Lady Lever Art Gallery Collections
The Lady Lever Art Gallery houses one of the UK’s finest collections of fine and decorative art. It has the best collection of Wedgwood jasperware anywhere in the world and its collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings is internationally renowned.
The gallery was founded by William Hesketh Lever (1851-1925) and is dedicated to the memory of his wife Elizabeth. Lever wanted to share his collections with the public. At first he used the library for small displays, but he needed a bigger building for his collections. Lever personally selected works of art from his huge collection for the gallery. The gallery still contains the best of his personal art collection.
A new permanent display open from 5 July 2008, the Lever the Collector gallery, introduces the man and his collections, telling the story of how he built the gallery.
The Lady Lever Art Gallery’s South End galleries reopened in 2016, following a £2.8m major development project. The galleries have been returned to their original architectural glory, showcasing objects in a similarly impressive style to that employed by William Hesketh Lever when the gallery first opened in 1922.
Chinese art – Collection of 1,000 Chinese works of art including: a large amount of 17th-18th century porcelain (from Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong periods); some reverse paintings on glasscloisonné, jade and other hardstones; snuff bottles; earlier ceramics of the Han, Tang and Song dynasties (2nd century BCE – 14th century AD).
Classical Antiquities – Many of the pieces in this collection were acquired in 1917 from the sales of two major pre-existing collections. From the collection of Alexander Ionides (1840 – 1898) he bought twenty-seven vases and a few terracottas. From a collection that had been built by Thomas Hope (1769 – 1831) he bought 35 ancient vases and sculptures, as well as the ‘Cephalus and Aurora’ sculpture by John Flaxman.
Furniture – Holdings of furniture range in date from the late 16th century to the beginning of the 19th. This covers what in Lord Leverhulme’s lifetime was considered to be the definitive period of fine English cabinet-making.
Masonic – The collection contains approximately 640 items many from the 18th century. It includes jewels, aprons, collars, cuffs, sashes, ceramics, glass items and certificates.
Paintings – It was Victorian art that Lord Leverhulme first began to collect seriously. The gallery now holds an unique group of key pictures by some of the greatest Victorian painters. As well as works by both the early and later Pre-Raphaelites, there is also a varied collection of mid and late Victorian masterpieces from artists such as Lord Leighton and Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.
Sculpture – Besides the purchase of more traditional works by artists such as John Flaxman, he also became the single most important patron of the ‘New Sculpture’ movement. This was largely through friendships with artists like Edward Onslow Ford and William Goscombe John.
Tapestries – Most of the tapestries held in the Lady Lever Art Gallery were acquired between 1915 and 1920. The collection includes a number of important works.
Wedgwood Collection – The gallery claims to hold the finest collection of jasperware in the world. Much of the collection was bought from the 1st Lord Tweedmouth in 1905. Lord Tweedmouth had in turn acquired major pieces from the naturalist Charles Darwin, who was a grandson of Josiah Wedgwood himself. Leverhulme went on to add many interesting pieces to this collection, not least the rare plaques made by Wedgwood and painted by George Stubbs.
Works on Paper – The Lady Lever Art Gallery’s works on paper collection is made up of around 700 fine art works. These include watercolours, drawings and prints by British and European artists. Highlights of the collection are; the Old Master drawings from the studio of Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), masterpiece watercolours by JMW Turner (1775–1851) and pencil studies by Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898).
The gallery also holds regular exhibitions. Please see separate posts.
- Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 10.00 am – 6.00 pm; closed Mondays, except bank holidays; Booking is essential
- Free entry
- Location Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight Village, Wirral CH62 5EQ
- Getting there: By Car: if you are travelling from Liverpool, use the Birkenhead (Queensway) tunnel. From elsewhere, leave the M53 at junction 4 and follow the signs for Port Sunlight village; By Bus: 464 bus to Bebington Road (from Sir Thomas St in Liverpool) 38 bus to Bebington rail station (runs between Clatterbridge Hospital and West Kirby station). For more information please call 0151 478 4136