The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool is a large art museum that has an extensive collection that includes works from the 13th to the 20th century.
It is one of the two major art museums in Liverpool (the other is the Tate Liverpool, which focuses on modern art) and it is one of the few national art museums to be located outside London.
The gallery’s collection dates back to 1819 when the Liverpool Royal Institution acquired 37 paintings from William Roscoe upon the failure of his banking business. In 1843, the Royal Institution opened a purpose-built art gallery to display these paintings to the public and more paintings were added to the collection over the next few decades.
What to see at the Walker Art Gallery
The gallery features European art from the 13th to the 20th century including works by Degas, Poussin and Rembrandt; 18th and 19th-century British art including works by the Pre-Raphaelites and 20th-century art including work by David Hockney.
Notable earlier European paintings on display include Portrait of Henry VIII (1497–1498) by Hans Holbein the Younger.
The Dutch Old Masters comprise a large number of the gallery’s collection of 17th-century paintings. Some of these include Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1629–1631) by Rembrandt van Rijn and Landscape with The Gathering of the Ashes of Phocion (1648) by Nicolas Poussin.
During the 18th-century, Liverpool was in its prime and by the end of that century, it had grown to become England’s second city. This is also the century when British painters such as William Hogarth (1697–1764), George Stubbs (1724–1806), Gainsborough (1727–1788) and Wright of Derby (1734–1797) rose to prominence. The gallery’s paintings from this era include David Garrick as Richard III (1745) by William Hogarth and Molly Longlegs (1762) by George Stubbs.
The Walker Art Gallery is most famous for its collection of 19th-century art and the gallery was founded primarily to display work from this period. By the beginning of the century, JMW Turner was a prominent figure on the art scene and his work includes Linlithgow Palace (1807). By the middle of the century, two major art movements took hold: Impressionism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Impressionist paintings at the gallery are represented by French artists such as Claude Monet and Paul Cezanne but the gallery is best known for its Pre-Raphaelite paintings and its collection is considered one of the best anywhere. Pre-Raphaelite paintings include includes The Scapegoat (1854–1855) by William Holman Hunt and Dante’s Dream (1871) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The 20th century saw the transition from traditional to contemporary art and artworks from this era include works by Lucian Freud, LS Lowry and David Hockney.
One of the Walker Art Gallery’s more recent pieces is Cardinal Sin, a sculpture by Banksy that is on display among the 17th-century Old Masters.
Although paintings comprise the bulk of the art on display, the gallery also features a sizable sculpture gallery as well as displays of furniture and decorative art.
In addition to the museum’s excellent permanent collection, the Walker Art Gallery also hosts a programme of temporary exhibitions. Current and planned exhibitions include:
Sickert: A Life in Art
The Walker Art Gallery has the world’s largest collection of Walter Sickert’s drawings and this exhibition (18 September 2021–27 February 2022) also includes 100 loaned paintings, which are exhibited alongside drawings from the Walker’s collection. £13.50.
The Tudors: Passion, Power and Politics
The Tudors exhibition (21 May 2022–29 August 2022) focuses on art representing the five Tudor monarchs.
Visiting the Walker Art Gallery
Nearby attractions include Liverpool Central Library and the World Museum, which are both right next to the gallery. The Cavern Club and the Radio City Tower are both within a 10-minute walk of the museum.
Admission to the art gallery is free of charge, although there is an entry charge for most temporary exhibitions. It is open 10am–5pm every day.
Free audio guides to the gallery’s highlights are available here, which you play on your mobile.
The gallery is wheelchair accessible. Wheelchair access to the building is via a ramp to the right of the main entrance.
There is a gift shop and a cafe on the ground floor. Free Wi-Fi wireless internet access is available in the cafe.
Most visitors spend between one and two hours at the gallery.