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Walk on with Art in your Heart
Walker Art Gallery (Liverpool)
Member Name: Zmugzy
Walker Art Gallery (Liverpool)
Date: 28/11/06, updated on 08/06/10 (231 review reads)
Advantages: Pleasant environment with many great works of art
Disadvantages: Not much 20th Century art but the gallery reflects the period of the 19th Century when it was built.
It was the 15th Earl of Derby who opened the Walker Art Gallery (now also known as the National Gallery of the North) on 6 September 1877. It houses an important international art collection dating from the 14th to the 21st century, but I would say that most of the works are from around the late 19th century period.
The gallery is most noted for its collection of European Old Masters, Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite pictures and modern British works. There are the Medieval, Renaissance, and Eighteenth Century and High Victorian galleries. There is also a beautiful Sculpture gallery to the right of the main entrance as you walk in. Outstanding works include Simone Martini's Christ Discovered in the Temple and masterpieces by Rubens, Rembrandt, Poussin, Gainsborough and Hogarth. Other important artists include: Claude Monet, David Hockney, Paul Nash, WR Sickert and JMW Turner.
Probably my favourite artists at this gallery are from the Pre-Raphaelite school that include works by John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Giovanni Segantini, Annie Louisa Swynnerton and John William Waterhouse. There are a number of memorable paintings that I particularly like; these include:
'Echo and Narcissus' (1903) by John William Waterhouse. In Greek mythology, the unhappy nymph Echo was condemned to repeat the last words spoken to her but fell in love with the beautiful youth Narcissus. After rejecting her, he was punished by falling in love with his own reflection. He became obsessed by the sight of his own beauty and died. Yellow narcissus flowers grew where he died and Waterhouse has included these in the painting.
'A Horse Frightened by a Lion' (1770) by George Stubbs. 2006 marked the bi-centenary of the death of George Stubbs, one of Liverpool's most famous artists. The gallery houses a number of his horse paintings and drawings. Stubbs became intimately acquainted with horses during his youth. He achieved notoriety across Europe for his publication 'The Anatomy of the Horse' (1766), a study of the equine skeleton and muscles on which he laboured for nearly ten years.
'The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel' (c1824) by Louis Daguerre. I think this is a stunning painting. Daguerre is best known for his contribution to the history of photography. He invented the first photographic process, the daguerreotype in 1839, but he also became famous for the development of dioramas.
There is also an unusual painting by Paul Cézanne called "The Murder"- an early painting by him and not his usual subject matter. It is one of Cézanne's early paintings, an unusually dramatic piece depicting the brutality of the act. The murderer lifts his hand ready to give the final blow while his accomplice uses her heavy and rounded body to keep the victim pinned down. The faces of the two murderers are hidden, but the victim's face is contorted with pain.
The Craft and Design Gallery
There is a recently opened Craft & Design Gallery at the Walker where you will find displays showing the gallery's extensive collection of decorative arts including jewellery, tableware, fashion and furniture. It features more than 500 items dating back 300 years. The aim of the gallery is to show the important part art has played in everyday life over the past 300 years. I really liked this gallery because as well as antique pieces you will also find relatively recent historical artefacts such as early mobile phones and I had to smile when I saw the Gameboy. Another interesting item that caught my eye was a collarless stage suit made for John Lennon. There was also a chamber pot that was designed for Napoleon to use in exile but I'm not sure if he used it!
The John Moores exhibition
The Walker plays host to the biennial John Moores Exhibition. This is in fact a competition for Britain's up and coming contemporary painters. I've always liked the modern stuff but I know it is not to everybody's taste. Since 1980, the Walker Art Gallery has automatically added the first prize-winning work to its collection. Nowadays the exhibition coincides with the Liverpool Biennial, which takes place throughout the city. The next Liverpool Biennial will take place during the capital of culture year in 2008.
Despite the more recent modern additions to the collection, the collection at the Walker remains dominated by earlier periods of art, especially the 18th and 19th centuries. It will therefore appeal more to those who prefer traditional figurative paintings rather than those who are mentally stimulated by looking at a pile of bricks or a tin of soup.
Walker Art Gallery cafe and shop
There is quite a good cafe along with a gallery shop. I always find it essential to sit down and have a coffee after a trawl around a gallery or a museum. The café is situated on the ground floor at the far end from the main entrance. I find the food there of quite good quality although a bit expensive which I guess is to be expected. There is a good selection of open sandwiches, salads, cakes and refreshments. The shop is not that big but it does stock a range of books, postcards, prints and souvenirs, including crafts and jewellery.
The Gallery is open every day from 10am-5pm. The gallery has ramped wheelchair access and there are lifts to the upper floor. The education suite also has full wheelchair access and there is a specially adapted toilet.
There is a car park conveniently placed right next to the gallery on William Brown Street, but during the week this is pay and display only. It's best to go on a Sunday when there is free parking in this area. Public car parks can be found at Camden Street off Islington and Queen Square.
Admission is free although there may at times be a charge for selected special exhibitions.
Summary: A great gallery