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Joy is the fullest expression of happiness, experienced in connection with a force beyond oneself. Feeling this level of positivity and connection in 2020 feels, to many, like a distant dream, which is precisely why this exhibition is needed. Finding Joy was curated by students from one of City Lit's Introduction to Art History courses. Each work chosen reflects an individual's conception of joy. We interpreted thematically, grouping diverse works to find their commonality. The exhibition moves through togetherness, carefree physicality, the subtly of movement and ends with celebration of human life. Our hope was to create a communal space of joy that allows for both the broad and the specific. May you find joy in our selection.

20 artworks
  • ‘Escape from Lockdown’

    After many months of being apart, these vibrant paintings celebrate togetherness. The following four paintings by three artists show the joy and delight of being together, under blue skies and in blue waters, doing things we cannot do today. Children play and adults mingle while their laughter and smiles remind us of the importance of social contact. These works all record happy times past and the uplifting scenes offer hope of making new memories in the future.

    The Seaside c.1966
    William Patrick Roberts (1895–1980)
    Oil on canvas
    H 61 x W 76.2 cm
    Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre
    The Seaside
    © estate of John David Roberts. By courtesy of The William Roberts Society. Photo credit: Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre

  • Drumsheugh Swimming Pool 1992
    Emily Learmont (b.1969)
    Oil on canvas
    H 184 x W 152.5 cm
    Art in Healthcare
    Drumsheugh Swimming Pool
    © the artist. Photo credit: Art in Healthcare

  • Cheese Rolling on Cooper's Hill, Gloucestershire 1948
    Charles March Gere (1869–1957)
    Oil on canvas
    H 62.5 x W 75.3 cm
    Gloucester Museums Service Art Collection
    Cheese Rolling on Cooper's Hill, Gloucestershire
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: Gloucester Museums Service Art Collection

  • The Christening Party 1996
    Emily Learmont (b.1969)
    Oil on canvas
    H 182.6 x W 121 cm
    Art in Healthcare
    The Christening Party
    © the artist. Photo credit: Art in Healthcare

  • Discovering Joy

    The spontaneous joy of movement links these contemporary artworks, happy moments
    frozen in time. Whether children playing or adults dancing, single people or groups, all five of the following subjects depict smiling faces or animated limbs, their dynamic lines reflecting the innocent
    pleasure of physical movement. Bright light, complementary colours, and the occasional
    animal reinforce the feelings of freedom in a natural outdoor setting. Strong foreground
    figures, caught mid-movement, provide compositional focus.

    Primrose Hill 1991/1992
    Peter Burgess (b.1952)
    Oil on canvas
    H 119 x W 140 cm
    Imperial Health Charity Art Collection
    Primrose Hill
    © the artist. Photo credit: Imperial Health Charity Art Collection

  • Hanging Figure 1977
    Mel Charles
    Acrylic on canvas
    H 216 x W 143 cm
    University of Southampton
    Hanging Figure
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: University of Southampton

  • Hanging Figure 1977
    Mel Charles
    Acrylic on canvas
    H 216 x W 143 cm
    University of Southampton
    Hanging Figure
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: University of Southampton

  • Untitled 2000
    David Storrie
    Oil on canvas
    H 183 x W 212.5 cm
    Art & Heritage Collections, Robert Gordon University
    Untitled
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Art & Heritage Collections, Robert Gordon University

  • The Three Dancers 1945
    John Luke (1906–1975)
    Oil & tempera on canvas on board
    H 30.7 x W 43 cm
    National Museums Northern Ireland
    The Three Dancers
    © National Museums Northern Ireland. Photo credit: National Museums Northern Ireland

  • Boy Eating a Hot Dog 1960–1965
    Peter Blake (b.1932)
    Acrylic on board
    H 36.5 x W 40.7 cm
    Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre
    Boy Eating a Hot Dog
    © Peter Blake. All rights reserved, DACS 2021. Photo credit: Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre

  • Moving into Joy

    The link between the art works in this group is ‘movement’ in its many forms. We experience in the first painting the movement from outside to inside space. In the second, fourth and fifth art works we share the physicality of movement. The third art work provides the serenity of movement from war to peace.


    Movement is a fundamentally human and joyful experience and these art works exhibit the intensity, contentment and ultimate ecstasy of movement.

    Happy Days 1924
    John Daniel Revel (1884–1967)
    Oil on canvas
    H 101.6 x W 76.2 cm
    Glasgow Museums
    Happy Days
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Glasgow Museums

  • Bird 2008
    Natasha Light (b.1976)
    Ceramic & fishing line
    H 46 x W 20.5 x D 6 cm
    Peace Museum
    Bird
    © the artist. Photo credit: Peace Museum

  • Magdalen Green, Dundee
    James McIntosh Patrick (1907–1998)
    Oil on canvas
    H 62.8 x W 78 cm
    The Fleming Collection
    Magdalen Green, Dundee
    © the artist's estate / Bridgeman Images. Photo credit: The Fleming Collection

  • Gymnast 1988
    Bill Bate (b.1962)
    Oil on canvas
    H 122 x W 91 cm
    Hinckley Academy and John Cleveland Sixth Form Centre
    Gymnast
    © the artist. Photo credit: Hinckley Academy and John Cleveland Sixth Form Centre

  • Sir John Barbirolli (1899–1970) 1975
    Byron Howard (b.1947)
    Fibre glass & steel
    H 61 x W 60.9 x D 45.7 cm
    Royal Academy of Music
    Sir John Barbirolli (1899–1970)
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Royal Academy of Music

  • A Celebration of Life

    A diverse range of images which use the features of light and colour in different genres and media to celebrate human endeavours and achievements. The following four artworks draw attention to and reflect different female life experiences. They are united through a sense of positivity, reflection and strength.

    Mary Jane Seacole, née Grant 1869
    Albert Charles Challen (1847–1881)
    Oil on panel
    H 24 x W 18 cm
    National Portrait Gallery, London
    Mary Jane Seacole, née Grant
    Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

  • There's Joy in Remembrance (Portrait of a Lady at Her Desk)
    Walter Dendy Sadler (1854–1923)
    Oil on canvas
    H 56.5 x W 41 cm
    Burton Art Gallery and Museum
    There's Joy in Remembrance (Portrait of a Lady at Her Desk)
    Photo credit: Burton Art Gallery and Museum

  • African Dancer
    Elga Rabe (b.1949)
    Acrylic on canvas
    H 88.5 x W 118 cm
    Cardiff Council
    African Dancer
    © the artist. Photo credit: Cardiff Council

  • Joie de vivre
    Arthur R. Griffith (1904–1992)
    Oil on canvas
    H 75.5 x W 101.5 cm
    East Dunbartonshire Council
    Joie de vivre
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: East Dunbartonshire Council

  • A Birthday Bouquet c.1995
    Joy Honigsberger (b.1928)
    Acrylic on paper
    H 55 x W 42 cm
    Royal Birmingham Society of Artists
    A Birthday Bouquet
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: Royal Birmingham Society of Artists