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Walker Art Gallery

WALKER ART GALLERY LIVERPOOL

Walker Art Gallery

The Walker Art Gallery houses one of the largest art collections in England, outside of London. It is part of the National Museums Liverpool group and is promoted as “the National Gallery of the North.” The Walker’s collection includes European art from 1300 – 1900, 18th and 19th-century British art, including a major collection of Victorian painting and many Pre-Raphaelite works, 20th-century works, and a major sculpture collection. The collection of decorative arts covers a wide range, from Gothic ivories to British ceramics up to the present day.

A Tour of the Walker Art Gallery

Highlights of the Walker Art Gallery

  • “Isabella” by John Everett Millais
    • “Isabella” by John Everett Millais depicts a scene in the relationship between Isabella, the sister of wealthy merchants, and their poor apprentice Lorenzo. It shows the moment at which Isabella’s jealous brothers realize that there is a romance between the two young people. The brothers later plot to murder Lorenzo so they can marry Isabella to a wealthy nobleman. The painting illustrates an episode from a 1300s story which was reprised by John Keats in poem form.
  • “The Martyr of Solway” by John Everett Millais
    • “The Martyr of Solway” by John Everett Millais portrays Margaret Wilson (1667 – 1685), who was a young Scottish teenager of the Scottish Presbyterian movement. Margaret Wilson was executed by drowning for refusing to swear an oath declaring James VII (James II of England) as head of the church. Wilson was executed along with Margaret McLachlan. However, Wilson became the more famous of the two women because of her youth. She was about 18 years of age at the time of her death. As a teenager, her faith in the face of death became celebrated as part of the martyrology of Presbyterian churches.
  • “Perseus and Andromeda” by Frederic Leighton
    • “Perseus and Andromeda” by Frederic Leighton dramatically portrays the Greek mythological story of Andromeda. In contrast to the classic Greek origins of the tale, Leighton used a Gothic style for the artwork. Perseus is depicted flying above on his winged horse Pegasus. He shoots an arrow that hits the sea monster, who turns to attack the hero. Andromeda’s white body is contrasted against the dark masses of the monster’s wing, and depicted as pure innocence. A halo of light surrounds Pegasus and Perseus.
  • Elaine by Sophie Gengembre Anderson
    • “Elaine” by Sophie Gengembre Anderson depicts a mournful servant rowing Elaine’s body to King Arthur’s palace at Camelot. This painting is based on a poem by Lord Tennyson, which tells the story of Elaine, who falls in love with Sir Lancelot. After Sir Lancelot abandons Elaine in favor of Queen Guinevere, Elaine dies from unrequited love. Anderson shows Elaine holding a lily, representing purity, and a rolled-up letter expressing her undying love for Lancelot.
  • “Echo and Narcissus” by John William Waterhouse
    • “Echo and Narcissus” by John William Waterhouse depicts Narcissus, a beautiful youth who rejected all the nymphs and women who fell in love with him and instead fell in love with his reflection. The story is based on a myth from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a Latin mythological epic. In the tale, the mountain nymph Echo falls in love with Narcissus. Narcissus, however, rejects her love. The nymph Echo, who was so upset by his rejection that she withdrew from life and wasted away until all that was left was a whisper. Her prayers were heard by the goddess Nemesis, who caused Narcissus to fall in love with his reflection.
  • Fantine by Margaret Bernadine Hall
    • Fantine by Margaret Bernadine Hall depicts the mother of Cosette from Victor Hugo’s epic novel ‘Les Miserables’ (1862). Fantine was a beautiful Parisian working-class girl who was very much in love with a man who eventually abandons her, treating their romantic relationship as youthful amusement. Fantine is forced to draw on all her meager resources to care for her illegitimate daughter, Cosette. Hall painted this picture in 1886, a year after Victor Hugo’s death, while she was in Paris. Hall’s picture shows Fantine in her despair as a mother who contemplates how she will support her daughter. The mother’s and baby’s clothing, the cradle’s blankets, and the dark bare room all point to their financial constraints.
  • “The Hunted Slaves” by Richard Ansdell
    • “The Hunted Slaves” by Richard Ansdell depicts two African American slaves who have escaped into the wilderness, facing down a pack of savage hunting dogs as the slaves flee. The man is heroically defending his terrified wife with an axe. This powerful visual indictment of slavery in the United States was painted in 1861, the same year as the outbreak of the American Civil War.
  • “Dante’s Dream” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
    • “Dante’s Dream” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti depicts Dante’s dream in which he is led to the death-bed of Beatrice Portinari. Beatrice was the object of his unfulfilled love. Dante, in black, stands rigid and paralyzed, looking towards the dying Beatrice who is lying on a bed. Two female figures in green hold a canopy over her. An angel in red holds Dante’s hand and leans forward to kiss Beatrice. The artist, Rossetti, had a lifelong passion for the works of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri. This painting was inspired by Dante’s poem La Vita Nuova when Dante dreams of seeing Beatrice in death. Rossetti, in the style of the Pre-Raphaelites, created a work full of complex symbols.
  • “Dante and Beatrice” by Henry Holiday
    • “Dante and Beatrice” by Henry Holiday depicts an incident in which, due to a misunderstanding, Beatrice refused to acknowledge Dante when they met by chance in the street. In this painting, Beatrice, in the center of the group of three women, looks away from Dante. The event is shown as Beatrice, and two other women walk past the Santa Trinita Bridge in Florence. Beatrice wears a white dress and walks beside her extrovert friend Monna Vanna, and Beatrice’s maidservant is just slightly behind. Dante’s autobiographical work, “La Vita Nuova” describes his love for “Beatrice,” however, Dante concealed his love by pretending to be attracted to other women. Did Beatrice refuse to speak to him because she had heard rumors about his interest in another woman?
  • “The Death of Nelson” by Benjamin West
    • “The Death of Nelson” by Benjamin West depicts the last moments of Horatio Nelson during the Battle of Trafalgar on the deck of HMS Victory, where a French sharpshooter fatally wounded him. Nelson’s death at Trafalgar secured his position as one of Britain’s most heroic figures. The significance of the victory and his death during the battle led to his signal, “England expects that every man will do his duty,” becoming famous. The Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 was a naval engagement fought by the British Royal Navy against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815). Twenty-seven British ships led by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard HMS Victory defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships. The battle took place in the Atlantic Ocean off the southwest coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, and the British lost none.

Walker Art Gallery

  • Name:                Walker Art Gallery
  • City:                    Liverpool
  • Established:        1877
  • Location:            William Brown Street, Liverpool, England, United Kingdom

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“Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves.”
– Queen Victoria

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Photo Credit: By calflier001 (WALKER ART GALLERY LIVERPOOL SEP 2012) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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