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New Dinner Party exhibition offers food for thought

Liverpool-based artist Sam Walsh’s 1980 painting The Dinner Party captured a host of his bohemian friends mingling around one table.

Now that work is serving as the inspiration for a new exhibition which has opened at the Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead.

The Dinner Party: Of Time and Place examines the creative world Walsh inhabited, and which flourished from the 1950s onwards, through five of his painting’s guests – poet and painter Adrian Henri, painters Arthur Ballard, Don McKinlay and Maurice Cockrill, and Walsh himself.

It aims to trace the connections between the personal and professional lives of the quintet, from the houses, bars (such as Ye Cracke and the Philharmonic) and streets they frequented in L8 to their roles at institutions like the Liverpool Academy and the city’s College of Art.

And it is the first time in more than a generation that all five artists have featured in the same show.

Irish-born Walsh lived in a flat above that of Adrian Henri after moving to Liverpool as a young man, and the pair often exhibited together as well as performing in a folk singing duo.

Walsh, who died in 1989, was particularly known for his portraiture, and one of his most famous paintings is of another Liverpool singer, Paul McCartney, titled Mike’s Brother, which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.

The Dinner Party: Of Time and Place is at the Williamson Art Gallery until September 3.

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