The creation of the Lady Lever Art Gallery
VIPs at the at the opening of the Gallery in 1922. Lever is in the centre, with the elderly Princess Beatrice on his right, and his son and daughter-in-law on his left.
Lever wanted to share his collections with the public. At first he used the library and then Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight Village for small displays. But he needed a bigger and more impressive building for his collections. Lever had learned his new business methods, especially marketing, from America. The idea for his art gallery may also have come from America. Many American business tycoons built galleries for their own art collections and presented them to the public. Lever was the only British tycoon who did this.
Lever personally selected works of art from his huge collection for the gallery. He also bought new works specifically for public display. He explained, "I have to cater for all tastes ...".
Design of the gallery
Lever chose the classical style of the gallery's architecture because of recent American galleries. He started in 1913, working closely with his architects, William and Segar Owen of Warrington, on the building design.
By keeping the building low and setting back the corners, the architects managed to design a very large gallery without overwhelming the surrounding cottages. There are few windows, the interior being mostly lit by roof lights.
Modern building materials were used to construct the gallery. Beneath the Portland stone cladding and interior plasterwork is reinforced concrete.
Laying the foundation stone
On 25 March 1914 King George V laid the gallery's foundation stone by remote control. He pressed a button on a scale model of Port Sunlight village in Hulme Hall, 500 yards away, activating an on-site winch that lowered the stone into position. At the same time this working model enacted the event for spectators in Hulme Hall.
The gallery was formally opened on 16 December 1922 by Princess Beatrice, youngest daughter of Queen Victoria.
In his speech Lever explained that the new building contained the cream of his collection,
"... the finest works of artists that I have had the opportunity to acquire ..."
He also described his belief in the power of art to improve and enrich the lives of individuals and communities, saying,
"Art and the beautiful civilize and elevate because they enlighten and ennoble."