Whitworth Art Gallery

Manchester, United Kingdom | C.1889

Photo Credit: Noel Peterson

Built with brickwork befitting its Industrial Age beginnings, the Whitworth Art Gallery contains a collection totalling 60,000 objects of fine art, modern and contemporary art, textiles, prints, and sculpture. Established in 1889, the Whitworth has steadily transformed itself over the decades to remain one of England’s preeminent art galleries.

The gallery was originally opened as the Whitworth Institute and Park, named after Sir Joseph Whitworth, a British engineer and inventor known for developing the Whitworth Rifle. Upon his death in 1887, part of Whitworth’s fortune was used to fund the establishment of the gallery along with donations from sixty prominent Manchester investors.

At the time of the gallery’s opening, Manchester was a hotbed of industrialization and led the world in manufacturing. This industrialization influenced the Whitworth’s early art acquisitions with collections consisting of British watercolors and world textiles. These textiles were even selected to inspire Manchester cloth makers.

During the 20th century, the Whitworth continued to acquire artwork, but in 2003 an unexpected theft took place. Three paintings – a Van Gogh, a Picasso, and a Gauguin – were stolen from the gallery. Luckily the artwork was later discovered in a nearby public bathroom and safely returned to the exhibition.

In 2015, the Whitworth underwent a £15 million redevelopment and expansion. Inspired by the gallery’s early days and Manchester’s manufacturing roots, the architects designed a blend of British bricks to create its facade’s brickwork pattern to reflect the historic textiles found in its art collection.

Written By: Kelly Murray

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