Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester Art Gallery
Established 1823 (1823)
Location Mosley Street, Manchester, England
Coordinates 53°28′43″N 2°14′29″W / 53.47861°N 2.24139°W / 53.47861; -2.24139Coordinates: 53°28′43″N 2°14′29″W / 53.47861°N 2.24139°W / 53.47861; -2.24139
Collection size approx. 25,000 objects[1]
Visitors 514,852 (1 April 2013 – 31 March 2014)[2]
Public transit access Metrolink: St Peter's Square and Piccadilly Gardens stations
Area 807,000 sq ft (75,000 m2) in
94 Galleries

Manchester Art Gallery, formerly Manchester City Art Gallery, is a publicly owned art museum on Mosley Street in Manchester city centre. The main gallery premises were built for a learned society in 1823 and today its collection occupies three connected buildings, two of which were designed by Sir Charles Barry. Both Barry's buildings are listed. The building that links them was designed by Hopkins Architects following an architectural design competition managed by RIBA Competitions. It opened in 2002 following a major renovation and expansion project undertaken by the art gallery.

Manchester Art Gallery is free to enter and open seven days a week. It houses many works of local and international significance and has a collection of more than 25,000 objects. More than half a million people visited the museum in the period of a year, according to figures released in April 2014.


Royal Manchester Institution

A Moor by James Northcote, the first piece acquired by the gallery

The Royal Manchester Institution was a scholarly society formed in 1823.[3] It was housed what is now the art gallery's main gallery building on Mosley Street. The first object acquired for its collection, James Northcote's A Moor (a portrait of the celebrated black actor Ira Aldridge), was bought in 1827.[3]

The Royal Manchester Institution opened its galleries to the public ten years after its formation and subsequently held regular art exhibitions, collected works of fine art and promoted the arts from the 1820s until 1882 when its premises and collections were transferred under Act of Parliament to Manchester Corporation, becoming Manchester Art Gallery.[3] The institution was handed over on condition that £2000 per annum would be spent on art for the next 20 years.[3] The Art Gallery Committee bought enthusiastically and by the end of the 19th century had accrued an impressive collection of fine art, added to by gifts and bequests from wealthy Mancunian industrialists.


The gallery is operated by Manchester City Galleries, a department of Manchester City Council which is also responsible for the Gallery of Costume at Platt Hall, Fallowfield.[4] Maria Balshaw is the director of the galleries and also director of the University of Manchester's Whitworth Art Gallery. She became joint director in a collaboration between the council and the university in 2011.[5]

The gallery's budget is controlled by the council but it also funded by the Manchester Art Gallery Trust, a charity (Registered Charity Number 1048581) that supports its work. The trust raises nearly half the funding required from companies, individuals and grant making trusts and foundations.[6] The gallery is currently open daily and on Thursdays opens until 9pm.[7]


The Athenaeum, one of the three Manchester Art Gallery buildings

Manchester Art Gallery is housed in three connected buildings. The City Art Gallery building, which faces onto Mosley Street, was designed and constructed between 1824–35. It originally housed the Royal Manchester Institution. Designed by architect Sir Charles Barry in the Greek Ionic style, the building is now Grade I listed. The two-storey gallery is built in rusticated ashlar to a rectangular plan on a raised plinth. The roof is hidden by a continuous dentilled cornice and plain parapet. Its eleven-bay facade has two three-bay side ranges and a central five-bay pedimented projecting portico with six Ionic columns. Set back behind the parapet is an attic with small windows that forms a lantern above the entrance hall.[8]

Manchester Athenaeum, also designed by Barry, was built in 1837 and was bought by the Manchester Corporation in 1938 to provide additional space. It is Grade II* listed and designed in the Italian Palazzo style.[9] The Athenaeum fronts onto Princess Street.

In November 1994 an architectural design competition managed by RIBA Competitions was launched to refurbish the existing historic gallery and the Athenaeum and link them with a new building on the car park site.[10] The competition attracted 132 architects, six of whom were selected to proceed to the final stage. Michael Hopkins and Partners were announced as winners in January 1995.[10] The gallery closed in 1998 and reopened in 2002 following the £35 million refurbishment and extension.[10][11] The new extension was criticised as "the splendid and really beautiful interiors of the original building .. have been gratuitously spoiled", and was the 2002 winner of the Sir Hugh Casson Award


The Good Samaritan by G F Watts framed by doorways

The gallery has fine art collection consisting of more than 2,000 oil paintings, 3,000 watercolours and drawings, 250 sculptures, 90 miniatures and around 1,000 prints.[12] It owns more than 13,000 decorative art objects including ceramics, glass, enamels, furniture, metalwork, arms and armour, wallpapers, dolls houses and related items.[13] The oldest object is an Egyptian canopic jar from circa 1100 BC.[13]

Thomas Coglan Horsfall's eclectic collection from the Manchester Art Museum in Ancoats Hall was absorbed into the gallery when the museum closed in 1953.[14]

Manchester Art Gallery is strongest in its collection of Victorian art, especially that of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and Victorian decorative arts.

The gallery houses several works by the French impressionist, Pierre Adolphe Valette, who painted and taught in Manchester in the early years of the 20th century; some of his scenes of foggy Manchester streets and canals are displayed. A Cézanne hangs in the same room, showing the similarity in treatment and subject between his misty French river bridge and Valette's bridge in a pre-Clean Air Act Mancunian fog. L. S. Lowry was one of Valette's students and the influence on Lowry of impressionism can be seen at the gallery, where paintings by the two artists hang together. The museum houses The Picnic (1908), a work by the British Impressionist painter Wynford Dewhurst, who was born in Manchester. Annie Swynnerton who was born in Hulme is represented in the collection by 16 paintings and her contemporary at the Manchester School of Art, Susan Dacre by 17 paintings.[15]

As well as paintings the museum holds collections of glass, silverware and furniture, including two pieces by the Victorian reformist architect and designer William Burges.



Dutch School

Wynford DewhurstThe Picnic (1908)

English School

Flemish School

French School

German School

Italian School

Hungarian School

Temporary exhibitions

2013: Raqib Shaw

See also


  1. "About the collection". Manchester Galleries. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  2. Denise Evans (11 April 2014). "Half a million visit Manchester Art Gallery in a year". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 4 History of the collection, Manchester Galleries, retrieved 13 January 2015
  4. Departments and contacts, Manchester Galleries, retrieved 13 January 2015
  5. Rebecca Atkinson (25 February 2011), Balshaw named joint director of Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery, Museums Association, retrieved 13 January 2015
  6. Supporting Us, Manchester Galleries, retrieved 13 January 2015
  7. Jonathan Schofield (11 April 2014). "Art gallery's record year tells us about Manchester tourism". Manchester Confidential. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  8. Historic England, "City Art Gallery (1282980)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 1 May 2012
  9. Historic England, "The Athenaeum 81 Princess Street (1270889)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 28 January 2015
  10. 1 2 3 Manchester Art Gallery Expansion Project, Manchester Galleries, retrieved 13 January 2015
  11. Manchester Art Gallery, Royal Institute of British Architects, retrieved 1 May 2012
  12. Fine art, Manchester Galleries, retrieved 13 January 2015
  13. 1 2 Decorative art, Manchester Galleries, retrieved 13 January 2015
  14. Stuart Eagles. "Thomas Coglan Horsfall, and Manchester Art Museum and University Settlement". Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  15. "We found 2,132 paintings relevant to your search". The BBC. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
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