Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom
August 9, 2005
First the museum. Head through the overpriced giftshop to the History of Art on Tyneside gallery, a dark, twisting corridor where you’ll fined original engravings by Thomas Bewick and sketches by John Dobson, the architect of much of the Victorian city. Though much is aimed at younger visitors, among the clutter and hands-on exhibits are some involving works showing local people and landmarks.
Upstairs, the rotating collection in Barbour Watercolours Gallery is a bit hit and miss. I much prefer the works on display in the permanent collection, not least Martin’s ‘The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah’ and ‘The Bard’. I love the intense drama of both pieces, which contrasts beautifully with the more sedate 18th and 19th century pastoral works along the other walls. The space has been successfully opened out recently, and thankfully the display cases that used to spoil the visual effect of the more powerful paintings have largely been removed.
The final main room on the upper floor houses the temporary exhibitions, currently a collection of works on the River Tyne but more often touring exhibitions from the National Gallery or the Tate that frequently include works of international significance. You can see everything comfortably in an hour to an hour and a half, slightly longer if you have children and stop off in the small Under Fives’ Area, a room of puzzles and dressing up boxes. You could stay to eat in the café but you can find better options elsewhere in the city centre. Take a few minutes to look at the exterior of the building, sit outside on the Blue Carpet, a colour flecked glass and resin floored public square between the circular glass entrance and the small garden in front of John Dobson’s Lying-in Hospital. And then walk the hundred metres back to the crowds on Northumberland Street.
From journal A View From The Bridges: Newcastle-upon-Tyne