James Stephanoff's Viewing at Dulwich Picture Gallery



I was recently bowled over by the beautiful Dulwich Picture Gallery. If you haven't been, make sure you do when you're next in the area - it's a real gem, with masterpiece upon masterpiece adorning the walls of what feels like a grandiose home of days gone by.

James Stephanoff, Viewing at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Bringing that sentiment to life is James Stephanoff's Viewing at Dulwich Picture Gallery, c.1830. The DPG of today is busier, brighter and the walls are even more heavily populated but this is one of the earliest views of the gallery's enfilade that we know, so it's bound to have changed over the past 183 years.

In it, some of DPG's biggest works can be clearly identified, such as Gainsborough's Linley Sisters above the entrance. A woman sits at an easel in the background, which would have been common in the 19th century. People would make the journey to Dulwich to see Britain's first public art gallery and copy works on display.

In this painting, we can see how paintings like Van Dyck's Samson and Delilah and Titian's Venus and Adonis were hung in Gallery IV in a dense cluster along a central line. It looks to me like this was a curatorial trend around this time - Zoffany's Tribuna of the Uffizi was painted in the 1770s and famously squeezes in as many artworks into the scene as seemingly possible.

Johann Zoffany, Tribuna of the Uffizi

There have been some interestingly hung exhibitions this year, with Tate Britain's chronological journey through British art standing out. Dulwich Picture Gallery is a traditional space, and this traditional way of hanging its many, many masterpieces really suits it - both in Stephanoff's painting and in real life.

Swing by and give South London a little cultural TLC - Rembrandts, Gainsboroughs and Reynolds-es await you.

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