Henry Willett and the Art Gallery in Brighton

'If my collection should help one young man to find his pleasure, and to spend his time in this direction, rather than waste it in billiards and idleness, it will not have been formed nor presented in vain.'

Henry Willett (1823-1903) was a wealthy collector of paintings, porcelain, rocks and fossils, especially those of the Brighton area. As described in the above quotation, he wanted his collections to be available to the people to encourage their taste and artistic education. When he presented his collections to the town of Brighton, this provided the impetus to the setting up of a Museum and Art Gallery, and his large porcelain collection, together with paintings from the 14th-19th Centuries, may be seen there. It is the porcelain that stands out, and this is one of the better provincial collections, with examples of many early types, together with representative work from Victorian times. His fossils went to the Booth Museum of Natural History, in the same part of the country.

Willett was also active in other areas, most notably setting up an Emigration Society to aid poor people living in the Brighton area to emigrate to Canada. He was a friend of John Ruskin, and apparently persuaded the great critic that his books must be published cheap enough for the general populace to afford them.

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