Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Port Sunlight and The Lady Lever Gallery

As I still have the photos from my week off in April I thought I'd get them in to a post. Above is the Lady Lever Art Gallery, situated within Port Sunlight Garden Village, near Liverpool; 900 houses set in 130 acres of landscaping started in 1888, by William Hesketh Lever, the philanthropist owner of Lever Brothers. The Garden Village was a totally new concept in housing factory workers - in this case the work force of the soap manufacturer which later became the multinational Unilever. Lever (later Lord Leverhulme) was also a devoted patron of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and the Gallery was specially built to house his huge collection of art works so that even the most humble worker could see and appreciate them.

The village is full of focal pointed, wide vistas and neatly arranged avenues of trees. The rows of neat little houses appear like a perfect film set; conjuring a by-gone quintessential "Englishness" from a charming mish mash of architectural styles. It was a dazzling sunny day when we visited and it was impossible not to feel as though we were experiencing a glorious Little England from a chocolate box ... or somewhere in a dream!
This bench was opposite to a magnificent war memorial.It was sad to see so many of the same surnames listed for both wars.

Visit the Port Sunlight website for more details here:

There is a museum all about the community, past and present, which I'll definitely visit next time (also a hotel, self catering accommodation and shops) but I was excited to be visiting the art gallery itself.You see, inside, on permanent display are paintings I've drooled over ever since becoming first acquainted with them through taking an Art History O/A level at age 17**. These are works by The Pre-Raphaelites; luminaries such as John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, William Holman Hunt and Edward Burne-Jones to name the principal few. I can't really over-state how much I love their paintings - and luckily my husband (also an ex-art student) shares my enthusiasm.In fact I need to curb it (!) or I'll start typing pages of rapture which could really bore a lot of you! (By the way I hope some UK readers watched the recent Perspectives programme on ITV, where Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber waxed lyrical about them!!) I've since noticed that some photography is permitted inside the gallery with prior agreements - well, we'll have to go again then. Soon!

What to tell you about the exhibition, which is laid out in a series of grand rooms; galleried in the centre, and includes sculptures and furniture? Here you can see the famous little Pears soap boy with his bubble pipe (Millais) exquisite studies of Jane Morris (Rosetti) "The Tree of Forgiveness" (Burne-Jones ; spectacular and unmissable) "The Black Brunswicker" and "Spring - Apple Blossoms" (romance and beauty from Millais again) and the astonishing "The Scapegoat" (Holman Hunt.) I actually felt over-whelmed standing in front of the last, and it doesn't seem sooo very long ago that I drew thumbnail sketches of it to illustrate an essay!

Apart from Pre-Raphaelite paintings there are fine collections of ancient art, some Joshua Reynolds (doesn't float my boat but hey!) lovely Gainsboroughs and lots of beautiful and priceless Wedgwood.

Lord Leverhulme was completely forward thinking and practical about advertising and "branding" his wares too - often he would buy a painting and then re-produce it on posters for sunlight soap, with the addition of the essential product, which really offended some artists, but I think he really believed in art for the masses.Thank Goodness he did :0)

TaTa For Now, Ruth XX    click here for more info' on the Lady Lever Art Gallery

** Yup, I got a grade A - what a swot!


Mima's Bears said...

Thank you Ruth, I really enjoyed reading this post, and your great photos too !! :O)

Bearly Sane said...

Funny you should be writing about this...I recently watched a documentary about Sunlight Soap and the Lever history. Didn't touch on his love of art though. Thanks for bringing me up to date Ruth.
Warmest hugs,