Much of Wolverhampton’s fine art collection was founded on three major bequests. The first was given by Philip Horsman, a local building merchant, who also paid for the construction of the Art Gallery in 1883. Two more important gifts followed of work collected by Sidney Cartwright, a local tin toy manufacturer (1887) and Paul Lutz, a hardware manufacturer (1899). All three men were particularly interested in British landscape and genre painting. Sidney Cartwright was an avid collector of the ‘Cranbrook Colony’, a group of artists based in the pretty town of Cranbrook in Kent. They painted attractive scenes of village life, which provided an escape from the recently industrialised towns where many of their patrons lived. The collection is particularly strong in what we call domestic ‘genre’ painting.
In the 1960s, with the appointment of a curator whose remit was to develop the collections strategically, priority was given to contemporary art. Acquisitions were made of work by leading figures of the British and American Pop Art movement including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Hamilton and Peter Blake. Some brave decisions were made and this period wasn’t without controversy. One of the legacies of the Pop Art collection was the continued focus throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s on work that addressed the political and social landscape of modern Britain. This included art based on the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the foundation was laid for a unique collection of work related to the struggle for power in Ulster.
From 2000-2005 the Gallery was part of a national collecting scheme, funded through the Arts Lottery and managed by the Contemporary Art Society. This scheme enabled us to expand our contemporary collection, again focusing on issue-based work. Work by leading contemporary artists was added to the collection, including Richard Billingham, Helen Chadwick, Tom Hunter, Gillian Wearing and many others. We continue to build on our collections, seeking funding wherever possible, to provide a valuable resource for visitors and researchers alike.
You can find out more about works in the fine art collection by…
- …trying a simple search using the search box at the top of the page – just put one or more words, key phrases or artist names into the search box
- …clicking on one of the images below: