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Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool Reopens Old Master Galleries with Two New Acquisitions

More than three years after the galleries closed for renovation, the Walker Art Gallery’s medieval, Renaissance and Baroque art will return to the public on 29 July 2023.

‘Renaissance Rediscovered’ comprises around 200 paintings, sculpture and decorative art objects, along with prints and drawings in a dedicated gallery for the first time. The new permanent exhibition features major artists including Michelangelo, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt and more, as well as two newly acquired works by Hendrick van Steenwyck and Willem van Aelst.

The new rooms present fresh research exploring diverse histories that have previously been excluded, such as new new insights into Black, LGBTQ+ and women’s stories, including Jan Mostaert’s Portrait of a Young Man (around 1520), which is one of the earliest examples of a visible Black presence in the Walker’s collection. A new digital interactive will bring to life the tapestry, The Triumph of Fortitude (Brussels, about 1525), the largest piece on display. The brave and compelling female characters from mythology and the Old Testament featured within the tapestry are the focus in this new story-telling interactive.

The role of the wealthy Victorian collectors who shaped the foundation of the Walker Art Gallery is addressed within the new displays. Joseph Mayer (1803-1886) presented 14,000 objects to the city in 1867, while the MP William Roscoe (1753-1831), purchased many of the most important paintings on display. The same paintings were later bought by the Liverpool Royal Institution, a group of wealthy art patrons who gave its collection to the Walker in 1948.

Liverpool’s economic development grew directly from Britain’s involvement with transatlantic slavery, with many members of the Institution making their fortunes through the abhorrent trade. The opening of ‘Renaissance Rediscovered’ offers an important opportunity to reflect on this legacy and is part of the gallery’s ongoing work to recognize its links to slavery, colonialism and empire.

In recent years, the Walker Art Gallery has been able to acquire two northern old master paintings. These will be presented alongside the new galleries for the first time on 29 July 2023. A Church Interior (ca. 1604-49) by Hendrick van Steenwyck is an example of one of the many church interiors painted by the artist. This one is probably imagined, rather than based on a real place. The use of oil paint on copper was ideal for including fine detail. Also presented for the first time is Still Life with Flowers by Willem van Aelst.

All photos by Gareth Jones © / Walker Art Gallery