Lady Lever Art Gallery
History and museums
The Lady Lever Art Gallery is a museum founded and built by the industrialist and philanthropist William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme and opened in 1922. The museum is a significant surviving example of late Victorian and Edwardian taste. The Lady Lever Art Gallery is set in the garden village of Port Sunlight, close to Liverpool. It houses major collections of fine and decorative art that are an expression of Lord Leverhulme’s personal taste and collecting interests. The collection is strongest in British 19th-century painting and sculpture, spilling over to include late 18th-century and early 20th works. There are also important collections of English furniture, Wedgwood, especially jasperware, and Chinese ceramics, and smaller groups of other types of objects, such as Ancient Greek vases and Roman sculpture. The majority of objects were part of the original donation, but the collection has continued to expand at a modest rate.
The Grade II listed gallery is now part of National Museums Liverpool. In 2015 part of the museum was closed for building works, with little of the ceramics collections on display, but most of the other collections. A touring exhibition was visiting museums in Japan and elsewhere. The redeveloped areas are planned to re-open in Spring 2016.
The museum displays mostly mix paintings, sculpture and furniture together, and there are five "Period Rooms" recreating typical period interiors from large houses.
Lever began collecting art in the late 19th century, largely to use in advertising for the popular Sunlight Soap brand (manufactured a few minutes walk from the gallery) that helped to create his fortune. As he grew richer his collections began to expand, his confidence grew as well and had developed a taste for collecting. He mostly collected British art, he was also fascinated by Chinese art i.e. Chinese porcelain, Roman sculpture and Greek vases which he had chosen to collect to show styles that had influenced British artists in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries.
The Gallery has good representation of several trends in Victorian painting, including the Pre-Raphaelites, both during the period of the Brotherhood and in their subsequent careers. Concern with social conditions, classical revivalism and later historical painting are all represented. There are important works by Millais, Ford Madox Brown, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Lord Leighton, and many others. The museum has what appears to be the largest display in any museum of paintings by William Etty. Earlier works include those by Turner, Constable, Gainsborough and Reynolds.
Much of the Wedgwood collection was from the collection of Dudley Marjoribanks, 1st Baron Tweedmouth, bought in 1905. This in turn was partly formed from the collection of Charles Darwin, Josiah Wedgwood's grandson. It is probably the best collection of jasperware in the world.
The collection includes:
Commissioned in 1913 from architects William and Segar Owen, the Lady Lever Art Gallery was built in the Beaux-Arts style. The building was opened in 1922 by Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria.