Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Wolverhampton is a short train trip or 40 min bus trip from Birmingham. It is a little over 2 hours by train from London (Euston Station)

Philip Horsman, a Wolverhampton industrialist, presented a building to the town of Wolverhampton for use as an art gallery in the 1880s, and after some struggle, a local bill was passed to increase to library rate in order to raise some money to buy pictures. As a critic of the time noted soon after the gallery opened:

In few towns in England was an art gallery so imperatively required as at Wolverhampton, for, speaking frankly, it is a dismal place.

Central Wolverhampton now is pleasant and compact, however dismal it might have appeared in the last century. The art gallery is about 10 minutes walk from the station, by the impressive cathedral.

Inside, there is one large room of 19th Century paintings, although the best of the collection are in the 18th Century gallery, which includes two Gainsboroughs, works by Zoffany and Morland, spirited work by E. Bird, a good Henry Fuseli, large and with feeling, called The Apotheosis of Penelope Boothby, and a portrait by Joseph Wright of Derby.

The best of the 19th Century work is The Champion Swimmer by E. J. Poynter, showing several bathers in a classical pool - unfortunately the painting seems very darkened by time. Francis Danby has his well-known painting The Shipwreck - very cataclysmic with lots of doomed figures on an almost sunken ship, with some sort of rainbow perhaps suggestive of hope in the afterlife - and a small (yet instantly recognisably Danby) Moonlit View of an Eastern City. David Roberts has Ruins of the Roman Capital with good ruins and figures, and John Phillip has a rather exotic Lady Playing Mandolin.

Other big names include two hunting scenes by Edwin Landseer (not his most appealing pictures); an original composition by Elizabeth Stanhope Forbes called The Edge of the Woods showing two young lovers with trees and turkeys; an intriguing Artistís Son and Nurse by F. R. Pickersgill and a harmless rustic landscape with peasants called The Harvesters by Vicat Cole. C. J. Staniland, William Collins and J. C. Horsley are also represented, and the less-well known Henry Nelson OíNeil has an interesting Queen Elizabeth with Columbus - a small out-of-doors scene with figures done in a medieval manner. There is a notable and delicate sculpture Psyche Borne off by Zephyrs labelled as being by Benjamin Gibson - I wonder if it should be John Gibson, who produced a sculpture by this name. Finally, the small but well chosen group of 20th Century works on the staircase may be mentioned.

Top of page

Victorian art in Britain

Home