Highlights of the 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.
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 realise 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 favour 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 meagre 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 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.
“Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves.”
– Queen Victoria
Photo Credit: By The original uploader was Chowells at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons