History of the gallery
The Lady Lever Art Gallery has an extensive collection of fine and decorative arts (in particular British 18th and 19th century paintings). It was founded by William Hesketh Lever (1851-1925) to host the best pieces of his personal art collection and the gallery was named in memory of his wife Elizabeth. Lever was a multimillionaire entrepreneur who started his fortune by making soaps - his empire became “Unilever”.
The gallery’s collection and web site
The gallery is easy to access, with ample parking space. The entry is free of charge (including and audio guide with an adult and a children commentary). Non-commercial photography is permitted inside the gallery, as long as you don’t use a flash nor a tripod and sign a consent form at the front desk. Photography is not permitted in temporary exhibitions.
The website of the gallery is remarkable and well worth a visit. It is easy to navigate and contains extensive information on the collections, individual paintings and featured artists. You can browse the collection of the gallery online by alphabetical order of the artists name and even listen to audio commentaries on your computer. No need to download them on your MP3 player, as the gallery will lend you a free audio guide. I would give a full mark to this web site.
The only (but significant) negative point about the gallery is that the light level in some rooms is low to protect the works of art, which means that certain paintings are hard to see. In the main gallery, you have to add to the light issue the fact that some paintings are exhibited ones on top of the others, reflecting the conception of art galleries at the time of its creation. The combination of the distance and low lighting means you see more clearly the painting on the web site… a real shame.
If you like the Pre-Raphaelite artists, you have to go and see the works by Millais, Rossetti , Burne-Jones and Leighton.
Room number 30 has ‘Cottage at East Bergholt’ (c. 1833) a landscape by Constable with heavy applications of paint done with knife paintings and a large oil painting by Turner, both of high interest.
The 19th and 20th century paintings exhibited on the East and West balconies are far less interesting.
Temporary exhibition on French Impressionists
The current temporary exhibition is on French Impressionists. It runs from February 20th until the May 31st 2009 with works by Renoir, Monet, Degas and Rodin coming from Stockholm. The exhibition is described as “small but exceptional”. When I visited the gallery, there was an exhibition of drawings which were well presented, perfectly lit and interesting. So the cristicism on the lighting conditions for part of the main collection does not extend to the temporary exhibition space.
Lady Lever Art Gallery
Port Sunlight Village
Telephone 0151 478 4136
International Telephone +44 151 478 4136