Fitzwilliam began in 1869 as a non-collegiate institution, providing Cambridge education to undergraduates who were unable to afford membership of a college.
The collection falls into three sections: post-war British paintings, portraits of Masters and other significant figures in the College’s history and a few topographical studies. The most distinctive works are two series of paintings which represent different trends in British art since 1945. Anthony Dorrell’s ‘Black Earth’ series comprises 12 large landscapes, the subject the Cambridgeshire fens with their rich dark soil divided up into vast fields and punctuated by ribbons of dykes. These powerful and atmospheric images present a vision of the English countryside far removed from the rural idyll portrayed in traditional painting in this genre. In contrast with the abstraction of the ‘Black Earth’ paintings, ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’ series by Carel Weight translates this ancient medieval theme to contemporary London and provides a vivid commentary on the social evils enacted on its streets.
The College is a private educational institution.