Tucked in the enchanting village of Port Sunlight in The Wirral, is the majestic Lady Lever Art Gallery. The true definition of a hidden gem, and just a 15 minutes journey on the MerseyRail service from Liverpool, this gallery houses a fascinating collection of treasures from top to toe.
The Lady Lever Art Gallery is a museum founded and built by the industrialist and philanthropist William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme and opened in 1922.
The History Of Lady Lever Art Gallery
The museum is a significant surviving example of late Victorian and Edwardian taste. The collections on display reflect this, with a plethora of fine and decorative art that are an expression of Lord Leverhulme’s personal taste and collecting interests from painting, sculpture, furniture, pottery, historical room sets and Napoleon memorabilia, as well as the history about the Port Sunlight soap heritage.
Lever began collecting art in the late 19th century, largely to use in advertising for the popular Sunlight Soap brand (manufactured a few minutes’ walk from the gallery and also a highly suggested place to visit) that helped to create his fortune.
As Lever grew richer, his collections began to expand, and his confidence grew as well. Over time Lever developed quite a taste for collecting. He mostly collected British art, but he was also fascinated by Chinese art and there is a fascinating exhibition that displays this.
There is also a fascinating introductory in the Lady Lever Art Gallery to Lever himself, and the details and history of the way in which Lever pioneered the use of popular art in advertising his soaps.
Lord Lever named the art gallery in memory of his wife. As an avid collector, Lever also in time commissioned works from the greatest artists of the 19th and 20th century, as well as other periods and around the world.
It is because of his selections as an individual that the overall collection has a wonderful coherence. You truly feel Lever purchased these treasures he did because he liked them rather than because others thought they were of importance.
My Favourite Paintings
John William Waterhouse, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and Tom Edwin Mostyn are just a few of the incredible talents you can find at the Lady Lever Art Gallery.
The Lady Lever Gallery has a truly magnificent representation of several trends in Victorian painting, including the Pre-Raphaelites, both during the period of the Brotherhood and in their subsequent careers. This is amongst one of my favourite periods, so as you can imagine, I just adore spending time here languishing over every detail.
The Lady Lever Art Gallery also proudly holds one of the largest displays of William Etty and also earlier works include those by Turner, Constable, Gainsborough and Reynolds.
I could literally write a book on my favourite paintings that are in the Lady Lever Art Gallery but thankfully that job has already been done for me in the form of ‘The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight’.
But if I had to highlight just a few, I adore ‘Sibylla Palmifera’, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of my favourite my Pre-Raphaelite painters of all time and whose work I find simply captivating. Then ‘Little Speedwell’s Darling Blue’, John Everett Millais, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. This affectionate portrait of this darling little girl always makes me smile because it captures a meditative moment in his young child’s life that is so special and timeless.
The large Wedgwood collection was of particular interest to me as I just adore this style. And did you know the Lady Lever Gallery has some of the finest collection of Wedgwood jasperware in the world?
Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) stands unrivalled as the greatest English potter who not only invented and developed new types of ware but who also turned humble pottery into an item of fashionable taste.
Wedgwood was also an astute businessman and exploited every opportunity of opening up new markets for his products. And like William Lever, Josiah Wedgwood was a philanthropist and social pioneer.
If you adore Wedgwood you truly will be in awe of this collection. Much of the collection that is housed in the Lady Lever Gallery was bought from the 1st Lord Tweedmouth in 1905. It was Lord Tweedmouth who had, in turn, acquired major pieces from the naturalist Charles Darwin, who was a grandson of Josiah Wedgwood himself. Just so fascinating and worth savouring through this exquisite exhibition.
Another fascinating section of the Lady Lever Gallery are the Chinese Rooms. Lord Lever amassed a rich and impressive collection of Chinese art in the late 19th and 20th centuries as well as the incredible paintings you can see above. This is now all displayed in special rooms that illustrate the porcelain, ceramics and glass objects. They are all presented displayed across two interlinked rooms, following the major redevelopment of Lady Lever’s South End galleries. It’s also fascinating to learn about the impact China and Asia had on the arts and the world in this part of history.
I truly hope that like me you have fallen equally in love with this gallery. The admission to the Lady Lever gallery is free, although a donation of £5 is suggested which seems very modest for such a large, wonderful collection. There is also an excellent tea room and gift shop on the lower floor. You’ll truly find yourself staying here for hours with everything there is to see and do! Also, if you’re quick, you can also see a Rembrandt in Print exhibition that is currently touring around the UK.
If you love the arts as much as me and enjoyed this post, please do stop by my Arts and Exhibitions tab. Here I document some of my favourite art exhibitions throughout the world. There’s much more to come this month alone! Also, the very exciting news is that my new business Painting Music will be launching very soon- I can’t wait! You can follow the Instagram Page to find out all the latest information.
Have any of you been to The Lady Lever Art Gallery? Do I have any readers from The Wirral, or nearby Liverpool? I’d love to hear from you all below.
Lady Lever Art Gallery
Port Sunlight Village
+44 151 478 4136
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday 10:00 to 17:00