Objects in Paint

At Beverley Art Gallery


Painted Objects presents a selection of paintings from the Treasure House Collection. Rather than focusing on the people in these paintings, you are invited to focus on the smaller, everyday objects the artist added as extra details. Every painting has been paired with a physical object from the Social History Collection, whose painted counterpart might be from a different time period but is visually similar to the physical object.

Artists tend to draw our attention to the people in the scene, as it is fascinating to connect to people through images. Objects in paintings are often overlooked when we quickly view a painting, but they can provide depth to the image, making the life of the person depicted more tangible through the objects the artists choose to place around them.

We hope you enjoy exploring this new perspective on some of the beloved paintings in the collection and notice some objects which we could all find in our homes.

Leonie's Perfume Bottle

The composition of Elwell's painting draws attention to the figure of Leonie as she applies her make-up. There are lots of ordinary objects on the table in the front of the painting, including a glass perfume bottle. At the time, this would have been a luxury item, symbolic of feminine elegance and sophistication. The painted perfume bottle is a curved form with a pointed stopper. The physical is rectangular with a cut glass pattern on one side.

Leonie's Toilet

Image: Leonie's Toilet
Frederick William Elwell
Oil on Canvas
96cm x 69cm

Scent Bottle

Image: Scent Bottle
Silver, glass
7.5cm x 4.5cm

Mrs Hodgson's Watch

Catherine Maud Hodgson (1862-1918) was the wife of the owner of a tanning company in Beverley. Objects can connect her to another East-Riding woman: Amy Johnson CBE (1903-1941). Johnson was the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia; Before this, her longest solo flight was from London to Hull. Elwell places Hodgson's left arm in a prominent position, highlighting her watch. Johnson's watch will have lived a very different life, potentially flying with her. Find out more information about Amy Johnson's Life.

Mrs R Hodgson

Image: Mrs R Hodgson
Frederick William Elwell
Oil on Canvas
25cm x 99cm

Amy Johnson's Wristwatch

Image: Amy Johnson's Wristwatch
Steel, Silver, Leather, Enamel
25.2cm x 5.4cm

The Fishers' Vase

The vases on the mantelpiece behind the two figures, Reverend Robert Fisher and his wife Charlotte, are similar to a pair of porcelain vases decorated with orange and gold Japanese scenes. They date to when Fisher was the Vicar in Beverley (1898-1905) presumably when this painting was made. The interest in objects from Japan massively increased at the end of the nineteenth century after the country opened up to trade, having been closed to the West since the 1600s.

Canon Fisher and Wife

Image: Canon Fisher and Wife
Frederick William Elwell
Oil on Canvas

Japanese vases

Image: Japanese vases
Late 19th century

Mrs Todd's Scissors

Florence Todd was an active member of the Beverley arts scene and a close friend of Elwell. In this painting, Florence is preparing flowers with a pair of silver scissors. Similar silver scissors in a blue velvet case were made for the launch of the SS Eros, a trawler ship, at Beverley shipyard in 1903. The ship was requisitioned by the army but was sunk by a German landmine off the coast of Spurn Point in 1918. Find out more information about the wreck of the SS Eros.

Mrs WR. Todd

Image: Mrs WR. Todd
Frederick William Elwell
Oil on Canvas
100cm x 130cm

Ceremonial scissors in case

Image: Ceremonial scissors in case
Butterfield, D.A. (Cutlers and opticians)
Metal, velvet and wood
Scissors: 6cm x 4cm
Case: 19cm x 7cm

The Girl's Sewing Box

Haynes King painted an idyllic scene, showing a woman sewing in front of a window, with a countryside view out of the window. The beautifully hand embroidered linen needle case, decorated with leaves and flowers is one item which would not be out of place in the brightly coloured sewing box of this lady, even though it is quite a luxurious-looking item.

Industry/Girl at Window, Sewing

Image: Industry/Girl at Window, Sewing
Haynes King
Oil on Canvas
59.5cm x 49.5cm

Needle Case

Image: Needle Case
Linen 7.5cm x 5.5cm

Making Music

Pasmore's painting focuses on a couple in extravagant seventeenth-century clothing. The man serenades her with a stringed instrument which is similar to one played by a trio of musicians who accompanied hymns at the Shepherd Memorial Mission Chapel in Beverley. The painted and the physical instruments were being played within fifty years of each other. The physical eight-string mandolin was purchased in 1923 by William Watson Dunn for his wife Edith Blanch Dunn.


Image: Duet
D Pasmore
Oil on Canvas
71.5cm x 34cm

Banjo Mandolin

Image: Banjo Mandolin
Wood, metal
54cm x 19cm

In the Kitchen

Elwell has painted this domestic scene of the staff working in the kitchen at the Beverley Arms Hotel rather than the visiting guests. The lady in the back corner of the painting is polishing a copper pot. The cone-shaped copper kettle would fit into this scene. At the time, copper was the most effective metal for heating water but was expensive. The kettle is likely to have been owned by an affluent family.


Image: Preparations
Frederic William Elwell
Oil on Canvas
112cm x 91cm

Copper Kettle

Image: Copper Kettle
Copper, tin
23cm x 24.8cm

After Dinner

Elwell's after-dinner painting includes a shimmering silver teapot by the arm of the Butler. It is similar to a Roundhead leadless pewter teapot with a bamboo handle. The physical pot would probably have been used in a setting similar to the one Elwell depicts. The handle of the Roundhead teapot is made of bamboo, a material which reflects the origin of the tea which would have been drunk from the pot.

The Butler Takes

Image: The Butler Takes
A Glass of Port/
All Thing Come
To the Man That Waits
Frederick William Elwell
Oil on Canvas
101cm x 93.5cm

Tea pot

Image: Tea pot
Pewter, bamboo
8.4cm x 20.8cm

Objects in Paint

Curated by
Sarah Burton
Curating and Art History Student at the University of York