Rockwell comes to Dulwich

We got off to a rather rushed start this morning. We overslept and when we woke up realized we had only an hour to meet our friends in Catford. There was nothing for it but to telephone, apologize and then… rush!

Midland Bank, Princes Street
Midland Bank, Princes Street

We changed buses here in Princes Street, opposite this rather imposing building, once the Midland Bank, also known as Nos 27-35 Poultry, the old name given to the street when the poulterers used to live here. It was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1924 and completed in 1939. It is now  Grade I listed building, so it should be safe for a while yet.

Dulwich Picture Gallery, the garden
Dulwich Picture Gallery, the garden

At London Bridge station we bought baguettes and coffee for breakfast and took a train to Catford. There we met our friends, took two more buses and finally arrived at the place shown above. The photo shows the garden of the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Dulwich Picture Gallery was founded in 1811 as England’s first public art gallery. You will find an account of its history here. Admission to the main gallery is £5 but there is usually an extra charge to visit special exhibitions.

The main gallery
The main gallery

We had indeed come to see a special exhibition, Norman Rockwell’s America, subtitled “The best-known and most beloved American artist of the 20th century”. Critical opinion on Rockwell has always been divided and there is no doubt that Rockwell is a “popular” artist in the sense of appealing to people who, setting aside over-sophisticated artistic pretensions, enjoy his humorous and tender-hearted pictures of ordinary folk, executed with superb draughtsmanship and colour.

The shop is through the arch
The shop is through the arch

Photography is not allowed in the special exhibitions (though it is allowed in the main galleries), so I cannot show you any of the Rockwell pictures that we saw but you will have no difficulty finding examples on the Web and you may already know his works.

Side gallery
Side gallery

The cooler decor of the side galleries makes a pleasant contrast with the more exciting colour of the main gallery. As well as paintings, the Picture Gallery has on display some items of furniture. In the above photos, the chairs around the perimeter of the room are exhibits, not to be sat on!

French mantel clock, c1725
French mantel clock, c1725

If you go into the Picture Gallery by the entrance that is most visible from the road, this takes you past the cafe to the gallery shop and from there into the main gallery. One of the first things you will see as you enter the gallery, is this beautiful French mantel clock, dating from the 1720s but still ticking away and showing the correct time. If I could take one item home with me, it would be this!

Old Grammar School Lintel inscription
How’s your Gothic? The Grammar School of the College of God’s Gift

On leaving the gallery, we walked into Dulwich Village and enjoyed a meal at  PizzaExpress. On the way we passed the Old Grammar School or, as it is spelt out by the inscription over the door, The Grammar School of the College of God’s Gift at Dulwich.

The College was founded in 1619 and the Grammar School was added in 1841. In due course Dulwich College separated from the grammar school and is today “an academically selective independent boys’ school in south London”, as you will see from its Web page. The Old Grammar school is now the office of the Dulwich Estate.

There is obviously an interesting history behind all this but I have as yet to follow it up.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger,, All rights reserved.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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4 Responses to Rockwell comes to Dulwich

  1. AEJ says:

    The Rockwell exhibit was just recently here in Raleigh, too. Some friends went and said it was nice.

  2. WOL says:

    Rockwell’ immense popularity here in the states is due partly to the fact that he painted many covers for the old “Saturday Evening Post” magazine, and that he has been heavily “merchandised” — calendars, decorative limited edition collectors’ plates, etc. He is rightly noted for his superb draftsmanship, and his ability to capture expressions. He was a “people’s painter” — painting ordinary people and daily life, which made his work very accessible — another facet of his appeal. That said, I must admit if I had to choose between a Rockwell exhibit and a Wyeth exhibit, I’d plump for the latter.

    I completely agree on the clock. Gorgeous piece. Rather vibrant color scheme in the gallery. My tastes in art are similar to my tastes in music, extremely eclectic — Never mind all this art history song and dance and art critics telling me what I ought to like. My test of “great art” is how much I covet it!

    • SilverTiger says:

      A large part of the Rockwell exhibition at Dulwich was taken up with covers from the SEP. It was interesting to compare the version on the magazine cover with the original where this was present.

      I am very much an I-know-what-I-like appreciator of art. I have little time (actually none at all) for “artists” who think that by knocking a couple of dents in a rock or splashing a bit of paint randomly on a canvas they have created art. Some of the public “art” littering open spaces in London is an insult to our intelligence as well as a waste of our tax money.

      Rockwell isn’t the profoundest artist but I don’t think he he claims to be. For me his charm consists precisely in his lack of pretension and his commitment to being exactly what he is. No one should be ashamed of saying they enjoy his pictures.

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