Gallery Oldham is the public museum for the town of Oldham in Greater Manchester. Our collections include Art, Social History and Natural History. There are approximately 5,000 items in the art collection, which ranges from watercolours from the late 1700s to contemporary craft, via Victorian painting and twentieth century sculpture.

Art Unlocked is an online talk series by Art UK in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies. This Curation is based on a talk by Rebecca Hill, Fine Art Curator at Gallery Oldham, on 9th June 2021. You can find a recording at

6 artworks
  • William Stott was born in Oldham in 1857. William’s three older brothers had followed their father into the family cotton waste and spinning business, which meant that the youngest son had more freedom to follow an artistic career. He trained in Oldham and Manchester, and then in Paris.

    This is a rare painting of an interior scene by Stott, who was an enthusiastic adopter of plein-air painting. It is the only painting we know about which shows an Oldham scene. Stott’s family were keen supporters of his work in the early days of his career, with his parents and siblings buying some of his early paintings.

    My Father and Mother 1884
    William Stott (1857–1900)
    Oil on canvas
    H 102 x W 160 cm
    Gallery Oldham
    My Father and Mother
    Image credit: Gallery Oldham

  • The myth of Daphne comes from Ancient Greece. According to the story, Daphne was being chased by the god Apollo who was infatuated with her. She prayed to her father, the river god Peneus to help her so he changed her into a Laurel tree. Like many other classical myths, Daphne continues to inspire artists today. Curneen shows her at the moment she transforms from human into a tree.

    Claire Curneen is a contemporary ceramicist who was born in Ireland in 1968. Much of her work is based on the human form. She describes the fragile nature of the material she uses reflecting the fragility of the human condition.

    Daphne 2005
    Claire Curneen (b.1968)
    H 34 x W 25 x D 23 cm
    Gallery Oldham
    © the artist. Image credit: Gallery Oldham

  • This is one of two views of Switzerland by Turner in Gallery Oldham’s collection. The other is entitled 'A Swiss Alpine Valley (possibly St Gothard)'.

    This watercolour is a page from a sketch book and would have been painted as preparatory study for a more worked up watercolour, rather than a finished painting in its own right. The works for which these preparatory studies were painted were never made though.

    Bellinzona – The Bridge over Ticino c.1842
    Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851)
    Watercolour over graphite on paper
    H 23 x W 33 cm
    Gallery Oldham
    Bellinzona – The Bridge over Ticino
    Image credit: Gallery Oldham

  • Kanak Chanpa Chakma is a member of the indigenous Chakma hill people in Bangladesh. Her paintings are inspired by this landscape and the people (usually women) within it. Chanpa uses bright colours to reflect the traditional clothing and festivals of the Chakma people, and to communicate the vibrancy of the life in this region.

    Kanak Chanpa Chakma graduated from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh and later studied at Pennsylvania State University.

    In the Red 2002
    Kanak Chanpa Chakma (b.1963)
    Acrylic on canvas
    H 60 x W 60 cm
    Gallery Oldham
    In the Red
    © the artist. Image credit: Gallery Oldham

  • This portrait is of a woman who the Titus Agbara knew when he first moved to London from Nigeria in 2007. ‘Damilola’ means prosperity in Yoruba, which Agbara saw as a good omen about his new life.

    Agbara’s work is in the National Gallery of Nigeria in Lagos. He now lives in Oldham. He is a regular on Sky Portrait Artist of the Year and Sky Landscape Artist of the Year. He uses a palette knife to create most of his finely detailed paintings.

    Damilola 2009
    Titus Agbara (b.1974)
    Oil on canvas
    H 90 x W 60 cm
    Gallery Oldham
    © the artist. Image credit: Gallery Oldham

  • Circe is the mythological goddess famous for turning Ulysses’ men into pigs. In this painting she is holding a goblet of potion and a wand, signifying her magical powers. In the mirror you can see Ulysses creeping up behind her to attempt to free his men.

    Oldham man Charles Lees bought this painting from the artist. He later tried to pop into Waterhouse’s studio while he was in London to find out more about the painting, but Waterhouse was out. Waterhouse subsequently wrote a letter to Lees to give him some more information, which is in the Gallery Oldham archives.

    Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses 1891
    John William Waterhouse (1849–1917)
    Oil on canvas
    H 148 x W 92 cm
    Gallery Oldham
    Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses
    Image credit: Gallery Oldham