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Dulwich Picture Gallery celebrates 200 years of visitors
James Stephanoff, The Viewing at Dulwich Picture Gallery, watercolour on paper, c.1830. By permission of The Trustees of Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.

CHICAGO, IL.- An early illustration of visitors to Dulwich Picture Gallery along with a visitor book bearing the signatures of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf forms part of a new display celebrating 200 years since the Gallery first opened its doors in 1817.

‘The First Visitors’ which opened today, is the first in an exciting line-up of public events and exhibitions during the Gallery’s bicentenary year, and draws from Dulwich’s own archives to explore what people would have seen and experienced on visiting the Gallery for the first time in the early 19th century.

The display includes the first Gallery handbook which preserves the initial rules and guidelines concerning the administration of the Gallery and visitor book from 1908 which includes the signatures of Vanessa and Clive Bell and Virginia Woolf. James Stephanoff’s watercolour, The Viewing at Dulwich Picture Gallery takes centre stage, showing the Gallery’s spectacular enfilade as it would have been in the 1830s. The watercolour is likely to have been made soon after the Gallery’s architect, Sir John Soane, had the walls repainted in the distinctive ‘Soane Red’.

The display also looks back at some of the Gallery’s famous first visitors with quotes by notable artists, writers and critics displayed next to works throughout the permanent collection. Contemporary visitors will be encouraged to enter their own interpretations of works via an iPad, a selection of which will be displayed in the Gallery at the end of the year.

The bicentenary celebrations continue throughout the year with the Gallery’s first ‘Dulwich Pavilion’ opening on 1st June to coincide with the start of the London Festival of Architecture. The pavilion, which has been designed by emerging architecture practice, IF_DO, will host a vibrant programme of public events including Friday and Sunday Lates throughout the summer.

Following on from Vanessa Bell, the major exhibition programme continues in June with a fresh look at the watercolours of the American artist, John Singer Sargent. This will be followed in October with the first UK retrospective of the renowned artist and illustrator, Tove Jansson.

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