition with a donation of a set of watercolours, first shown in his exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin in 2008.” 

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