Monthly Archives: June 2011

New Acquisitions

This original montage by Peter Kennard features Margaret Thatcher and was first published as a New Statesman cover in 1985. Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund. Acquired with the assistance of the Art Fund.

In March we received the latest artworks acquired for the Peace and Reconciliation collection which is funded through the HLF Collecting Cultures programme. This included a collection of works by Peter Kennard and collaborative works by Peter and Cat Picton-Phillipps.

Peter’s work is a powerful response to social and political events around him. It is often based around his wish to express anger and outrage but also inspire positive action and protest. In the 1970s Peter moved away from painting to photomontage which he felt to be a more powerful response to the Vietnam War. His recent works with Cat Picton-Phillips were created in response to the Iraq War and include digital collage.

Peter manipulates familiar symbols and images to force the viewer to ‘see’ the horror and impact of national and international events. This is often combined with humour and sadness. His images have been used on banners and T-shirts and in newspapers and magazines, as part of CND and Labour Party campaigns as well as shown in gallery spaces. He has been exhibiting since the 1970s and his work is held in The Arts Council Collection, Imperial War Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

We are exploring working with Peter and Cat as part of an exhibition of the Peace and Reconciliation collection in 2012. This might include a solo display of their work within the exhibition and recreating their studio at the Herbert to explore their methods and practice.

Other new acquisitions have included poster works by Michael Peel, also created as a form of protest for display on the streets, and works from the Roaring Girls series by Al Johnson. These sculptures of guns are based on real weapons, but stitched from scarlet textiles and explore the involvement of women in warfare.

Jamal Penjweny, Iraq is Flying, No.7. Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

We have also been able to acquire three photographic works from the Iraq is Flying series by Jamal Penjweny, which featured in the Contemporary Art Iraq exhibition at Cornerhouse, Manchester in 2010. The works were made during the artists travels throughout Iraq. Photographing a diverse range of people in very different locations, he asked them all to jump for the camera. There are obvious signs of conflict in the images but they also convey a feeling of joy and hope.



Lord Mayors of Coventry

Colonel William Fitzthomas Wyley

Colonel William Fitzthomas Wyley from

Whilst the debate over whether Coventry should have a directly elected Mayor continues, last Thursday saw Councillor Keiran Mulhall become Lord Mayor for 2011-12.

Coventry has held the right to annually elect a Mayor or Lord Mayor since the Charter of Incorporation in 1345. In 1953 the office title changed to Lord Mayor following the conferment of Lord Mayoralty on Coventry by Queen Elizabeth II on the eve of her coronation. It is thought this honour was in recognition of Coventry’s industrial importance and suffering during WWII.

We are often asked for information about past Mayors of the city by those interested in a particular period of Coventry’s history, street names or researching their family history. Being so prominent there is usually plenty of information in books, pamphlets, newspapers and news cuttings. The Archive catalogue includes a person database available to view online at, a good starting point for background information. The database is updated by a Senior Archivist and includes references to documents in the History Centre Archive Collection which may be of interest for further research.

Looking back 100 years Alderman William Lee was Mayor, serving his fifth term. Alderman Lee was a weaver born in Bedworth. Lee was replaced in November 1911 by Colonel William Fitzthomas Wyley. 

Colonel Wyley was a chemist and was involved with his family’s wholesale drug company. He was interested in public health, motoring and art. Colonel Wyley owned the Charterhouse from 1889 which he later bequeathed to the city on his death in 1940.

As well as factual information about past Mayors and Lord Mayors we are fortunate to have photographs or illustrations of many. Amongst formal photographs there are a few lighter examples such as these cartoons of Colonel Wyley and Alderman Lee from Hill’s Monthly Recorder, March 1912.

Colonel Wyley from Hill's Monthly Recorder, March 1912.
Colonel Wyley from Hill’s Monthly Recorder, March 1912.

Alderman Lee from Hill's Monthly Recorder, March 1912.
Alderman Lee from Hill’s Monthly Recorder, March 1912.


Object of the Month – June 2011

By William Holman Hunt (1827 to 1910)

This view of the river at Stratford-on-Avon is by the famous Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt. Hunt wrote a letter to his wife in which he described the subject as ‘a lovely one’ and explained that he was having problems with the changeable weather. However he seems to have completed the watercolour from memory and imagination, adding such details as the punt and the swimming dog later. The painting demonstrates Hunt’s distinctive use of bright colours to obtain a vivid effect.

This watercolour may well have been made as a study for the landscape background of Hunt’s late masterpiece, The Lady of Shalott, which he finally completed in 1905. The landscape reflected in the mirror in the centre of that picture includes a winding river and a green meadow similar to those in the watercolour. The Lady of Shalott is on display at Manchester Art Gallery.

This watercolour painting is currently on loan to the exhibition The Pre-Raphaelites and William Morris; Artists, Designers and Craftsmen, which is touring museums and galleries in Japan. It is due to come back to the Herbert later this year and will be featured in an exhibition of watercolour views of Coventry and Warwickshire opening at the Herbert in February 2012.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Pre-Raphaelites, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery has an online Pre-Raphaelite resource:

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