Art for the People

G. Waterfield and Nicola Smith look at an initiative to blend industrial living and artistic appreciation in Victorian Britain.

In an area of London seldom if ever visited by tourists, close to Camberwell Green, stands on the Peckham Road the imposing turn-of-the-century red brick building of Camberwell Art School and, behind the same fa├žade, the South London Art Gallery (since 1992, the South London Gallery). This gallery enjoyed a brief period of prosperity and activity in the 1890s, but during this century its role has been variously and confusingly interpreted. Recently recast as a centre for advanced contemporary exhibitions, a Whitechapel Art Gallery of south London, it retains a seldom-exhibited collection of late Victorian paintings and works on paper, as well as Southwark's topographical views and numerous British twentieth-century works. The exhibition currently on view at the Dulwich Picture Gallery gives the public the opportunity to see examples of the founding collection, and to assess the socially revealing history of the gallery's inception.

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