The Wallace Collection displays an array of European oil paintings from the fourteenth to the mid-nineteenth century which, among museums in England, is surpassed only by those in the National Gallery.
It is particularly strong in Dutch and Flemish paintings of the seventeenth century and in eighteenth and nineteenth-century French paintings, though there are also outstanding works by English, Italian and Spanish artists.
Most were acquired, often for enormous prices, by the 4th Marquess of Hertford, the father of Sir Richard Wallace, between about 1843 and his death in 1870. Among the painters represented are Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Hals (The Laughing Cavalier), Velàzquez, Poussin (A Dance to the Music of Time), Canaletto, Gainsborough and Lawrence. Reflecting the 4th Marquess's domicile in Paris, the unrivalled range of works by many significant French artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries includes works by Watteau, Boucher, Fragonard (The Swing), Decamps and Meissonier, artists whose paintings are barely represented elsewhere in British national collections.
There is also a fine group of English and French watercolours of the nineteenth century, including works by Bonington, Turner, Gericault and Decamps, as well as more than three hundred miniatures from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, most of which are by French artists, though there are also some exceptional English works. The paintings, watercolours and miniatures in the Wallace Collection offer an unrivalled opportunity to see a fashionable nineteenth-century collection brought together in London and Paris with exceptional taste and almost unlimited resources.