Lady Lever Art Gallery’s Collection
The secrets of Chinese works of art from the Lady Lever Art Gallery’s collection are available online to the public for the first time.
The 1,000 items were amassed by William Hesketh Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851 – 1925), one of the world’s great collectors.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century interest in the Chinese art market in Britain coincided with a boom in the manufacturing and trading industries. The export trade in Chinese porcelain to Europe from the 16th to 19th centuries had left its influence on a taste for things Chinese. To own a ‘china’ collection was to display wealth and earn prestige.
The online catalogue on allows you to search and explore the marvellous treasures in seven categories: blue and white china, ceramics, enamel decoration, cloisonné, jade with hardstone and glass, reverse painting on glass and snuff bottles.
Four fascinating essays place both Lever the collector and the collection in the context of Chinese and other art collecting in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
For example, the sinking of the Cunard liner Lusitania by a German submarine in 1915 had an impact on Lever’s collecting because out of a party of nine art dealers on board, just one survived.
He was 42-year-old Frank Partridge and Lever got to know him further after reading a news report about his survival. Among those who died on Lusitania was Edgar Gorer, the renowned international dealer in Chinese art. Following the sinking, Partridge took Gorer’s leading role in the Chinese art market and became Lever’s regular dealer.
The catalogue is the result of substantial research undertaken by Dr Yupin Chung and Professor Nick Pearce of the University of Glasgow. The three-year research project has produced the first comprehensive exploration of Lever as collector of Chinese things, tracing some of the developments of the Chinese art market in Britain.
It looks at the art market’s power structure and key players in his time, providing the essential link to previous collectors, dealers and auction-sales. In addition, the research analyses Lord Leverhulme’s collecting pattern and explores issues of cultural consumption. Dr Chung says:
“Lever’s once highly-acclaimed glamorous setting of Chinese objects finds an eloquent champion in a ‘new window’.
“The catalogue reveals the Lady Lever Art Gallery’s Chinese collection not only to the enthusiast and collector but also anyone interested in unique things made by talented artists.”
The project is supported by The Leverhulme Trust, the University of Glasgow and National Museums Liverpool.