Opened in 1814, the Dulwich Picture Gallery is the oldest public gallery in Britain.
The core of the Dulwich College collection was created in the 17th century by Edward Alleyn, founder of the school, and 200 years later it was transformed by the outstanding collection of 17th and 18th-century works collected by Noel Desenfans, a French art dealer.
These paintings were intended for the National Gallery of Poland but, after the abdication of King Stanislas, they passed on Desenfans's death to his English wife and then to his friend Sir Peter Francis Bourgeois.
The Desenfan-Bourgeois collection was given to Dulwich College, for the foundation of a Picture Gallery, according to the terms of Bourgeois's will. In 1811 Sir John Soane, Bourgeois's friend, was commissioned to design a building to house the collection. The Neo-Classical building incorporates Soane's mausoleum for the gallery's three benefactors.
In 2000 the gallery was reopened after Rick Mather Architects completed improvements, including the restoration of Soane's original design, particularly in the front elevation. A glass-sided extension has also provided new facilities such as a practical art room, space for temporary exhibitions and a cafe.
When the gallery was closed its collection of over 300 pictures, especially rich in 17th-century European painting, embarked on a worldwide tour. Now returned, the paintings on display include works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Raphael, Canaletto, Poussin, Cuyp, Gainsborough and Van Dyck.
Rembrandt's 'Jacob II de Ghyen' has been stolen from the Dulwich Picture Gallery four times !
As well as its permanent collection, the gallery also hosts temporary shows.
Dulwich Picture Gallery is surrounded by grounds, and across the road are the 75 acres of Dulwich Park.