Thursday, 29 December 2011

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Verdict: Worth a look

What is it? A private art collection in Dulwich consisting mainly of portraits and landscapes from the Renaissance onwards, but not so far as to extend to modern art.

What did I think? I was at the Dulwich Picture Gallery (DPG) to see the 'Painting Canada' exhibit (see previous review), but as it was my first time at the DPG I thought I should review the permanent collection as well.

First, the location. Dulwich is strange in having the feel of a suburb but being close to Central London and surrounded by the shall we say more 'urbanised' areas of Brixton and Streatham. Even the bus stops have a quaint feel by having wooden benches and roofs. The only problem is that Dulwich isn't very well connected by transport and I could travel from home (Wimbledon) to the very Northern edges of London in the time it takes me to get to Dulwich, which is on my side of the river and so a lot closer in terms of distance.

The collection itself is spread over a small number of rooms, the space dedicated to the temporary exhibit takes up at least a third of the gallery. The permanent collection is a quality collection of portraits and landscapes including works from notable names such as Canaletto, Rembrandt and Rubens. In any other city, the gallery would be an easy recommend but in London where you have the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, that are free to enter (DPG charges a £5 entrance fee and £4 extra for access to temporary exhibits), it is difficult to place the DPG as high up the priority list.

The easiest comparison in terms of size and degree of collection is the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House. However, the Courtauld has been able to carve out a niche by specialising in Impressionist art; the DPG however has a collection of classical art ranging across many time periods and movements, and this works against it.

I'm not saying that the DPG should be overlooked but it's probably only worth checking out if you're in the area, seeing a temporary exhibit there or have seen all that the National Gallery or National Portrait Gallery has to offer (no mean feat).

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