Walker Art Gallery – the grand dame of the Liverpool art world?

Mike Pinnington

Is Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery merely a historic relic – or a vital part of the Liverpool art world?

The Walker Art Gallery is something of an unsung jewel in the crown amongst Liverpool’s younger, noisier and sometimes more attention-grabbing art spaces. But visitors – and locals alike – overlook this historic gallery at your peril.

Dating from 1819, its head of fine art Ann Bukantas points out, “[the Walker] boasts an outstanding collection that ranges from the Medieval and Renaissance period through to the present day, with iconic works by artists as diverse as Simone Martini, Nicolas Poussin, David Hockney, Peter Doig and Louise Bourgeois”.

On entering the gallery, as you turn to your right, you are confronted by a stunning room filled entirely with sculpture. Amongst around 120 pieces, John Gibson’s The Tinted Venus (1851-6) is considered a highlight. Head upstairs to the first floor and you will find a mixture of changing exhibitions and its lauded permanent collection.

Including pieces by the likes of Titian, Rembrandt, Turner, Constable, Sickert, Monet and Cezanne, taking in a bewildering number of movements along the way (Renaissance Italy, Dutch Masters, Romanticism and Impressionism to name a few), to wander the rooms of the Walker’s first floor is to take in work regarded as some of the finest ever committed to canvas. Almost as impressive, it has grown to be one of the largest permanent collections of art in the UK.

It is perhaps easy to imagine this as a gallery living, and reliant upon, the past

Complimenting beautifully the work it is so famous for, it would be remiss not to also mention the gallery’s architecture: housed in a neo-Classical building, the feast for the eyes begins even before you set foot through its grand doors. Located on William Brown Street (the only street in the UK populated entirely by museums, galleries and libraries), and opened in 1877, it all began with the acquisition of just 37 paintings from the writer, historian and slave trade abolitionist William Roscoe.

For all its heritage and unsurprising reputation for its priceless permanent collection, it is perhaps easy to imagine this as a gallery living, and reliant upon, the past. However, to draw such a conclusion would be incorrect. With regular showcasing of individual, contemporary artists, an annual exhibition devoted to the work of the previous years’ Liverpool Art Prize and its role as host to the bi-annual John Moores Painting Prize, the Walker Art Gallery, Bukantas says, “brings together works by a wide range of artists that reflect what is current today”.  And who are we to argue?

Culture Guides


Explore Hollywood history, queer rarities and squirm-inducing horror across the big screens of Manchester and the North this month.

Patron Mono by Carolina Caycedo, image depicts a figure standing in a room with a three channel video emitting a yellow light


From immersive playgrounds and mythological journeys to tackling injustice, this month is filled with fresh art to see all around the North.

Geronimo Festival 2022


Festivals, shows, museums, and much, much more – there’s plenty of summer fun to be had for families in Manchester and the North, whatever the weather. Here are our top picks.

Poet Caroline Bird


There’s plenty of sunshine-drenched reading to immerse yourself in from established names and emerging talent, poets and prose writers alike, both in real life as well as online.


From basement crawlers to stadium stars, there are some electric live acts heading our way this summer. Here are our top picks.

Theatre in Manchester


Eclectic theatre festivals, silly slapstick and dreamy outdoor shows, there’s lots of brilliant performances happening inside and outside over the summer.

Classical Music in Manchester and the North

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester and the north.

Baekdu Korean BBQ Restaurant

Food and Drink

Plan for July’s food and drink outings at some of the best restaurants and bars in Manchester and the North.

Tours and Activities

Get out in the sun this month with tours and activities that will have you engaging positively with the climate, taking the plunge in Salford Quays and getting creative.