Creating a National Collection: The Partnership between Southampton City Art Gallery and the National Gallery – Southampton City Art Gallery

Creating a National Collection: The Partnership between Southampton City Art Gallery and the National Gallery

28 May – 4 September 2021

Creating a National Collection is the first exhibition to explore the unique relationship and influence the National Gallery has had on the evolution of Southampton’s collection. The historical links between the two galleries are significant, but little known. This fruitful relationship was established from the start, when Cllr Robert Chipperfield (1817–1911), whose bequest in 1911 led to the creation of the collection and the Art Gallery in Southampton, ensured that future acquisitions would be of a national calibre. Chipperfield had the foresight to stipulate that all purchases using his Trust fund should be undertaken in consultation with the Director of the National Gallery. Kenneth Clark, newly installed as the National Gallery’s Director in 1934 took a particularly active interest in advising Southampton on acquisitions and wrote its first formal collecting policy in 1936, which essentially remains in place today.

The exhibition will include outstanding works from Southampton, alongside the loan of 9 paintings from the National Gallery, by artists including Monet, Gainsborough, Maggi Hambling and Paula Rego. The two institutions have worked in partnership as part of the current 2019–21 National Gallery Curatorial Traineeship programme, supported by the Art Fund with the assistance of the Vivmar Foundation, with Curatorial Trainee, Jemma Craig, leading on a project to explore this dynamic and ongoing collaboration. A major publication will accompany the exhibition which will tell the fascinating history of Southampton City Art Gallery, and its relationship with the National Gallery, using untapped archival material and new oral histories.

The exhibition and publication have been organised by Southampton City Art Gallery in partnership with the National Gallery, London.


click here for exhibition related events, talks and tours


Scroll through the 'Creating a National Collection' blog here...

#1 – Introducing Jemma

Click the link to meet Jemma, the current Curatorial Trainee for the National Gallery and Southampton City Art Gallery.

For the past 18 months Jemma has been busy researching the history of the City Art Gallery and delving through the archives at both institutes, exploring their longstanding relationship.

In the first of a series of blog posts Jemma talks about how her traineeship is going so far.

#2 – Researching the Relationship

Click the link to meet Susanna Avery-Quash, the Senoir Research Curator in the History of collecting at the National Gallery and who has been mentoring Jemma over the last 18 months.

In the latest blog post, Susanna discusses the process behind investigating the intertwined histories of both galleries and shares some of the many interesting aspects of the historical partnership that have been uncovered through their trips to the archives.


#3 Thomas Gainsborough, a Pair of Portraits

Welcome to week three of the Creating a National Collection blog. My name’s Corinna and I’m a Curatorial Trainee at the National Gallery, partnered with Museums Sheffield. I’ll be taking a closer look at two portraits in the exhibition by one of England’s finest eighteenth-century portraitists, Thomas Gainsborough.

#4 Sofonisba Anguissola

Click the link to meet Giulia Calvi and learn more about Sofonisba Anguissola, Giulia’s personal connection to the artist and the beautiful painting ‘The Artist’s Sister in the Garb of a Nun’


#5 Claude Monet

Join Jemma, Curatorial Trainee with the National Gallery and Southampton City Art Gallery.

“In this episode, I wanted to talk more about the pairing of two paintings by Claude Monet which will appear together for the first time in the upcoming exhibition Creating a National Collection, The Petit Bras of the Seine at Argenteuil from the National Gallery and The Church at Vétheuil in Southampton’s collection”

#6 Behind the Scenes: installing the exhibition

As part of the planning and installation process, lots of choices have been made and help has been given by all of the Southampton team including curators, exhibition officers, conservators, and the front of house team, as well as colleagues from the National Gallery. A real team effort has allowed this project and exhibition to come to life and I’d like to share with you some of the behind the scenes decisions and images of the installation process.

#7 Behind the Scenes: Conservation

I’m thrilled to say ‘Creating a National Collection’ is now open! 

As you will have seen from past blogs, a lot of work goes into the preparation for an exhibition of this scale. Today, I wanted to share a little about how the paintings themselves were prepared for display.  

Share This:

To sign up for updates about Southampton City Art Gallery and other cultural venues in Southampton, sign up to Southampton City Council’s Culture Vulture email bulletin below.