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