The basis of the Shipley Art Gallery’s collection was the bequest of solicitor Joseph Shipley in 1909, providing funding for a new gallery to be built and for his collection of paintings to be displayed within it. The highlights of the bequest are a group of outstanding Dutch and Flemish paintings along with some fine Victorian paintings.
Shipley’s tastes were wide-ranging, but he particularly liked landscape painting, as well as paintings with a strong moral meaning. His remarkable collection of Dutch, Flemish and other western European paintings includes important pictures by Hans Schäufelein, Abraham Janssens, Banjamin Cuyp, Jacob Grimmer, Salomon Rombouts, Jan van der Heyden, Arent van Tongeren, Michele Pace del Campidoglio, Johann Loth and Jan van Kessel. As a result, the Shipley Art Gallery has one of the finest provincial collections of Dutch and Flemish 16th- and 17th-century paintings in the UK.
The collection is also strong in European paintings and British 19th-century and early 20th-century art. The fine art collection features local favourites such as William Irving's 'The Blaydon Races', inspired by the Geordie anthem. The Shipley's other collections include a nationally important collection of contemporary craft, and historic decorative art with particular emphasis on Gateshead glassware. The Gallery runs a busy programme of exhibitions and events, as well as school visits, community engagement projects and family activities.