Walker Art Gallery
Other names: Free Public Library and Museum (1871-84)
Foundation date: 1871
Active: 1871 -
Function: Art gallery and museum
Meeting schedule: annual
History or description: 'The Walker Art Gallery is a department of the corporation, and is supported, with the Library and Museum, by a special rate of 1d. in the £, which produces £12,000 a year.' (The Year's Art, 1888, pp. 93-4)
In 1871 'The Library, Museum and Education Committee considering it desirable in the interests of Art, that an exhibition of Pictures should be held in the Autumn of the present year, have, with the sanction of the Corporation of Liverpool resolved to open one as soon as practically possible after the closing in London of the Royal Academy...' (Liverpool autumn exhibition of modern pictures, 1871, p.2)
The 'success of the Exhibition has been beyond the most sanguine expectations. The expenses, which were necessarily heavy have been defrayed, leaving in hand a handsome surplus to be devoted to the purposes of Art.' (19th Annual Report, 1871, p. 5) As a result the autumn exhibition became an annual event. By 1873 the success of the show 'drew attention to the want of a suitable building where a permanent gallery of art might be collected.' In these early years, the gallery was housed within the Free Public Library and Museum. Liverpool council declined to fund the new building but the Mayor, Mr. Andrew Barclay Walker offered £20,000 towards the erection of a new art gallery. The Art Gallery was built between 1874-77 and enlarged between 1881-84, again with a substantial donation from Andrew B. Walker (now a baronet).
'...It now  comprises fourteen rooms, all en suite, and is one of the finest buildings of the kind in the country; the total cost to its munificent donor having been, it is said, nearly £50,000.
A fine collection of works of Art has already been gathered together by donations and purchases, and numbers 397, of which a descriptive catalogue (price 3d.) has been compiled by the Curator...'
'...The gallery is open to the public every week-day except Friday. Students are admitted to copy each morning from 8 to 11 o'clock in summer and 9 to 12 in winter, and for the whole day on Fridays...'
(The Year's Art, 1888, pp. 93-4)
The activities of the Walker Art Gallery were scaled back during the First World War. From March 1918 to December 1919 the whole building was taken over by the government to house the Fuel and Food Control programme. Most of the staff were on active service so the usual activities were suspended for most of this time. No Autumn Exhibition took place between 1917-18, the shows were resumed in 1919 although the permanent collection was not yet reopened.
Exhibitions, Courses, Meetings and other Events
Organized Autumn exhibition of modern art: the thirty-sixth (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), 1906
The 54th annual report for 1907 says: 'In the matter of sculpture the Committee had to contend with the opposition of the Society of British Sculptors, which would not allow its members to contribute, except with the unnecessary and undesirable condition that their representative was admitted a member of the Hanging Committee. It was found, however, that from other sources sufficient sculpture was obtainable for present purposes' (54th Annual Report, 1907, p. 102).
Organized Liverpool autumn exhibition of modern pictures: the sixth (Liverpool), 1876
'[...] the number of [works] sold and the amount realised was not equal to the previous year. This is easily to be accounted for from the depression in trade' (24th Annual Report, 1877, p. 17).
Institutional and Business Connections
Collaborated with Royal Academy of Arts
The Royal Academy lent 'a bust of Sir J. E. Millais., P.R.A., by Mr. Onslow Ford, R.A.' to the Walker Gallery, 'at Mr. Ford's request'. See Royal Academy, 'Annual Report, 1898', (1899), p. 10.
Collaborated with Royal Academy of Arts
The Royal Academy lent a bust of Sir J. E. Millais to the Walker Art Gallery, 'at the request of Mr. Onslow Ford, R.A.'. See Royal Academy, 'Annual Report, 1898', (1899), p. 10.
Commissioned John Warrington Wood
1875 - 1878
To create statues for the newly built Walker Art Gallery. The subjects were: Michelangelo representing sculpture; Raphael representing painting (placed on either side of the portico); and an allegorical figure of Liverpool (on the summit of the pediment). Four low reliefs representing events in the history of the city were added c.1878.
Employed Charles Dyall
1877 - 1904
First curator of the Walker Art Gallery
Employed Edward Rimbault Dibdin
1904 - 1920
Second curator of the Walker Art Gallery
Employed Arthur G. Quigley
Originally appointed as assistant curator to E. Rimbault Dibdin, Quigley became the third curator of the Walker Art Gallery on Dibdin's retirement
Liverpool autumn exhibition of modern pictures, 1876 Walker Art Gallery
Sculpture exhibitors section missing from copy in Walker Art Gallery
The Year's Art 1888: A Concise Epitome of all Matters Relating to the Arts of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture which have occurred during the year 1887, together with information respecting the events of the year 1888
Citing this record
'Walker Art Gallery', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 [http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/organization.php?id=ann_1253108399, accessed 25 Feb 2017]