Vanished Hartlepool landmark remembered in new exhibition

One of Keith McIntyre's Moladh Elephantus drawings.
One of Keith McIntyre's Moladh Elephantus drawings.

A former Hartlepool landmark will be back in the public eye when it becomes a feature of a new art exhibition.

Elephant Rock stood guard on the coastline in the town until it was washed away by a storm in 1891. But now, it is being remembered in an exhibition at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima), which runs until January 31.

Keith McIntyre’s display is called Moladh Elephantus. It investigates processes of coastal erosion, particularly rock formations, through Hartlepool Headland’s Elephant Rock.

Elephant Rock was carved from millennia of coastal erosion and cliff mining.

The limestone geological feature eventually collapsed into the sea and all that is left are its feet, a few protruding weathered stones where the gentle giant once lived.

It was immortalised by Victorian artists like J.S. Holmes and Frances Frith. A team led by Frith photographed the Elephant Rock in 1886, and their picture was made into a postcard, which sold thousands of copies.

McIntyre reimagines the Elephant Rock through a series of new works, taking inspiration from engravings or postcards.

Mima Curator, Alix Collingwood-Swinburn, said: “Moladh Elephantus is the third and final instalment in the drawing? series and gives the public another chance to see the importance of drawing not just as an art form but in all areas of life.

“The series has been a huge success, showcasing the region’s creative outputs at a time fitting to us in our current transformation as the useful museum, a civic institution that promotes art as a tool for social change.”

Keith McIntyre said: “In this exhibition there are a number of mural scale ink drawings on giant easels re-imagining the giant Elephant Rock that used to be on the Hartlepool Headland.

“There are also postcards from other Elephant Rocks located around the world.

Keith McIntyre is Professor of Fine Art and Head of the Department of Arts at Northumbria University.