Founded in 1911 from the bequest of Richard Glynn Vivian, the gallery now holds works spanning the 18th to the 20th century.
After inheriting shares in the Hafod Copper works in 1855, Richard Glynn Vivian began acquiring art from all over the world. In 1911 he decided to gift his collection to the people of Swansea for their enjoyment, and oversaw the construction of a gallery to house it.
Following the completion of a multi-million-pound redevelopment and refurbishment project in 2016, the gallery reopened with added space for displays and exhibitions, as well as a dedicated library and archive devoted to visitor research.
Richard Glynn Vivian's original bequest comprises works by British and European old masters, including those of Welsh artists Richard Wilson and Penry Williams. Among the highlights are Correggio's Ecce Homo and a selection of works by Gustave Doré which Glynn purchased from the artist's studio sale in Paris in 1885. The Welsh, English, European and Oriental pottery and porcelain he acquired is also housed at the gallery.
The collection also includes a generous donation from François Depeaux – a major collector of Impressionist painting and patron of Alfred Sisley – who decided to give his beloved Swansea (where he established his business in coal mining) an important group of works by artists from Rouen where he lived. Other major gifts include paintings by Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, John Piper and Kyffin Williams, bequeathed by architect, Sir Alex Gordon.