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Opening November 26, 2003

The V&A will this autumn display 200 works from its extensive paintings collection in a new suite of five galleries. These galleries were originally built to house the Museum's paintings collection during the 1850s and will showcase works given by John Sheepshanks and other collectors between 1857 and 1901.

On display will be Constable's revolutionary oil sketches donated to the Museum by the artist's daughter, landscapes by Constable, Turner and Gainsborough, and famous works by Blake, Landseer and Millais. One room will be devoted entirely to the collection of Constantine Ionides, a leading Victorian collector and friend of Rossetti who collected European Old Masters and nineteenth century paintings.

The V&A has remarkable collections of eighteenth and nineteenth century British landscape paintings and watercolours (the national collection of watercolours is held at the V&A). Three galleries will focus on the image of landscape in Britain as interpreted by Constable, Turner and their contemporaries, featuring oil sketches and full-scale exhibition landscapes. The exhibits will include Gainsborough's experimental 'showbox' with its back-lit landscapes. There will also be an extensive selection of Constable's extraordinary oil sketches including views of Hampstead Heath, Brighton and the artist's beloved Suffolk. These are drawn from the largest single collection of the artist's work given to the Museum by his daughter Isabel in 1888. Works on display will include Turner's Lifeboat and Manby Apparatus going off to a stranded vessel (1831), Constable's Brighton Beach, with Colliers (1824) and his Boat Building Near Flatford Mill (1815), the first painting to be completed entirely out of doors.

The fourth room will celebrate British paintings by such masters as Blake, Landseer and Millais, densely hung in the Victorian manner, reflecting the nineteenth century passion for pictorial story-telling. The display will include Fuseli's dramatic Fire King (1801-10), Landseer's Stonebreaker and his daughter (1830) and Millais' theatrical Pizarro Seizing the Inca of Peru (1846). These paintings , first displayed in the Museum in 1857, comprised 'the first national gallery of British art'.

The final room is devoted to the magnificent bequest of old master and nineteenth century paintings given by Constantine Ionides. It will evoke the passions and interests of a leading representative of progressive Victorian taste. Ionides was a friend of Rossetti, Legros and Watts. His collection includes paintings by Botticelli and Tintoretto as well as important works by Burne-Jones, Ingres, Delacroix, Millet and Degas. To mark the opening of the new galleries, the National Museum, Liverpool is lending one of the greatest pre-Raphaelite paintings, Isabella (1848) by Millais. The painting, once part of the Ionides collection, will be on display until the end of January 2004.

These paintings will be complemented by French sculpture, Oriental ceramics and a spectacular decorated piano designed by William Morris. Together they will recreate the feeling of the rooms of a great Victorian collector. Works on display will include Degas' Ballet Scene from Robert Le Diable (1876), Botticelli's Portrait of a Woman (1470s) and Burne-Jones' sumptuous The Mill (1870-82). Degas' Ballet Scene was the first painting by a French Impressionist artist to enter a British national collection.

Many paintings have been cleaned and restored for this display enabling their quality and colour harmonies to be fully appreciated.

The new paintings galleries are the latest project in the V&A's ten year Future Plan to transform and renew the Museum with beautiful new displays of the collections. The Museum is extremely grateful to Mr and Mrs Edwin Davies OBE who, having already supported the refurbishment of the British Galleries, have now enabled this project to come to fruition. Further generous support has also been received by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Wolfson Foundation.

· Admission to the V&A is FREE
· For PUBLIC enquiries please telephone 020 7942 2000
· High quality downloadable images are available free on or call direct on 08701 522 333
· The V&A is open Monday to Sunday 10.00 - 17.45 and late on Wednesday and the last Friday of the month until 22.00


0207 942 2501


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