Dulwich Picture Gallery in London
Dulwich Picture Gallery is an art gallery in Dulwich, South London. England's first purpose-built public art gallery, it was designed by Regency architect Sir John Soane and opened to the public in 1817. Soane arranged the exhibition spaces as a series of interlinked rooms illuminated naturally through skylights – a concept that had an enduring influence on art gallery design. The gallery houses one of the country’s finest collections of Old Masters, especially rich in French, Italian and Spanish Baroque paintings and in British portraits from Tudor times to the 19th century. The Gallery is a registered charity.
History of the collection
The Dulwich collection was first put together by Sir Francis Bourgeois (1753–1811), originally from Switzerland, and his business partner, Frenchman Noël Desenfans. The two ran a successful art dealership in London and in 1790 were commissioned by the King of Poland, Stanislaus Augustus, to put together a "royal collection", which the monarch lacked and thought would encourage fine arts in Poland. Touring around Europe buying fine art, Bourgeois and Desenfans took five years to put the collection together, but by 1795 Poland had been partitioned — divided up by its stronger neighbours — and no longer existed.
Bourgeois and Desenfans attempted to sell the collection to other nations but were unsuccessful and instead sold small pieces to fund the purchase of further important works, keeping the collection in London. After the death of Desenfans in 1807, Bourgeois contacted the British Museum about bequeathing the collection on his own death, but was put off by the attitude of the Museum's trustees. Upon Sir Francis Bourgeois's death in 1811, he bequeathed the collection to Dulwich College (then part of a larger charity, Alleyn's College of God's Gift) and Dulwich Picture Gallery was founded by the terms of his will.
A major addition to the collection came in 1835, when William Linley — last of a musical and theatrical family — bequeathed his collection of family portraits to the gallery on his death.
On 31 December 1966 eight paintings were stolen; three by Rembrandt, three by Rubens and one each by Gerrit Dou and Adam Elsheimer. They were worth at the time about £4.5 million in total but a reward of just £1,000 was offered for their return. Nevertheless within a few days the paintings were recovered as the result of an investigation led by Detective Superintendent Charles Hewett, who had previously investigated suspected serial killer Dr John Bodkin Adams.
Michael Hall, an unemployed ambulance driver, was the only one of the thieves caught and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Rembrandt's small early Portrait of Jacob de Gheyn III has been stolen and recovered four times, most recently in 1983, and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most frequently stolen artwork in the world. It has variously been recovered from a left-luggage office in West Germany in 1986; returned anonymously; found on the back of a bicycle; and discovered under a bench in a graveyard in nearby Streatham. The painting is now closely guarded by an upgraded security system.
In 1995 a major reorganisation of the historic Alleyn's College charity resulted in the reconstitution of Dulwich Picture Gallery as an independent registered charity.
In 2011 the Gallery celebrated its Bicentenary year.
History of the building
When Bourgeois died in 1811 bequeathing his collection, the terms of his will stated that a new museum was to be built by his friend, the architect Sir John Soane, which would house the collection and would be open to the public. It also left £2,000 for construction costs.
Soane's clear design and basic architecture of a series of interlinked rooms lit by natural light through overhead skylights has been the primary influence on art gallery design ever since. The Dulwich College Picture Gallery (as it was named at the time) opened its doors in 1817. Soane designed the sky lights to illuminate the paintings indirectly, and gave us one the great small galleries in which to look at oil paintings. Indeed, the influential C20th architect Philip Johnson said of the space: "Soane has taught us how to display paintings.".
Bourgeois and Desenfans, along with Desenfans' wife, who funded part of their work, are buried in a mausoleum at the centre of the west wing of the museum. Alms houses constructed by Soane along the west side of the gallery were converted into exhibition space by Charles Barry, Jr. in 1880 and an eastward extension was built to designs by E S Hall between 1908 and 1938.
The mausoleum and west wing galleries were badly damaged by a German V1 flying bomb on 12 July 1944, during World War II; apparently, the bones were scattered across the lawn in front of the gallery. The three sarcophagi in the mausoleum now once again contain approximately a skeleton each, but nobody was quite sure which bones were whose. The buildings were refurbished by Austin Vernon and Partners, and re-opened by HM The Queen Mother on 27 April 1953.
A modern extension designed by Rick Mather was built in 1999, adding a café, educational facilities, a lecture theatre, a new entrance and glazed walkway, and joining the building to the chapel and offices of Alleyn's College. Parts of Soane's original design were also restored, having been changed during previous extensions. This latest refurbishment was opened by HM The Queen on 25 May 2000.
The permanent collection and exhibitions
Dulwich Picture Gallery houses a collection of European old master paintings mostly of the 17th and 18th centuries, many of the highest quality. It also hosts significant temporary exhibitions. Recent examples include Canaletto in England, Paul Nash: The Elements, Norman Rockwell's America and Twombly-Poussin: Arcadian Painters.
The education programme
Dulwich Picture Gallery is famous for its innovative Education programme, particularly for its Community Outreach programmes including Urban Youth and Good Times: Art for Older People. The Education Department also runs an expansive programme of art courses and lectures.
- Dutch School
- Cuyp, Aelbert - 11 paintings;
- Dou, Gerrit - 1 painting;
- Hobbema, Meyndert - 1 painting;
- Hooch, Pieter de - 2 paintings;
- Neer, Aernout van der - 1 painting;
- Ostade, Adriaen van - 5 paintings;
- Rembrandt van Rijn - 3 paintings;
- Ruisdael, Jacob van - 4 paintings;
- Velde, Adriaen van de - 2 paintings;
- Velde, Willem van de...the Younger - 3 paintings;
- Weenix, Jan - 1 painting;
- Wouwerman, Philip - 12 paintings;
- English School
- Dobson, William - 1 painting;
- Gainsborough, Thomas - 7 paintings;
- Hogarth, William - 2 paintings;
- Landseer, Sir Edwin - 1 painting;
- Lawrence, Thomas - 3 paintings;
- Reynolds, Joshua - 9 paintings;
- Constable, John - 1 painting;
- Flemish School
- Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger - 1 painting;
- Rubens, Peter Paul - 10 paintings;
- Teniers, David - 19 paintings;
- Van Dyck, Anthony - 5 paintings;
- French School
- Dughet, Gaspard - 4 paintings;
- Fragonard, Jean-Honoré - 1 painting;
- Gellée, Claude - 4 paintings;
- Poussin, Nicolas - 6 paintings;
- Vernet, Claude-Joseph - 6 paintings;
- Watteau, Jean-Antoine - 2 paintings;
- Italian School
- Canaletto, (Giovanni Antonio Canal) - 2 paintings;
- Carracci, Annibale - 4 paintings;
- Guercino, (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) - 2 paintings;
- Raphael, (Raffaello Sanzio) - 2 Paintings;
- Reni, Guido - 2 paintings;
- Ricci, Sebastiano - 2 paintings;
- Tiepolo, Giovanni Battista - 3 paintings;
- Vasari, Giorgio - 1 painting;
- Veronese, Paolo - 1 painting;
- Zuccarelli, Francesco - 3 paintings;
- Spanish School
- Murillo, Bartolomé-Esteban - 4 paintings;
Ian A.C. Dejardin is the current Director of the gallery; he has been in the post since 2005. From 1996 to 2005, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, now Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, was the Director.
- Dulwich OnView, a blog-based magazine associated with the gallery
- Gallery Road, to the west of the gallery