The Fitzwilliam Museum is the principal art museum of the University of Cambridge. In addition, it leads a consortium of the University's other museums and its botanical gardens. The Fitzwilliam is home to an outstanding collection of art housed in a historic building.
“Our mission is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. We do this by preserving and extending our world‐class collections and buildings, and by offering public programmes to engage with as wide an audience as possible.”
The museum derives its name from the Hon. Richard Fitzwilliam, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam. The Viscount was a graduate of one of the Cambridge colleges, Trinity Hall, and was a great collector of art and other items he came across on his travels. In 1816, he bequeathed his collections including 144 paintings and £ 100,000 to the University for the founding of a museum.
At first, the new museum was housed in temporary quarters. However, in 1821, property was purchased in central Cambridge for the museum's permanent home. A competition was held to design the building and a neo-classical design by George Basevi was selected. In 1848, the building was completed and the museum opened its doors to the public.
The Palladian entrance hall by Edward Middleton Barry was added in 1875. Further additions to the building were made following World War I and then in 1931, 1936, 1966, 1975 and 2004. As a result, the museum is now almost twice as large as the original building.
Over the years, the Fitzwilliam has benefited from gifts from friends and alumni of the University. For example, the economist John Maynard Keynes, who taught at Cambridge, donated his personal collection including a Cezanne. In addition, the Fitzwilliam often exhibits works from the collections of the various Cambridge colleges.
The Fitzwilliam's collection of European old masters includes paintings by Raphael, Titian, Veronese, Canaletto, Tintoretto, Holbein, Rembrandt, and Hals to name a few. British artists including Blake, Constable, Turner, and Lawrence are represented. It is also strong in Impressionist works with four paintings by Monet, six Pissaros, seven Degas, and eleven Renoirs as well as individual paintings by Gaugain and Van Gogh.. Furthermore, the works in the collections are just paintings but include prints, watercolors and drawings.
In addition, the Fitzwilliam has other impressive collections such as antiquities from Egypt, the Near East and Asia. It has manuscripts and rare books, arms and armor, ceramics, coins, textiles and furniture. In all, there are over a half million items in its collections.
On top of this, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions.
The Fitzwilliam is located on Trumpington Street, within easy walking distance of the central cluster of colleges. It has a shop and a cafe.
For more information on visiting, see the Fitzwilliam's website.
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Above: The Fitzwilliam's grand entry hall.
The Museum's Impressionist collection includes several works by Renoir (above) and Monet (below).
Places to see art - - Cambridge, England - - Fitzwilliam Museum