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Well-kept secret of the London art world
Wallace Collection (London)
Member Name: JOHNDMR
Wallace Collection (London)
Date: 20/10/00, updated on 20/10/00 (53 review reads)
Advantages: Quite small but first-rate collection of paintings
Disadvantages: Old-fashioned aura might put some visitors off
The Wallace Collection is one of London's best-kept secrets, in more than one sense. Situated in Manchester Square, a few minutes' walk off the north side of Oxford Street, it was formed by members of the Hertford family and bequeathed to the nation at the end of the 19th century, on condition that it should be kept on display with nothing added or removed, even on temporary loan to other exhibitions or galleries.
In its own way it is a bit of a time capsule, but it is quite compact, has some superb furniture, porcelain, enamels, jewellery, clocks, bronzes and armour, and for many visitors (myself included) the main attraction is to be found in some exceptional paintings of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. All things considered, it's probably the finest in this field after the National Gallery. Under one roof you will find famous works like Hals' 'Laughing Cavalier', Rubens' 'Rainbow Landscape', Watteau's 'Les Charmes de la Vie', and Fragonard's 'The Swing'. There are also some marvellous portraits, among them Gainsborough's 'Mary (Perdita) Robinson', Reynolds' 'Nelly O'Brien', and a particular favourite of mine, Angeli's lovely head and shoulders portrait of Queen Victoria's tragic eldest daughter, the German Crown Princess. Also worth seeking out are a group of pictures by the shortlived Turner protege Bonington, and a charming Dutch landscape by Cuyp, 'The Avenue at Meerdevoort'.
This is inevitably only a small personal selection, but a number of the great English, French and Flemish artists of the age are represented. If your taste in art tends towards the slightly more old-fashioned, this is well worth putting on your list after the National Gallery. It's small enough to enjoy on just one visit, though a look on the very user-friendly website to search out anything of particular interest beforehand would be time well spent.
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