Leeds exhibition puts heavy-duty focus on Edna's industrial art

Her paintings capture the savage beauty of the pit-heads, mills and cooling towers of the North during the 20th century.

Thursday, 18th February 2016, 4:00 am

Now an exhibition of the late Edna Lumb’s work has begun at Leeds College of Art, where she learned her craft between 1948 and 1953.

Leeds-born Miss Lumb was fascinated by the raw artistic material offered by the region’s sometimes brutal industrial and urban landscape.

Taking place as part of the college’s 170th birthday celebrations, the new exhibition includes pictures of Horsforth Quarry, Salts Mill and the old BBC broadcasting building in Leeds.

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Dr Catriona McAra, curatorial and exhibitions manager at the college, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “Not only does this exhibition aim to return Lumb’s reputation to the North, but to emphasise the singularity of her practice – a woman depicting heavy industry in the 1950s to 1970s would seem to be a rare and special fact, one that breaks new ground.

“The exhibition hopes to demonstrate that her engagement with machine aesthetics was truly pioneering.”

Born and brought up in Seacroft during the hardship of the Great Depression, Miss Lumb was the youngest of six children.

After studying at what was then known as Leeds School of Art, she spent 11 years as a teacher before devoting herself full-time to painting from the mid-1960s.

Edna Lumb.

She died aged 60 in 1992 after a long battle with cancer.

Explaining her preferred subject matter in 1991, Miss Lumb wrote: “Industrial landscape has fascinated me since my childhood in Leeds.

“Quarries, slag heaps and pit-heads brought a sparkle to my eye in my dreary school-teaching years in the 1950s.”

The exhibition, entitled Industrious Pioneer, runs until March 11 at the college’s Vernon Street building, next to Leeds City Museum.


It is accompanied by an in-depth catalogue essay penned by Miss Lumb’s close friend, the science writer Angela Croome.

A reunion of people who were at the college between the 1930s and 1960s is being held at Vernon Street from 2pm to 4pm this Saturday.

Guests will include photographer Michael Westmoreland, who studied alongside Miss Lumb, and the artist Trevor Bell.

Students from the period who are interested in attending Saturday’s invite-only event are asked to contact college alumni relations and development officer Rachael Hickson on 0113 202 8142.

Edna Lumb.