Sir George Beaumont 7th bt. of Coleorton and the 200th Anniversary of the National Gallery

Sir George Beaumont 7th bt by HoppnerIn 1823 Sir George Beaumont 7th baronet and his wife Lady Margaret had just returned to their home at Coleorton Hall from an extended visit to Italy accompanied by his cousin and heir George.

“When I think of the assembly of great works we saw in the Vatican and elsewhere, it seems to me a national disgrace that we have nothing like it here. Think of the improvement in taste and industrial design that it could bring about. The benefits would make ample repayment for the cost of it.

When I think of Italy, with her painters, her sculptors, it grieves me to think that cousin George remains unmoved by it all. But, I am more determined than ever to serve my country by seeing to it that the British public is given the opportunity to develop an appreciation of the arts.”

And so the germs of a great idea were sown. Sir George was a patron of artists and poets and an acknowledged and accomplished amateur painter himself. He had acquired a fine collection of paintings displayed at Coleorton but worried about what would happen to them after his death. (He was 69 but suffered occasional bouts of ill-health). He first had the idea of adding a picture gallery to the British Museum but by 1823 the project was evolving to create a separate building for works of art, similar to those in Paris and Rome. When banker Julius Angerstein died leaving his extensive art collection to be sold and possibly broken up Sir George was galvanised into action. He determined to save Angerstein’s collection for the nation as the beginning of a National Gallery. He had briefly been an MP and had good connections with members of parliament and lobbied for the government to purchase Angerstein’s collection and promised to make a gift of several of his own pictures. This was finally agreed in parliament in July.

In May 1824, 200 years ago, the National Gallery opened its doors to the public for the first time, initially in Angerstein’s house. The current National Gallery building opened in Trafalgar Square in 1838. We have our own Sir George Beaumont to thank for this valuable national treasure which is available for us all to enjoy.

Local film-maker Wendy Freer from Pudding Bag Productions approached Coleorton Heritage Group last year for ideas about a film featuring Coleorton and we suggested the 200th anniversary of the National Gallery.

Residents of Coleorton Hall kindly allowed filming in their apartment with actors playing Sir George and his wife Lady Margaret, William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy and in the grounds with Sir George and John Constable, while he was sketching the Reynolds Cenotaph, later to be painted in oils.

The film was shown for the first time with talks about Sir George and the making of the film on Wednesday 6 March 2024 at Viscount Beaumont School, Coleorton.

It will be shown again as part of two-day exhibition at St Mary's Church on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th May. (Free entry. Refreshments available to purchase.)

Film & Talk

The film was shown for the first time with talks about Sir George and the making of the film on Wednesday 6 March 2024 at Viscount Beaumont School, Coleorton. It will be shown again as part of two-day exhibition at St Mary's Church on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th May.

More about the Beaumonts