Dulwich Picture Gallery was built as England's first purpose-built public art gallery. The building was built by Sir John Soane and first opened to the public in 1817. The Gallery houses a small but select collection of European old master paintings mostly of the 1600s and 1700s, many of the highest quality. It also hosts small but often significant temporary exhibitions.
The Dulwich collection was first put together by Sir Francis Bourgeois (1753–1811) and his business partner, Frenchman Noël Desenfans. They were commissioned by the King of Poland in 1790 to put together a "royal collection".
The two spent five years touring Europe buying fine art but by 1795 Poland had been partitioned and no longer existed. The pair tried unsuccessfully to sell or donate the collection but eventually upon his death in 1811 Bourgeois bequeathed it to Dulwich College and the Gallery was founded by the terms of his will.
A major addition to the collection came in 1835, when William Linley bequeathed his collection of family portraits to the gallery on his death.
In 1966 eight paintings were stolen; three by Rembrandt, three by Rubens and one each by Gerrit Dou and Adam Elsheimer. They were worth at the time about £4.5 million in total but a reward of just £1,000 was offered for their return. The paintings were recovered a few days later by the police.
Dulwich Picture Gallery offers a unique venue where you can celebrate your wedding, hold a dinner or enjoy a canapé reception in the company of priceless old master paintings. Spaces available are Gallery & Garden, Linbury Room and the Dulwich Picture Gallery Café.
The Gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday every week 10.00am until 5.00pm (last entry 4.30pm). It is not open on Mondays. However, the Gallery is open on all UK Bank Holiday Mondays and Good Friday from 11.00 but is closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.
Free Gallery guided tours of the permanent collection take place at 3:00pm each Saturday and Sunday.
Contact details for Dulwich Picture gallery tel: 020 8693 5254, fax: 020 8299 8700.
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