• David Wilkie - The Chelsea Pensioners reading the Waterloo Dispatch 1822

    David Wilkie
    The Chelsea Pensioners reading the Waterloo Dispatch 1822

    Apsley House, The Wellington Museum, London (Trustees of the V&A). The Collection of the first Duke of Wellington in his own London home, open to the public

Art in public exhibitions

This gallery evokes the visual drama and diversity of a public exhibition in the 1820s and 1830s.

Virtually all the paintings were shown at one of the major exhibitions in London or Paris. The main venues were the Salon in Paris, and the Royal Academy in London, although London’s British Institution also welcomed foreign artists. Other works in this room could be viewed in one of the famous private collections in Paris or London or in regional exhibitions.

Paintings by John Constable, Thomas Lawrence and other British artists constituted a fraction of the art shown in Paris during the 1820s. Nevertheless their paintings, especially those shown at the ‘British salons’ of 1824 and 1827, ignited a heated debate on the relative merits of the two cultures.

Many of the paintings in this gallery are now considered icons of Romanticism. But at the time they were the subject of rigorous analysis that defined the critical debate on modernism for future generations of artists in both countries.