Today marks the 200th anniversary of the bequest which led to the foundation of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which actually opened in 1817, becoming Britain’s first purpose-build public art gallery. But the good people who run the gallery are celebrating now, with a big event at the gallery tomorrow from 12:00.
The London art dealer Sir Francis Bourgeois died 200 years ago today on 8 January 1811. He and his partner assembled a priceless collection of works on behalf of the king of Poland. Unfortunately, Poland in the meantime had been conquered by its neighbours and broken up. Due to the general turmoil in Europe at the time, the partners were unable to find a buyer for this precious assemblage, so Bourgeois bequeathed it to Dulwich College, with the gallery which became its home being designed by Sir John Soane.
Part of this year’s celebration involves the gallery featuring a famous picture on loan each month. First up is a late portrait of Sir John Soane himself by Sir Thomas Lawrence which normally resides in the library of the Sir John Soane Museum. Regular readers may recall me wondering why this picture was not on show at the Thomas Lawrence exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and perhaps this is the reason. May I, once again, urge you to visit this superb show which closes on 23 January.
The director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, Ian Dejardin, was interviewed at some length on last night’s Front Row on Radio 4. You can catch it on iPlayer here, well worth a listen.