In 1873, Andrew Barclay Walker, a Liverpool brewer and alderman, presented a gallery to the city of Liverpool to commemorate his term as mayor. The Walker opened to the public in 1877.
Housing an absolute wealth of works, the Walker displays a fraction of its entire collection: paintings by the Dutch School and 18th-century British artists including Gainsborough, Reynolds and George Stubbs. There is also a significant holding of Pre-Raphaelite works including examples from the Liverpool School.
The contemporary collection includes important works by David Hockney and Bridget Riley. A selection of contemporary paintings can be found in the John Moores Gallery. The John Moores Gallery exhibits winning works from the John Moores painting prize. The prize was established in 1957 and has become renowned for its support of contemporary painting.
Since 1980, the Walker has purchased the first prize-winning work for its collection. Works on show in the gallery include paintings by Michael Raedecker and Dan Hays. The craft and design gallery shows an inspiring collection with a particularly extensive group of tea and coffee pots from the 1700s to the present and a small selection of Minton art nouveau ware. The Walker programmes a series of temporary exhibitions throughout the year in conjunction with the display of its permanent collection.
The Walker Art Gallery is part of National Museums Liverpool and contains the best collection of historic art outside of London. On display are European Renaissance paintings, masterpieces by Rubens, Poussin, Rembrandt, Turner and Stubbs, Pre-Raphaelite artworks by Rossetti and Millais and Impressionist works by Monet and Degas. The collection strongly represents British Art from 1880 to 1950, featuring works by Paul Nash, Lucian Freud and L. S. Lowry among others and there is an ever-growing collection of contemporary art, including Michael Craig-Martin, Mirza Haroon and Claire Partington, whose earthenware sculpture complements the Walker's ceramic collection as well as a nod to their painting of Mr and Mrs William Atherton by Arthur Devis (1712-1787).