Lady Lever Art Gallery

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The Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight has one of the United Kingdom’s best collections of decorative art and it is also particularly well-known for its collection of British art from the 19th century.

The gallery was founded by William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme as part of Port Sunlight, a model community built to house workers in the Lever Brothers soap company, which is now part of Unilever. The community, which is now a suburb of Liverpool, was named after the company’s popular Sunlight soap product.

The gallery was initially founded as a place to display art from Lord Leverhulme’s personal collection and much of what is on display reflects both his personal taste and also the type of art that was popular in Britain during the 19th century.

What to see at the Lady Lever Art Gallery

Most of the art on display inside this Beaux-Arts style building dates from the 18th to the 20th century with a major collection of British 19th-century painting and sculpture.

The collection of British art is particularly impressive for a suburban art gallery and it includes works by Turner, Constable, Gainsborough and Reynolds. The gallery has a particularly notable collection of paintings from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood including work by John Everett Millais, Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown, William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. William Etty is well represented and the collection of his paintings is considered to be one of the largest on public display in an art museum.

The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt. Hunt painted two versions of this painting with the larger one at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight near Liverpool and the smaller version on display at the Manchester Art Gallery.
The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt. Hunt painted two versions of this painting with the larger one at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight near Liverpool and the smaller version on display at the Manchester Art Gallery.
Spring (Apple Blossoms) by John Everett Millais
Spring (Apple Blossoms) by John Everett Millais

The gallery also features exhibits of decorative arts with English furniture and ceramics, including both Chinese ceramics and Wedgwood jasperware. The Wedgwood collection is considered to be one of the world’s best with many pieces coming originally from the private collection of Charles Darwin, Josiah Wedgwood’s grandson.

Temporary exhibitions at the Lady Lever Art Gallery

In addition to its impressive permanent collection, the gallery also hosts a programme of temporary exhibitions.

Another View: Landscapes by Women Artists
Another View: Landscapes by Women Artists is an exhibition (20 April 2024–18 August 2024) challenging the historical dominance of male artists in British landscape art. It includes work by female amateur artists from the 19th to the 20th centuries, exploring evolving perspectives influenced by social, economic, cultural and environmental changes. From lesser-known figures to recognised innovators, the exhibition unveils a narrative of growing ambition and evolving techniques among women artists, contributing to a broader conversation about their unique approaches to the natural world.

Visiting the Lady Lever Art Gallery

Because of its suburban location, not so many tourists visit Lady Lever Art Gallery but it is easy to get to and worth the journey to Port Sunlight.

The closest railway station is Bebington and it only takes 14 minutes to get here from Liverpool Central. Trains run every 15 minutes.

The Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight on the Wirral peninsula in Liverpool’s suburbs. The gallery is home to an outstanding collection of decorative art and it has an excellent collection of British art from the 19th century. (Photo: Rept0n1x [CC BY-SA 3.0])
The Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight on the Wirral peninsula in Liverpool’s suburbs. The gallery is home to an outstanding collection of decorative art and it has an excellent collection of British art from the 19th century. (Photo: Rept0n1x [CC BY-SA 3.0])
The gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm and admission is free of charge. Audio guides are available for £2.50.

The gallery is wheelchair accessible and there are also facilities for deaf and vision-impaired visitors.

Other facilities include a gift shop and cafe. The cafe serves tea, coffee and light meals including local specialities such as scouse. Free Wi-Fi wireless internet access is available in the cafe.

While you’re in Port Sunlight, take the time to wander around the community, which features 900 Grade II-listed buildings. The Port Sunlight Museum is located across the road from the gallery and it is worth a look if you have an interest in planned communities.

Amenities
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Wheelchair access
  • Audio tour (paid)
  • Cafe/restaurant
  • Gift shop

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