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12TH JULY – 31 OCTOBER 2017

The exhibition Larkin: New Eyes Each Year opened to the public on 12th July to very high acclaim. Curated by Anna Farthing and based at the University of Hull’s Brynmor Jones Library, the exhibition offers new ways of approaching Larkin’s life and work, principally through the objects and possessions he surrounded himself with.

Larkin: New Eyes Each Year is a creative, multi-sensory and immersive display of personal items, clothing, letters, photographs, drawings, music and film, which invites fresh responses to the complex and contradictory life of a widely admired artist whose biographical narrative has been much contested.

Most of the objects in the exhibition have never been shown in public. They focus on his domestic and personal interests, including ties, souvenirs, previously unseen photographs that he took and developed and his private book collection, which ranges from crime fiction to Beatrix Potter and is arranged in the order that they were found at his home.

There are garments worn by his long term lover Monica Jones as well as himself. His relationship with friends, family and other women is also illustrated through the items he chose to collect, including three Super 8 films showing life at the library and a recording of a long conversation between Larkin and his mother who he wrote to every day.

The display takes its name from a Larkin poem about books, a library and its visitors. The title reflects both the site responsive contextual approach they have taken and the invitation for new eyes to view Larkin’s work. Visitors are encouraged to become immersed in the images, sounds and artefacts that have been brought together.

Larkin: New Eyes Each Year invites questions from the visitor. It is an opportunity to consider Larkin’s sense of self and how control of his own image is reflected in representations of himself through rarely seen letters, photographs and doodles.

Curator Anna Farthing said: “Our commission was to surprise and our response has been to focus on Larkin’s personal possessions, rather than his poetry or writing about him by others. We know that ordinary things were meaningful for him and he was a great collector of souvenirs and thoughtful about their placement. Therefore we invite visitors to investigate for themselves, to peek between the layers of our display, to recognise and question and to use their own imaginations. We hope that this experience will stimulate new responses to his much contested character as well as draw people to his legacy of poetic works.”

Although renowned as a poet, Larkin described himself as a librarian and was in that role at the University of Hull for 30 years, from 1955 to his death in 1985 at the age of 63. Larkin oversaw the design and construction of the university’s Brynmor Jones Library in the 1950s, as well as its extension in the 1970s, making New Eyes Each Year have great resonance as a site specific exhibition in his building.

Throughout his life, Larkin lived among words in books, diaries, notebooks and letters. When his house was cleared it was found to contain thousands of books. Over 3,700 of these, along with 11,000 letters are now conserved together with the University’s archives in Hull History Centre.

Martin Green, Director of Hull 2017: “Philip Larkin is one of the most renowned artists to have lived in Hull and we are delighted that this new exhibition is opening as a centrepiece of our Freedom season. With Anna Farthing’s surprising take on how to present from the thousands of objects that belonged to him, we hope that it will stimulate even more interest in the poet, whether you have read him or not.”

Professor Eddie Dawes, Chairman of The Philip Larkin Society said: “We are delighted to have been directly involved in the creation of this major new exhibition. We hope that the Exhibition will both surprise and stimulate visitors and that many may wish to follow up their interest by joining the Society.’

Martin Green, CEO and Director of Hull 2017 opens the Exhibition with Michelle Anderson, the University’s Librarian.

The curator, Anna Farthing.

Mingling at the reception.

Awaiting the first visitors.

By the tree of ties.

During its first week of opening the exhibition attracted over 2000 visitors.

Photographs © Tom Arran


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