The Delaware Art Museum
presents Paintings from the Reign of Victoria: The Royal Holloway Collection, London, an exhibition of 60 of the most important paintings from the Victorian period, encompassing the full range of subject matter and style, on view February 1, 2009 April 12, 2009. The paintings were acquired by Thomas Holloway and installed in the womens college he founded in 1879, which is still in operation today as Royal Holloway, University of London. Equating beauty with morality, Holloway believed art could be a teaching tool. He bought only the best paintings, with an established provenance, and paid the highest prices at auction.
The collection includes scenes of contemporary life, historical events, landscapes, animal studies, and marine subjects. Artists represented include, among others, Sir Edwin Landseer, William Powell Frith, and Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais. Until now, the majority of the 60 canvases had never been exhibited outside of England.
Thomas Holloways collection, assembled over three intensive years of buying only the finest examples of Victorian art, forms a unique, time-capsule view of this crucial moment in British history, said Margaretta Frederick, curator at the Delaware Art Museum. The broad range of subjects reinforces the notion that the sun never set on the British Empire during this period.
Paintings from the Reign of Victoria: The Royal Holloway Collection, London will complement the Delaware Art Museums Bancroft Collection of Pre-Raphaelite Art, which is the largest Pre-Raphaelite collection in the world outside the United Kingdom. The Royal Holloway Collection opens a window to the environment in which the Pre-Raphaelites lived and worked and allows visitors to see the Pre-Raphaelites alongside the best of their contemporaries.
Samuel Bancroft, Jr. (1840-1915), a Wilmington textile mill owner, was shocked with delight upon viewing his first Pre-Raphaelite painting in 1880, and he began assembling his collection with the purchase of Dante Gabriel Rossettis Water Willow in 1890. Bancrofts family bequeathed his Pre-Raphaelite holdings to the Delaware Art Museum in 1935. The Bancroft Collection is particularly strong in the late works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, which depict beautiful, seductive women, often called stunners, as well as works representative of the Arts & Crafts Movement.
Thomas Holloway (1800-1883) made his fortune in patent medicines. After he began a public debate on How best to spend a quarter of a million or more, his wife Jane suggested he start a college for women. He founded Royal Holloway College in 1879, and it was opened by Queen Victoria in 1886. Royal Holloway and Bedford College were admitted as Schools of the University of London in 1900, and both Royal Holloway and Bedford admitted male students for the first time in 1965. Royal Holloway, University of London continues to provide a home to the Royal Holloway Collection.