What Is Dulwich Picture Gallery?

B. Turner
B. Turner
The Dulwich Picture Gallery contains works by Old Masters such as Rembrandt.
The Dulwich Picture Gallery contains works by Old Masters such as Rembrandt.

Dulwich Picture Gallery is an art museum in Dulwich Village in the south of London. It features a permanent collection of works by the old masters of painting, which includes some of the most well-known and celebrated artists in Europe from the 16th century through the 18th century. The Dulwich Picture Gallery also hosts frequent special exhibits, along with cultural and education events. In 2011, the gallery celebrated its 200th anniversary with an exhibit featuring some of the world's most famous paintings, which were borrowed from other top museums and galleries.

At the start of the 18th century, three art collectors and business partners donated an enormous collection of fine paintings to Dulwich College. The college used this collection as the basis for a new museum. They hired architect Sit John Soane to design a building for the collection, and Sloan responded with a stone structure that was rich in natural light from windows and skylights. The Dulwich Picture Gallery opened to the public for the first time in 1811, and its three benefactors were buried in a mausoleum at one end of the building.

During World War II, the Dulwich Picture Gallery suffered significant damage during bombing raids. While the collection of art work survived largely intact, the mausoleum was badly damaged. The skeletons of the three benefactors were later found scattered on the lawn. Due to the difficulty in identifying these remains, the bones were equally distributed among three coffins and placed back in the mausoleum. To this day, it is unknown which of these individuals lies where.

The Dulwich Picture Gallery is widely celebrated for its collection of paintings by the old European masters, including works by Van Gogh and Rembrandt. The oldest painting in the gallery dates back to 1500, and was originally thought to be a work by Leonardo Da Vinci. It was later correctly identified as "Portrait of a Young Man" by Piero Di Cosimos. The Dulwich Picture Gallery also features several special exhibit areas that change frequently. During the 21st century, these areas hosted paintings by famous American artists like Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth.

For its 200th anniversary, the Dulwich Picture Gallery added an exhibit it called "Masterpiece of the Month." For each month during 2011, the gallery exhibited a borrowed work in a prominent location. Examples include Van Gogh's "Self Portrait" and John Constable's "Leaping Horse." The Dulwich Picture Gallery also sponsors community outreach programs in the form on arts instruction and arts education classes.

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Discussion Comments


There are a number of private collectors today who have amazing collections of classic, modern and contemporary art. I hope that they will one day imitate the philanthropic spirit of the gentlemen who began the Dulwich and donate their collections for public viewing.


This article raises an important but often forgotten issue. During WWII a number of famous and important works of art were stolen or destroyed.

These range from the beautiful buildings that were bombed to painting by renaissance masters to incredible works of sculpture, tapestry and ceramics. It was a horrible blow to the history of art.

I won't be dramatic and say it was worse than the human toll, but it is a strong reminder of all that gets lost in war.


I did my PhD thesis on Van Goh and had to make several visits to the Dulwich Picture gallery to study painting in person. The have a beautiful collection and the staff were incredibly accommodating. Over the long course of writing that thesis I had to meet with a number of museum officials and not many of them were as forth coming with their resources as the Dulwich was.

Anyone who is an art lover owes it to themselves to make a visit. It is not the biggest collection and they do not have some of the landmark pieces, but they will help you to realize the full range of genius at work in the minds of painters who often get reduced to just several works.

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    • The Dulwich Picture Gallery contains works by Old Masters such as Rembrandt.
      The Dulwich Picture Gallery contains works by Old Masters such as Rembrandt.