Nan Youngman painting in Manchester Art Gallery

During my visit to Manchester Art Gallery last week I was pleased to be told that an oil painting by Pictures for Schools founder Nan Youngman, entitled Convolvulus (1943), will soon be going on display in the Art Gallery cafe. I enjoyed having a chance to view the painting in the store, a still-life in a striking colour palette of red, white and green, as previously the paintings I had seen by Youngman comprised landscapes and a self-portrait.

Convolvulus is one of two Nan Youngman paintings in the collection, the other being Waste Land, Tredegar, South Wales (1951), which stands out to me among Youngman’s output I have seen for its human element: there’s a lot of movement to the painting, in contrast with the deserted stillness I associate with many of Youngman’s paintings of deserted buildings, streetscapes and imposing landscapes. The painting is populated by the soft-edged outlines of small children busy at play, in groups and as individuals, foregrounded in colour against the griminess of a polluted industrial backdrop. However, the staff I spoke to didn’t seem to know much about Youngman and her history beyond her association with Cambridge.

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