One of the citys best-known and loved paintings The Dinner Party by Sam Walsh (1934-89), has been gifted to the Walker Art Gallery
in Liverpool under the Cultural Gifts Scheme introduced by the UK Government last year. This is the fourth gift under this major initiative to encourage philanthropy to the UKs public museums, galleries and archives.
Walsh, a contemporary of Peter Blake and David Hockney, was one of the driving forces of the Liverpool art scene in the 1960s. He lived there for 29 years at the heart of the citys cultural life and his art has a resonance that relates directly to Liverpool. The Dinner Party is one of Walshs most significant works and is a homage to one of the Walkers most celebrated masterpieces Isabella by pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais (1829-96).
The people depicted in The Dinner Party were all from the artists life and include his neighbour, solicitor, ex-wife, partner, bank manager, fellow artists, poets, musicians and friends. Walsh appears twice in the painting, wagging a finger at himself seated opposite, an ironic gesture by the artist who was known to have particularly disliked the mannerism.
The painting is being gifted to the nation by John Entwistle, a former Trustee of National Museums Liverpool and founder-Chairman of its Development Trust. The Entwistle family were the principal benefactors of the Walkers European sculpture gallery.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, said: This is another wonderful donation under the Cultural Gifts Scheme, which thanks to the generosity of the donor will be returning home to the city where it was created. I hope the continuing success of this scheme encourages even more donors to come forward, to boost philanthropy for our museums and galleries.
John Entwistle said: I am delighted that the new Cultural Gifts Scheme has enabled me to gift this painting to the Walker in Liverpool during my lifetime rather than on death. The Walker is absolutely the right place for it to be seen by the public as Walsh was an important Liverpool artist and the painting depicts several of the leading poets and artists working in Liverpool in the 1970s, including the artist - twice.
For years there has been a demand for this type of scheme to encourage gifts of important works, by way of a tax reduction, to appropriate institutions by donors during their lifetime. I look forward to seeing the scheme become better known and well used."
Sandra Penketh, Director of Art Galleries said: Sam Walshs close ties with Liverpool and the Walker Art Gallery make this a fabulous addition to our collection. It joins our outstanding collection of 20th-century British painting and were sure visitors will enjoy its complex composition and humour.
"Were very grateful to John Entwistle for donating the work and we hope other art collectors might be inspired to follow his example."
Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said: It is a real pleasure to be able to announce this donation via the Cultural Gift Scheme so soon after the recent Wright of Derby announcement. The generous donation of Sam Walshs iconic painting is the fourth important object to have been given to the nation via this scheme in the last year, showing how rapidly this scheme is developing.
It is wonderful that a painting so closely linked to Liverpool should find its way into a public space in the heart of the city where the artist lived and worked for so many years.