Wilson Gift to go on display for the first time

  • 29 June 2006

An outstanding collection of Modern British art has been bequeathed to Pallant House Gallery through Art Fund by Professor Sir Colin St John Wilson, architect of the British Library.

Pallant House Gallery has built a contemporary new building, designed by Long & Kentish, in association with Professor Wilson, to house its own collection of modern art, now including Professor Wilson’s Gift. It is truly exceptional that a significant architect has designed a gallery to house his own collection. The re-opening of the Gallery on 1 July will be the first time The Wilson Gift has been seen together.

The Wilson Gift significantly enhances the already impressive collection of Pallant House Gallery and confirms its claim to be the home of Modern Art in the South. The Gift was donated to the Gallery in 2006 and consists of around 400 works including important pieces by Michael Andrews, Peter Blake, Patrick Caulfield, Lucian Freud and RB Kitaj. It was always intended that Professor Wilson’s collection would go to Pallant House Gallery and to ensure the collection was kept together for future generations it was bequeathed through The Art Fund.

Professor Wilson has had a long association with Pallant House Gallery and felt that the forward thinking approach of its director, Stefan van Raay, would allow for the most successful display of his collection. The Wilson Gift is intensely personal and was built up over the past fifty years. It was acquired, very often, directly from the artists themselves, many of whom are personal friends of Professor Wilson.

Notable works include Michael Andrew’s Colony Room (1962), Peter Blake’s The Beatles 1962 (1963-8, pictured above), Richard Hamilton’s Swingeing London ’67 (1967), and Lucian Freud’s Self-Portrait with Hyacinth in Pot (1947-8). The collection is mainly composed of figurative paintings and, unusually, includes many preliminary studies of the original works, such as Bomberg’s charcoal and coloured crayon drawings for his painting The South-East Corner, Jerusalem (1926) and 30 small studies for Patrick Caulfield’s Portrait of Juan Gris (1963).

Professor Wilson has described his collection as an addiction: “only the fellow addict can understand the catch in the breath and the thumping heart of love-at-first-sight that signals the next (‘absolute must’) acquisition.” (Wilson, The Art of Drawing and Painting, Pallant House Gallery, 1999).

Related Links:

Watch Nicholas Glass’s visit to the new gallery on Channel 4 News

Pallant House Gallery