Expansion and growth of the Walker Art Gallery

Black and white photograph showing a group of schoolchildren looking at a painting

A school visit to Walker Art Gallery, late 1950s

1931 - The gallery closed to allow an extension to be built. Gifts of £10,000 each from George Audley, FC Bowring and Thomas Bartlett helped pay for the work.

1932 - George Audley donated 26 paintings to the Walker Art Gallery. A beer and whiskey exporter, Audley made many donations to the gallery throughout his life.

1933 - The Walker Art Gallery reopens with an exhibition that included Picasso and Gauguin. Lord Wavertree (the son of Andrew Barclay Walker) donated £20,000 and his paintings collection.

1934 - Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Paul Nash were amongst the exhibitors at the 'Unit one' show.

1935 - 'Snowdon from Lyn Nantlle' by Richard Wilson was bought for £950.

1939 - 1945 - During the Second World War the gallery was taken over by the Ministry of Food. The building was used for the administration and distribution of ration books. The collections were dispersed for safety. Due to reconstruction work after the war, the gallery remained closed until 1951.

1948 - The Liverpool Royal Institution presented William Roscoe's collection and other works to the Walker Art Gallery.

1951 - The gallery reopened. To mark the occasion several important works were donated by local businesses. These include 'Molly Longlegs' by Stubbs and 'Self-portrait' by Rembrandt.

Over the next few years the Walker Art Gallery became one of the first galleries to have a regular conservation programme. It also had conservation studios on-site, where J Coburn Witherop worked on paintings from the collection.

1955 - A Van Gogh exhibition was a great success with queues forming all the way down William Brown Street. The  Walker Art Gallery began to develop a larger education division with a wider programme of activities.

1957 - The first 'John Moores' painting exhibition was held. Sponsored by Sir John Moores, founder of Littlewoods, the exhibition has been held every two years ever since. The gallery's first full-time schools' officer was appointed.

1960 - 'The Virgin and Child with St Elizabeth and the Child Baptist' by Rubens was bought for £25,000.

1961 - An appeal to local businesses for support resulted in over £70,000 being donated. This was used to buy works by Seurat, Degas, Monet and Cézanne, amongst others.

1964 - A Ford Madox Brown exhibition was the first of three mounted to re-assess Pre-Raphaelite artists. Millais and Holman Hunt followed in 1967 and 1969 respectively.

1967 - David Hockney won the 'John Moores' competition with 'Peter getting out of Nick's pool'.

1974 - The government placed on long-term loan at Walker Art Gallery three paintings from the Earl of Sefton's collection at Croxteth. Gainsborough's ' Viscountess Molyneux' is one of these works.

1979 - The Walker Art Gallery hosted an Allen Jones retrospective, the first of a new series on modern British paintings.

1986 - The gallery received national status as part of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside.

1995 - The gallery acquired the Weld-Blundell collection of old master drawings. This includes works by Rubens, Reni and Mantegna.

1997 - An exhibition of works by the Victorian painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema attracted over 53,000 visitors.

1999 - Work begins on a major refurbishment of the Walker Art Gallery, part of the National Museums Liverpool Into the Future project.

2002 - The gallery reopened. It now features new temporary exhibition galleries and extensively refurbished 17th century galleries. The first exhibition held in the new galleries is a major retrospective of 18th century portraitist George Romney.

The Walker Art Gallery today

Use our Walker Art Gallery room guide to find out about the gallery and its collections today.