From March 9 through May 30, 2010, the Frick presents a special exhibition of loans from Dulwich Picture Gallery, one of the major collections of Old Master paintings in the world. Heralding the London museum's bicentenary in 2011, the exhibition will introduce American audiences to this institution's holdings and history through nine of its most important and best-loved works.
Masterpieces of European Painting from Dulwich Picture Gallery, to be shown exclusively at the Frick, includes signature works that seldom travel, many of which have not been on view in the United States in recent years, and, in some cases, never in New York City.
Featured are Anthony van Dyck's Samson and Delilah, c. 1619-20; Nicolas Poussin's Nurture of Jupiter, c. 1636-37; Rembrandt van Rijn's Girl at a Window, 1645; Peter Lely's Nymphs by a Fountain, c. 1650; Gerrit Dou's Woman Playing a Clavichord, c. 1665; Bartolomé Esteban Murillo's Flower Girl, c. 1665; Jean-Antoine Watteau's Les Plaisirs du bal, c. 1717; Canaletto's Old Walton Bridge, 1754; and Thomas Gainsborough's Elizabeth and Mary Linley-The Linley Sisters, 1771-72.
On view in the Oval Room and Garden Court, the exhibition is co-organized by Colin B. Bailey, Associate Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator of The Frick Collection, and Xavier F. Salomon, Arturo and Holly Melosi Chief Curator at Dulwich Picture Gallery.
THE OLDEST PUBLIC ART GALLERY IN ENGLAND
Four miles south of Westminster and the Thames, Dulwich Picture Gallery sits amid verdant surroundings at the heart of Dulwich village, encircled by the ever-expanding fabric of London. Founded in 1811, it is the oldest public art gallery in England and to this day it retains the feel of a characteristically English Regency gallery, where paintings are densely hung along the walls in ornately decorated gilded frames. The collection is housed in one of Sir John Soane’s architectural masterpieces, especially built for the paintings that once belonged to the French art dealer Noel Desenfans (1744–1807) and his Swiss associate, Sir Francis Bourgeois (1753–1811).
In 1769, French-born Noel Desenfans moved to London, where he established himself as a successful language teacher. There he met Margaret Morris, the aunt of four of his pupils, whom he married in 1776; Desenfans was thirty-one and Margaret forty-five. She came from a prosperous Welsh family and brought with her a substantial dowry that helped Desenfans establish himself on the London social scene. Probably funded largely by Margaret, Desenfans embarked on a career as an art dealer. Before his marriage, Desenfans had met the young and handsome Peter Francis Bourgeois, the son of a Swiss watchmaker practicing on St. Martin’s Lane in London. Abandoned by his father after his mother’s death, Bourgeois fell into the care of Desenfans. The two became close friends and, later, business partners. In 1790 the two men were commissioned to create a national collection for Stanisław Augustus of Poland, but, with the partition of Poland among Russia, Prussia, and Austria five years later and the king’s abdication, Desenfans and Bourgeois found themselves with a substantial group of paintings. Bourgeois proved to be an insatiable buyer and, over the years, these holdings became even more noteworthy. Desanfans died in 1807. On Bourgeouis’s own death in 1811, he bequeathed the collection to Dulwich College—an institution founded during the seventeenth century that already owned an interesting collection of pictures—with the stipulation that it be put on view to the public. Dulwich Picture Gallery consequently became England’s first public art gallery, opening its doors in 1817.