The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight

For those wondering where Port Sunlight is, it is close to Liverpool, and can be reached by a short metro trip from the centre of town. The local Liverpool Metro train goes frequently from the centre of Liverpool to Port Sunlight, and if you are having a single day in Liverpool, it is perfectly possible to do the Walker and other museums in town and also get to the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight as well. The Lever family were the founders of Lever Brothers, later Unilever, the arch-rival of Procter and Gamble in selling soap powders, hair shampoos and other necessities of life. As well as this, the Lord and Lady Lever were great believers in improving the lot of the working population. To do this, they built Port Sunlight as an ideal village, and it is very interesting to see - a modern day counterpart might be thought of as Poundbury. The next village along from Port Sunlight contains the family tomb - as I heard the story, the church was built around the tomb, and the village around the new church. Another nearby village has the later Lever residence - a mock-Tudor effort of considerable size. I have a personal anecdote about the Lady Lever Gallery. When I first became interested in the Pre-Raphaelites, I noticed in the books that a lot of pictures came from "The Lady Lever Gallery, Port Sunlight", and immediately assumed that Port Sunlight must be in Australia, and therefore out of reach. My joy was great when it turned out to be only as far as Liverpool, a mere three hour train trip from Oxford, where I lived at the time.

The elegant purpose-built Lady Lever Gallery houses the personal collection built up by Lord and Lady Lever, and is particularly strong in Pre-Raphaelite art. There is The Blessed Damozel by Rossetti, several works by Millais - The Black Brunswicker, Cymon and Iphegenia and Sir Isumbras at the Ford - all of these being key works, and by Holman Hunt there is one version of The Scapegoat. Burne-Jones is represented by The Annunciation, with amazing drapery, the important The Beguiling of Merlin and The Tree of Foregiveness.

John William Waterhouse has The Decameron and The Enchanted Garden, and his follower H. J. Draper has a nude in a landscape entitled The Kelpie and a complete study for The Lament for Icarus. The Classicists are represented by Watts (small version of And She Shall Be Created Woman), by Alma Tadema's In the Tepidarium, and by very important pictures by Leighton - Garden of the Hesperides, Psamathe, The Daphnephoria and Fatidica.

There are many good paintings by other Victorians. Herkomer has one of his best pictures, The Last Muster, and there is an Alma-Tademaesque Al Fresco Toilet by Luke Fildes. Genre paintings include little girls by the Hon. John Collier (A Water Baby, used as a Pear's Soap advert) and by G. D. Leslie (This is the Way We Wash our Clothes), J. F. Bacon's The Wedding Morning and Dendy Sadler's End of the Skein. Louise Jopling has Blue and White and E. F. Brickdale has a picture of Leonardo showing a model called The Forerunner. Important works by artists also known as illustrators are Fred Walker's The Bathers, Anning Bell's A Spring Revel, and the magnum opus of E. J. Gregory, Boulter's Lock. Many other artists are found in the collection, including Farquharson, Orchardson, J. M. Swan and Dicksee.

In summary, the Lady Lever Gallery is one of the best places to see Pre-Raphaelite and other Victorian art, and well worth the trip.

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Victorian art in Britain

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