Dulwich Picture Gallery is the oldest public gallery in England and is also the first purpose built Gallery in England. It has been described as
"The most beautiful small art gallery in the world" - The Sunday Telegraph

As well as a permanent collection of paintings they put on numerous exhibitions. Recent exhibitions include Murillo: Scenes of Childhood and E.H. Shepard, the Man who drew Pooh. Upcoming exhibitions are:

  • Howard Hodgkin at Dulwich Picture Gallery
    26 June - 19 August 2001
  • The Golden Age of Watercolours: The Hickman Bacon Collection
    19 September 2001 - 6 January 2002
  • William Beckford
    6 February - 14 April 2002
  • Dutch Italianates 1600-1700
    22 May - 26 August 2002
  • David Wilkie
    10 September - 1 December 2002
  • Arthur Rackham
    18 December 2002 - 15 February 2003
The Gallery itself is situated in College Rd, Dulwich, Southwark, London. The nearest train stations are West Dulwich, Sydenham Hill and North Dulwich. The P4 bus stops in the road and both the 3, 37 and P13 stop nearby. The building itself is beautiful and is widely acclaimed as a stunning and well designed small gallery. Although smaller than the National Gallery it is cheaper to get in and the whole gallery can be seen in one afternoon with the added bonus of being set amongst the green area of Dulwich.

The Collection

The original collection was collected for an entirely different purpose in mind than that with which it was finally put to use. In 1790 one of the most successful art dealerships in Georgian London was asked by Stanislaus Augustus, King of Poland, to put together a Royal Collection for him with the possibility of development into a National Gallery.

The dealership was a partnership between Noel Desenfans, a Frenchman, and Sir Francis Bourgeois, a younger Swiss friend of Desenfans. The two set about forming the collection but in 1795 the King of Poland was forced to abdicate after his state was eclipsed into non-existence by surrounding nations.

However Desenfans and Bourgeois did not despair and continued to build up the collection, selling some works and buying new items. They also now began to look for a buyer for the collection after being turned down by, amongst others, the Tsar of Russia and the British Government, they looked for somewhere to house the collection. Bourgeois continued the search on his own after the death of Desenfans in 1807.

Since at the time there was no National Gallery in Britain the British Museum seemed to obvious place but Bourgeois disliked the trustees. Bourgeois had friends at Dulwich College and so bequeathed the collection to them on the basis that it would be on public display. With a generous donation from the wealthy widow of Desenfans, Margaret, the building of Dulwich Picture Gallery began.

Now the Gallery houses 600 works with about 300 on display at any one time. Although most of the works are from the Desenfans-Bourgeois collection some hail from other sources. The portraits of Edward Alleyn and his wife previously hung in the College and there are a variety of other works which have been added to the collection over the years. The are paintings by most of the great 17th and 18th century masters including:

The Building

The Gallery was designed by Sir John Soane, the outstanding architect of his day. At the time of construction there was no electric lighting so Soane carefully built in skylights around the building and a clever ceiling design both of which mean that to this day the Gallery hardly has to use artificial lighting.

After being damaged in World War II the Gallery was reconstructed on Soane's original plans except for the entrance porch and East side extensions, which had been added in 1910. The building is centred upon the mausoleum containing the bodies of its three founders, Noel and Margaret Desenfans and Francis Bourgeois.

Recently the Gallery was closed to undergo extensive refurbishment. A new extension was built which runs along side Christ's Chapel of God's Gift (this work was done in conjunction with major work done on the Chapel itself). There is now a café and teaching rooms available for school trips to receive a talk on the Gallery and its collection. Most importantly there is now new office and storage space. This has allowed the Gallery to vacate rooms designed for display which they were having to use for storage and office space.


If you go to the gallery /msg or email me before hand and come and drop in on me because I live just up the road.

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