Some Victorian Art in London

If you are visiting London and wish to see some of the best Victorian (and especially Pre-Raphaelite) art, below is a list of some of the main galleries. The Imperial War Museum includes a good collection of post-Victorian art. The Sculpture pages describe many of the parks and squares in London for those who want to see monuments and statues, and further background information on architects may be found on the Architecture page.

The Tate Britain (old Tate Britain)

Tube: Pimlico on the Victoria Line, then follow the signs (5 minute walk).

Built in 1897, paid for by the philanthropist Henry Tate, it contained the National Collection of British Art. Recently and deplorably renamed 'Tate Britain', when the modern collections were transferred to the old Bankside Power Station opposite St Paul's Cathedral (Tate Modern). The Tate includes many of the key Pre-Raphaelite paintings, normally hung in one of the biggest halls in the building, but sometimes distributed by subject mixed in with paintings from other centuries - not a happy idea. The first Pre-Raphaelite pictures by Rossetti as well as his later works Monna Vanna and Beata Beatrix are here, Holman Hunt's Strayed Sheep, Millais's Ophelia, King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid by Burne-Jones, Waterhouse's Lady of Shalott, and Hope by Watts, as well as many others. There is usually a changing collection of watercolours on display. There are many other Victorian paintings, often purchased via the Chantrey Bequest, and some from Henry Tate's original gift. And of course the whole Clore Pavillion full of Turner paintings.

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Tube: South Kensington, and 5 minutes walk.

As well as being an amazing building in its own right, especially the Henry Cole Wing (use the stairs, not the lift), and central court mosaics, the V&A contains the National collection of Constable paintings, three rooms designed by members of the Arts and Crafts movement on the ground floor, the two enormous frescos by Leighton entitled The Industrial Arts of War and The Industrial Arts of Peace, a study for The Wheel of Fortune by Burne Jones, another Burne-Jones and portraits by Watts in the Ionides Bequest, and other mainly early 19th Century paintings. The British 19th Century Furniture galleries include examples of furniture by the Pre-Raphaelites.

Near the V&A Museum

Tube: South Kensington, to look at after the V&A above.

Round the corner from the V&A is the beautifully carved Victorian Gothic Natural History Museum (by the architect Alfred Waterhouse), and in the park (quite a walk actually, but a good one) the Albert Memorial, nearly lost to philistinism as it needed 10 million repairs, but now saved thanks to the National lottery.

Leighton House, 12 Holland Park Road

Tube: High St Kensington, go through the arcade, turn left onto the main road, cross over at the Commonwealth Institute, then first right and first left - signposted (12 minute walk total).

My favorite small museum in London, the home of Lord Leighton and the only opulent Victorian artist's house open to the public in London. Contains statues and pictures by Leighton himself, including large oils and charming small studies. Also in the beautiful Arab Hall mosaics by Walter Crane, and upstairs, one or two pictures each by Burne-Jones, Watts, Simeon Solomon, and one of the best pictures by Millais, called Shelling Peas. Also interesting enamels by Ernestine Mills, tiles by William de Morgan, and two drawings by Evelyn de Morgan. This is the place to see if you are very rich and want inspiration on how to do up your new house.

John Soane Museum, Holborn

Tube: Holborn, turn left out of the station onto High Holborn, two minutes walk and turn left again in to Lincoln's Inn Fields, where the museum is nos. 13-14.

Not really Victorian, as the architect John Soane, famous for designing the Bank of England, died in 1837, but it fits as my other favorite small museum in London, along with Leighton House. It is the house Soane himself designed and lived in, and a fascinating place both from the point of view of the complex architecture, and the astonishing amount of sculpture, paintings (lots of Hogarths) and other artefacts (including an Egyptian mummy case) crammed inside. There is enough ancient Greek and Roman sculpture to inspire any budding Pre-Raphaelite artist. J. E. Hodgson, the eminent secretary of the Royal Academy, complained about the outside of the building: 'Its facade is singularly mean, to which meanness a touch of vulgarity has been added by two plaster figures perched upon the cornice'. (In fact the figures are apparently of Coade Stone.) Just down the road, there is a Victorian connection - no. 17/18 Lincoln's Inn Fields is Victorian gothic by Waterhouse (1871/2), and no. 19 is by Philip Webb (1868), who built William Morris's Red House in Bexleyheath.

The National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery

Tube: Charing Cross, or Leicester Square and walk down Charing Cross Road to Trafalgar Square.

In the National Gallery are a few of the principal Victorian pictures, although of course the bulk are at the Tate Britain. Notably the Bath of Psyche by Leighton, and another easily-missed Leighton directly above the main entrance, so one only sees it on the way out: Cimabue's Madonna. The evolution of the National Gallery is the subject of a separate page. Round the corner at the National Portrait Gallery are various portraits by and of the Pre-Raphaelites and other Victorian artists - see the separate page. Incidentally, the National Portrait Gallery is at the beginning of Charing Cross Road, which has many bookshops. At nearby Piccadilly Circus is the well-known Victorian Statue of Eros.

William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow

Tube: Walthamstow Central on the Victoria Line, then a 10-12 minute walk. Set in landscaped gardens with water birds.

William Morris lived here 1848-1856, and here may be found a complete collection of the books produced by his firm, Morris, May, Faulkner and Co. (later simply Morris and Co.), also wallpaper designs, ceramic tiles (including a very amusing set by Burne Jones), carpets and furniture from the Arts and Crafts movement. Also cartoons for stained glass windows by Karl Parsons, designs by the Century Guild, and a few pictures.

Wallace Collection

Tube: Oxford Circus and then a 12 minute walk.

The Wallace Collection is a beautiful gallery filled with opulent things set convieniently close to Oxford Street. Unfortunately, it does not have Pre-Raphaelite art, but contains lots of French and other Continental pictures. The relevance here is that it is the best place in London to see Orientalist paintings from Europe, by people such as Gerome, Decamps and Vernet. There are also early and Pre-Victorian British paintings by people like Richard Parkes Bonington, and earlier still by Canaletto. There are multitudes of old masters, including Rembrandt etc, and the most famous picture there is The Laughing Cavalier. The collection of French paintings includes many Greuzes. The Wallace Collection also specialises in arms and armour, jewellery, Empire style furniture and ornaments. There are good portrait statues and other 18th Century objets d'art which provide the backdrop and setting for the directions taken by 19th Century art. Don't miss the toilets, which have good mosaics. There is a now a separate page on the Wallace Collection.

Rather less centrally placed, the Iveagh Bequest in Hampstead Heath is another beautiful building specialising in 18th Century art, and Kew Gardens contains an important collection of botanical paintings, a few sculptures and 19th Century architecture in the style of the Great Exhibition. The Pitshanger Manor Museum, Ealing, is an architecturally interesting building with a collection of Martinware pottery. Housed in some former almshouses is the Geffrye Museum of the English Interior, which holds a few 19th C pictures.

There are many major collections of Pre-Raphaelite art outside London, especially in the industrial cities to the north.

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