North Lanarkshire Council’s collection covers the history of the main industries of Scotland with an emphasis on iron, steel, coal and engineering. Our art collection has paintings, works on paper and sculptures covering themes like industry, rural life, and civic portraits. There is a focus on artists and scenes from North Lanarkshire with some star paintings including Turning Hay by Motherwell artist Millie Frood and Gartsherrie by Night by Caleb Robert Stanley.


Art Unlocked is an online talk series by Art UK in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies. This Curation is based on a talk by Rosie Shackleton, Assistant Curator on the 29th November 2023. You can watch a recording of the talk on Art UK's YouTube channel.

5 artworks
  • Turning Hay is a painting with energy. It’s lively brushstrokes and bright tones elevate this scene of agricultural labour to lofty heights, as if the hay itself is golden thread. The figures melt into the sweeping gesture of hay turning and are painted with the same warm hues.


    When this painting was shown in Airdrie Library in 1958, a critic for the Motherwell Times was so taken with the fury with which Frood’s figures work in Turning Hay, that they were surprised the gallery wasn’t “knee-deep in agricultural produce”.
    Indeed, Frood returned frequently to rural themes, but always with a twist. She never painted the idyll and there was always a certain frantic energy, perhaps relating to her upbringing in industrial North Lanarkshire.

    Turning Hay 1940
    Millie Frood (1900–1988)
    Oil on canvas
    H 74 x W 101 cm
    North Lanarkshire Council / NLC Museums
    Turning Hay
    © the copyright holder. Image credit: North Lanarkshire Council / NLC Museums

  • On The Farm is another example of Millie Frood exploring rural themes but with an industrial tone.
    One of her less figurative and more abstract works, On The Farm gives a sense of the energy of farm life but with no human aspect; rather a mechanical edge. The central angular shapes emerge out of rolling landscapes at the edges of the canvas, showing a sense of struggle between the rural and industrial.


    Although we don’t know exactly where this scene is set, we do know that Frood took a house in Maidens, Ayrshire every summer for six weeks. This would have been a contrast to the built-up and industrial North Lanarkshire, and this is where we think many of her rural paintings are set.

    On the Farm
    Millie Frood (1900–1988)
    Oil on canvas
    H 104 x W 135 cm
    North Lanarkshire Council / NLC Museums
    On the Farm
    © the copyright holder. Image credit: North Lanarkshire Council / NLC Museums

  • Underground depicts a moment between two miners working down the pit.
    The painting was bought by North Lanarkshire Council in 1976 to display in the Moodiesburn Public Library. It had previously been shown at the Strathkelvin Art Exhibition.


    Smith captured the experience of having to work in almost total darkness by applying thicker layers of dark oil paints and scraping away until she hit bare canvas. This technique allows us glimpse into the working conditions of miners who only had a headtorch for light.
    In an interview with a local newspaper Smith said that although she had “never been in a mine before [she] based the picture…on photographs…in which the miners seem to simply appear out of the surrounding darkness”.

    Underground 1975
    Nancy Gibson Smith (active 1975)
    North Lanarkshire Council / NLC Museums
    Underground
    © the copyright holder. Image credit: North Lanarkshire Council / NLC Museums

  • This portrait of Aniza McGeehan by Jessie McGeehan captures a moment between two siters, both artists in their own right.


    Aniza was a sculptor, and we see her wielding the tools of her trade front and centre in the composition. Jessie was a painter and mosaic maker who, although did travel to Europe for further study, returned to North Lanarkshire and designed works for local churches.
    Painted in 1929 when Aniza was 55 and Jessie was 57, this intimate portrait provides glimpse into the lives of two women who had been artists all their lives, with both sisters attending Glasgow School of Art before they were 16. This painting was originally shown in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool alongside a bust of Jessie made by Aniza.

    Aniza McGeehan (1874–1962)
    Jessie M. McGeehan (1872–1950)
    Oil on canvas
    H 138 x W 108 cm
    North Lanarkshire Council / NLC Museums
    Aniza McGeehan (1874–1962)
    Image credit: North Lanarkshire Council / NLC Museums

  • This oil painting is of William Baird and Company’s Gartsherrie Ironworks. By the 1840s, Gartsherrie was one of the biggest ironworks in the world. The painting shows the 16 blast furnaces arranged in two rows, left and right. Hidden between them is the Gartsherrie Branch of the Monkland Canal.
    It is rare to see a large-scale depiction of a Victorian ironworks at the height of its existence and this painting is of national importance.
    This work is different from Stanley’s other, more rural scenes suggesting the sight of the ironworks affected him significantly. In the mid-1800s central Scotland was still mostly rural, making a dramatic contrast between the hellish fires of the iron furnaces and the quiet beauty of nature.

    Gartsherrie by Night 1853
    Caleb Robert Stanley (1795–1868)
    Oil on canvas
    H 164 x W 229 cm
    North Lanarkshire Council / NLC Museums
    Gartsherrie by Night
    Image credit: North Lanarkshire Council / NLC Museums