Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, is located on New Bridge Street. The Laing Art Gallery, in Newcastle city centre, is home to an impressive collection of art and sculpture and its exhibition programme is renowned for bringing the biggest names in historic, modern and contemporary art to the North East.

The Laing Art Gallery is managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums on behalf of Newcastle City Council. The gallery was designed in the Baroque style with Art Nouveau elements by architects Cackett and Burns Dick and is now a Grade II listed building. It was opened in 1904 and is now managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In front of the gallery is the Blue Carpet.

The permanent collection of art can be viewed throughout the season with important paintings by John Martin, William Holman-Hunt, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and sculpture by Henry Moore, amongst others.

The gallery collection contains paintings, watercolours and decorative historical objects, including Newcastle silver. In the early 1880s, Newcastle was a major glass producer in the world and enamelled glasses by William Beilby are on view along with ceramics (including Maling pottery), and diverse contemporary works by emerging UK artists. It has a programme of regularly rotating exhibitions and has free entry.

Despite a quite active artist scene, there was no art gallery in Newcastle until the late 19th century. In 1900, Alexander Laing, a wealthy wine merchant from Newcastle, offered a donation of (estimated) 20,000 pounds to the town for the construction of a gallery. It was designed by local architects Cackett and Burns Dick. A place for a possible gallery had already been selected before the donation, and so the town council accepted the donation, in spite of the opposition because of the unfavorable traffic situation of the square. Until the opening in 1904, the construction cost 30,000 pounds.

There were not, as is often the case, private patrons, who donated works of art from their collections to the gallery. Therefore, the first curator, C. Bernard Stevenson, had to ask for individual loans and donations. For the opening exhibition he was able to assemble 400 objects.

In 1996, a side wing was added, which connects the gallery to a larger road and is therefore more visible and accessible from the city center. In 2004 the gallery building was renovated. To this day, the Laing Art Gallery had five curators: C. Bernard Stevenson, his son Collingwood Stevenson, John Millard, Andrew Greg and, since May 2001, Julie Milne.

The Laing Art Gallery has a collection of mainly British paintings from the 18th century to the present, with a focus on local artists. The collection comprises a total of about 1000 paintings, 4,000 watercolors, 5,000 prints, 100 sculptures and 7,000 artisan objects. John Martin, Holman Hunt, Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Paul Gauguin, Stanley Spencer, Joshua Reynolds and Laura Knight.

On the upper floor of the gallery are four rooms, which are used for special exhibitions and exhibitions from the own collection. In the lunettes of these rooms are paintings by local artists, depicting scenes from the history of the city.

On the ground floor is the permanent exhibition “Art on Tyneside” (art on the banks of the Tyne), as well as a café. There is also a children’s center for arts, the “All About Art Room”. The “Marble Hall”, the former entrance hall of the gallery, houses a sculpture exhibition, including a bust of Alexander Laing.

In the new wing are the entrance area and the reception, a room for lectures, conferences etc., and on the upper floor a further exhibition space.

The gallery is managed by Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums and by the British Ministry of Culture. Admission is free. Since 1965 there is also a “Friends of the Laing Art Gallery” (FLAG), which collects money for exhibitions, catalogs and purchases of other works of art.

The gallery’s collection of seminal paintings includes John Martin’s dramatic “The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah”, as well as important works by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Burne-Jones (“Laus Veneris”), Holman Hunt (Isabella and the Pot of Basil), Ben Nicholson and others. Local paintings include pictures by Ralph Hedley. There is also an extensive collection of 18th and 19th-century watercolours and drawings, including work by Turner, Cotman etc.