Dulwich Picture Gallery

The first purpose-built gallery in Britain, Dulwich opened its doors to the public in 1814.

Designed by Sir John Soane as a series of interlinking rooms illuminated naturally through skylights, the Gallery is an architectural masterpiece that sits quietly on extensive lawns.

It must also be the only gallery in the world with a mausoleum at its heart containing the tombs of its founders. At the core of the collection are the pictures amassed in 1795 by the art dealer Noel Desenfans and the artist Sir Francis Bourgeois. They were originally intended for the King of Poland, but after Poland was partitioned and the King abdicated, the pictures were left to Dulwich College on condition that they remained on public display. The collection grew organically in the 19th and 20th centuries, and it is now double the size it was when the gallery was founded.

Permanent collections

On show are some of the world's most important European Old Masters from the 17th and 18th centuries. The emphasis is on quality rather than quantity, making for relaxed rather than exhausting visits.

Three rooms showcase works by British artists, including Sir Joshua Reynolds's theatrical portrait Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse. There are also several Gainsborough portraits of elegant society figures, the highlight of which is the handsome Linley Sisters.

Rubens, Claude, Van Dyck and Cuyp are well represented, but the real stars of the collection are Rembrandt and Poussin. Rembrandt's famous Girl at a Window is an intimate scene that shines out amidst Dutch flower pieces, genre scenes and landscapes.

Among the 13 Poussins is The Triumph of David. David presents Goliath's head on a pole to the joyful Israelites, and the composition is a riot of colour and gesture. There's a lively programme of temporary shows in the special exhibition galleries, the unexpected displays of modern British and North American painting reflecting the Director's enthusiasms.

Art Funded works

The three granite boulders of Peter Randall-Page's sculpture Walking the Dog sit on the lawn outside the gallery, their decoration echoing the frieze that runs round the building.

Inside, Sir Peter Lely's Portrait of Bartholomew Beale shows the curly headed young boy with his hand resting on a bust of Homer. Acquired in 2010, the painting is a companion piece to Dulwich's popular A Boy as a Shepherd.

Visitor information

Housed in Dulwich's modern extension, the café offers breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and an indulgent afternoon tea with scones and finger sandwiches.


Art we've helped buy at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Venue details

Dulwich Picture Gallery Gallery Road London SE21 7AD 020 8693 5254 www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk

Entry details

Free entry to permanent collections with National Art Pass (standard entry £5)

Reduced price entry to exhibitions with National Art Pass

Tue – Fri, 10am – 5pm
Sat – Sun, 11am – 5pm

Closed Mon except Bank Holidays

Closed 25 – 26 Dec, 1 Jan

Share this article