In the 1920s and 1930s, the Cooper Gallery received several gifts of drawings and paintings from the collector Sir Michael Ernest Sadler.
Sadler was a passionate educationalist who believed that art could enlighten and benefit everyone. The motivations for his collecting were numerous and included his love of art, his wish to support living artists and his desire to make art accessible to those around him.
The first gifts of French artworks in 1923 and 1931 were in memory of his parents and of his wife Mary Ann (née Harvey) respectively. The collection donated in 1933 was a conscious effort to create a chronology of art from the mid 18th century to the 1930s. In 1937 Sadler decided to supplement his gift with another handful of drawings, including some by Henry Moore, and by writing a catalogue entitled: ‘Notes on a Collection of English Drawings’.
The addition of the drawings in 1937 moved the collections at the Gallery away from traditional art of the 19th century and enabled people to see how life and art were changing dramatically in the early 20th century. In the catalogue Sadler talked about how artists responded to the First World War and discusses how shocking some of images were.
The selection below includes several examples of works gifted by Sadler and also from the Cooper bequest and from Barnsley artist Malcolm Whittaker.
‘The Apotheosis of Saint Francis’, mid 18th century
Francesco Fontebasso (1707-1769)
Ink on paper
This drawing depicts angels guiding St Francis of Assisi to heaven. St Francis is one of the most important figures in Christianity, known for his compassion for the poor and respect for the natural world. Fontebasso was a Venetian painter and etcher who mainly worked on decorating grand palaces and churches. He was greatly influenced by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, producing pen and wash drawings and book illustrations, as well as working in fresco and on canvas.