Whitechapel Art Gallery: History Above Your Eyeline

John Passmore Edwards isn’t really a household name in London, but perhaps he should be.

Whitechapel Art Gallery History

Born in a small village in Cornwall 1823, the son of a carpenter, Passmore was his mother’s maiden name. He was an MP for Salisbury and Editor for London newspaper; The Echo. A paper he bought in 1876, before selling it to another famous philanthropist; Andrew Carnegie.

Passmore Edwrads shaped the cultural development of poorer areas of London with his generosity and over 14 years managed to fund 70 major buildings including hospitals and schools.

In the East End now it’s mainly libraries that might catch you eye, especially the old Whitechapel Library which opened in October 1892.

Whitechapel Art Gallery History

The gallery came later in 1901, with the aim to ‘bring great art to the people of East London’.

Throughout its history Whitechapel Art Gallery has been a trend setter; it displayed Picasso’s Guernica on its first and only visit to Britain (1939), it hosted the first major show of Jackson Pollack (1970) and presented the first shows of artists like Hockney and Gilbert & George.

Rachel whitehead was commissioned in 2012 to add to the large blank space on the gallery’s facade. It was originally thought to have had a mosaic across that space, but it was too costly.

Whitechapel Art Gallery History

The golden leaves depict the Tree of Life, and arts and crafts motif symbolising renewal. There’s also suggestions of Whiteread’s famous ‘solidified space’ technique, with the addition of inside-out casts of windows.

But when you’re next outside also pause to look up at the weathervane…

In 2003 the gallery expanded into next doors library which moved to the contemporary ‘Ideas Store’ down the road.

Whitechapel Art Gallery History

So it was only in 2009 that the specially commissioned weathervane by Rodney Graham appeared. It shows Desiderius Erasmus, humanist scholar from the 16th century, who is said to have written his most famous work The Praise Of Folly, on horseback from Italy to England.

Get the latest London secrets to your email
See the city from a new angle, discovering little things you miss everyday and get the latest news about upcoming tours.
Once a week. No spam, just inspiration.
Your details will never be shared with any 3rd parties

More Passmore Edwards in East London

A post shared by timjmein (@timjmein) on

Passmore Edwards Library in Plashet Grove, Newham

 

A post shared by Kristen (@nola_verte) on

Detail of the former Passmore Edwards Library in Hoxton, since converted into office space and The Courtyard Theatre.

Former Passmore Edwards public library in Limehouse, now being converted into flats. I lvoe the white stone open books on top of each gable!

Any more near you that you can’t help but admire?

More London Inspiration

  • M&S Oxford Street | Pantheon History Look Up London

    M&S Oxford Street | The Former Pantheon

    Oxford Street has a bad rep from Londoners, but there’s a surprising among of fabulous history if you know where to look. From a hidden little oasis to the more gruesome reminders at Tottenham Court Road and Marble Arch, often you have to look up......

  • bull and mouth coaching inn

    The Bull and Mouth: A Lost London Coaching Inn

    By the Museum of London you can see an amazing little clue to uncover the history of the Bull and Mouth Coaching Inn...

  • Inside Crosby Moran Hall | Look Up London

    Inside Crosby Moran Hall

    I’m constantly surprised by the wonderful doors that have opened since starting this blog back in 2015. A case in point was that a few weeks ago I wrote about the extraordinary history of Crosby Hall; the Medieval Mansion that was moved 5 miles across......

  • Putney Bridge WWII Pillbox | Look Up London

    A WWII Relic at Putney Bridge Station

    If you look up along Ranelagh Gardens, atop the railway viaduct for Putney Bridge Tube Station, you can spy a curious WWII Relic; a Pillbox. This concrete pillbox was erected in 1940 across Britain, a final line of defence should Germany invade during WWII. They......

  • Lavers and Barraud Stained Glass Works | Look Up London

    Lavers and Barraud Stained Glass Works

    Look up at 22 Endell Street in Covent Garden, and you’ll see the striking facade of a former stained glass studio. Built in 1859 and designed by Robert Jewell Withers, between the multi-coloured decorative brickwork you can make out the proclamation in stone; Lavers and......

  • Museum of London Smithfield Site

    Behind The Scenes at the new Museum of London Smithfield Site

    The London Museum – formerly Museum of London – is scheduled to open for a mini festival in 2025 then fully as a museum in 2026. So you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to get a special look around the building site......

Whitechapel Art Gallery History

No Comments

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.