Dulwich Picture Gallery: England’s First Public Art Gallery

If you’ve stumbled across this blog before, you might have noticed that I have an interest in the history of museums after discovering traces of the world’s first museum; the Musaeum Tradescantianum  at the Garden Museum, the Ashmolean and a few others besides.

But what about the first Art Gallery?

The oldest Art Gallery in the world is Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, which opened its doors to the public in 1756. Although it’s on The List of places to visit, sadly, I can’t afford to get to Florence just yet so I set my sights a little closer to home.

Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dulwich Picture Gallery

“I wonder,” I mused to myself one afternoon, “which art gallery is the oldest in England?” Could it be Tate Britian, which opened in 1897? Nope. What about the  National Gallery then? It opened in 1824, which makes it older that Tate. But, no. There’s an even older art gallery out there.

You’ve probably guessed from the title of this post what that art gallery might be, thus making that last paragraph somewhat redundant. It was fun to write, so I’m keeping it.

Opening in 1811, the oldest Art Gallery in England is the Dulwich Picture Gallery. 

Located in Dulwich – the nicer part of Deepest, Darkest South-East London, and a hop, skip and a jump away from the Horniman as well, I decided to take a trip to see what treasures awaited me in the Oldest Art Gallery in England.

After a greeting and a brief chat with a really friendly and enthusiastic gallery assistant, I started exploring. Although it’s only a relatively small space compared to some of the other Art Galleries in London there’s still so much to see.

Personally, I find the people in galleries just as fascinating as the pictures they are looking at. It’s always interesting to see where they linger and to catch a whisper of what they say to each other. It’s nearly always a whisper, rarely more. Sometimes the quiet is rather peaceful, but I think I’d much rather hear some excitement, some enthusiasm, even a question being asked and answered aloud instead of quiet contemplation.

Anyway, enough with the ranting. People in galleries do make for some rather nice pictures themselves…

Dulwich Picture Gallery
People of the Dulwich Picture Gallery
People of the Dulwich Picture Gallery
People of the Dulwich Picture Gallery

You can also see badges from the Dulwich Picture Gallery over at the Museum of Museum Badges.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. sapphiradoll says:

    The last picture is really cool! The building seems like it’s an interesting shape…. kind of like a mausoleum. Was it built specifically as a gallery? Or was it something else before?

    1. Hi Sapphira, I believe it was built specifically as a gallery. It was designed by Sir John Soane, who had a thing for adding mausolea.

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