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Touchstones Rochdale







Rochdale, North West


Museum Member (CAS)


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Photo credit: Touchstones Rochdale


In 1903 Rochdale’s library, first built in 1884, was extended to house a museum. The extension was designed by architect Jesse Horsfall of Manchester. Stone relief panels on the exterior of the building were later carved by a local stonemason, C. J. Allan, to represent science, art and literature. It opendd with 164 donations, primarily given by wealthy local textile industrialists. The collection has continued to develop ever since through a mix of donations and purchases and the Gallery works with organisations such as the Contemporary Art Society to make contemporary acquisitions. Highlights of the collection include an Italian panel painting dating from the 1420s by Giovanni di Paolo; a typical sentimental Victorian painting by Charles Burton Barber called 'A Special Pleader' which is probably the Gallery’s best known painting due to its reproduction on biscuit tins and jigsaws; and Woman’s Head with a Yellow Background (1963) by Lucian Freud. A further extension of the building took place in 1912 adding additional gallery space.

The collection includes a range of work from 16th and 17th-century northern European artists to a substantial collection of Victorian genre and landscape painting. The collection includes Modernist works by Vanessa Bell and is particularly strong in works by local artists including Benjamin C. Brierley, John Collier (also known as Tim Bobbin) and Charles Donald Taylor. The contemporary collection is particularly strong in work dating from the 1970s, featuring pieces by Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, Gillian Ayres and Nicholas Pope. Other key artists from the 1980s onwards include Susan Hiller, Cornelia Parker, Mariele Neudecker, Laura Ford and Luke Gottelier.

Rochdale Arts & Heritage Service holds a richly varied collection of around 1,500 works of art of regional and national significance. The collection belongs to Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council, but since 2007 has been cared for by Link4Life's Arts & Heritage Service on behalf of the council. The collection is primarily displayed at Touchstones Rochdale, formerly known as Rochdale Art Gallery. 


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