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The Dulwich Picture Gallery Turns Its Birthday Into A Real Masterpiece

I don’t know Ian Dejardin, director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery outside of London, but either I’ve been channeling him or he’s been channeling me.

vermeer-music-lesson.jpgFor the Dulwich’s 200th anniversary year, which begins in January, Dejardin is borrowing one masterpiece a month from other museums to put on view, on its own. As he told Reuters:

Dulwich is recognised internationally as a really important museum in the history of museums. So I felt able to go and visit and write to directors of major institutions that we’ve worked with over the years to suggest to them that they might like to lend what I suppose is a glorified birthday card.


One loan, one masterpiece every month of the year. It’s like an unfolding calendar, it’s like a year long advent calendar of your dreams.

I’ve been advocating single-picture masterpiece shows for a while now (here, here and here).

So what works are coming to the Dulwich party? And who’s lending?

It all begins on Jan. 9, and here’s the line-up:

  • January: Portrait of Sir John Soane by Sir Thomas Lawrence, from Sir John Soane Museum
  • February: The Bafoon – Don Sebastián de Morra by Velazquez, from the Prado
  • March: A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman/The Music Lesson by Vermeer, from the Royal Collection (above)
  • April: The Vision of Saint John by El Greco, from the Metropolitan Museum
  • May: Venus and Mercury Present Eros and Anteros to Jupiter by Veronese, from the Uffizi
  • June: Titus As A Monk by Rembrandt, from the Rijksmuseum  
  • July: Comtesse d’Haussonville by Ingres, from the Frick Collection
  • August: Self-Portrait With Felt Hat, by van Gogh, from the van Gogh Museum
  • September: Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan by Gainsborough, from the National Gallery of Art 
  • October: The Leaping Horse by Constable, from the Royal Academy
  • November: Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy by David Hockney, from the Tate
  • December: The Adoration of the Shepherds by Domenichino, from the National Galleries of Scotland

Each month, the painting on view will be the subject of a bicentenary lecture, with the dates and speakers all set and ready to see at that link.

What a lineup of pictures, of artists, of lending institutions and of lecturers. All I can do is congratulate the Dulwich, and hope that its masterpiece a month “birthday card” program will inspire similar ideas at other museums.

Here’s a link to the Reuters article, which also contains a short history of the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Royal Collection  


  1. Tom Freudenheim says:

    I agree: great idea! But when did the Frick start lending from its collections?

  2. As I understand it, the Frick is allowed to lend works it acquired separately from the original bequest. The Comtesse has traveled before. And, a credit to the Frick guards, when I have asked where she is on occasion, they actually know.

  3. It’s an astonishing list of masterpieces to be lent. This must be in return for all the loans that Dulwich has sent out over the years. A big touring show of pictures from Dulwich was on view in New York in January 1986 at the National Academy of Design (when the Gallery was undergoing renovation). You can find the extremely enthusiastic review by John Russell (“Old Masters: Fine and Unfamiliar”) in the NYT dated Jan. 24, 1986. The Dulwich Gallery itself is a masterpiece by John Soane and a delight to visit. I love the idea of a single-picture exhibit. I have a list of works I’d like to see!

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