Museum Mentors is a collaborative and inclusive group of artists. Marginalised artists can greatly benefit through support and mentoring. Access to the museums’ collections provides the group with rich opportunities for inspiration and creativity.
The 27 artists share a collective sense of creative passion bringing their own unique style, energy and ideas to the group. Each artist is inspired to express and represent visually, with the ultimate aim of connecting with an audience.
For this project the Museum Mentors artists looked at historical portraiture and undertook detailed research into Holbein the Younger’s masterpiece to produce individual miniature artworks which can now be seen on display in the temporary exhibition gallery. They worked in the museum art room with RPM staff Debbie Bennett and Sally Welchman.
Over nine months, the group worked together with museum staff to form an understanding of portraiture. They were particularly interested in the symbolism that Holbein the Younger used in his work. They researched the clues that hint at the identity of the sitter in A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (Anne Lovell?).
The starling is thought to symbolise the former estate of East Harling Hall in Norfolk, which was bequeathed to the Lovell family in the early part of the 15th Century. The squirrel was a heraldic emblem of the Lovell family, and can be seen on a stained glass window in East Harling church. Members of the group found the history and artefacts of this church particularly inspiring.
Artist Mike Wheelan said; “Holbein’s paintings appear to have a psychological depth that would have been very uncommon for the age he lived in. Although very detailed in terms of realism, they have a very light, lively quality. More importantly, beyond anything else – Holbein was extremely nifty with a paint brush.”
Artist David Hayler said; “This is my very first miniature, I would have never had these ideas by myself, amazing.”
Museum Mentors is funded by the Arts Council, England. This project has been additionally funded by the National Gallery and Christie’s as part of the National Gallery Masterpiece Tour 2018.