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A tale of two dinners at Walker Art Gallery

6 June 2013 by Laura

(From L to R) 'Isabella' by Millais and 'The Dinner Party' by Walsh.

(From L to R) ‘Isabella’ by Millais and ‘The Dinner Party’ by Walsh.

Did you know that ‘The Dinner Party’ (1980) by Sam Walsh was inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite painting, ‘Isabella’, (1848-49) by John Everett Millais? 

The Walker’s head of Fine Art, Ann Bukantas told us:

“The way that Walsh’s popular and incredibly complicated painting relates to Millais’ ‘Isabella’, is a fascinating example of how two paintings, created more than a century apart, can still ‘speak’ to each other.”

‘The Dinner Party’ is a bafflingly complex composition of 24 figures sat around a dinner table. The diners, who would never have been together at the same time, are all real people from different periods of Walsh’s life. It features famous friends such as the artists Maurice Cockrill and Adrian Henri, and the poet Roger McGough, as well as Walsh’s neighbour, solicitor, ex-wife, partner and bank manager.

Walsh himself appears twice in the painting, sitting on opposite sides of the table. The Walsh on the right-hand side is shown wagging his finger at his opposing self, a mannerism he particularly disliked and a nice example of the way he used humour in his work.

Irish-born Walsh settled in Liverpool in 1960 and established himself at the heart of the city’s creative crowd. The Walker’s collection and his circle of artist, poet and musician friends were an important source of inspiration and often the subjects of his work. Another link with the Walker is the fact that Walsh exhibited in the John Moores Painting Prize at the Gallery in 1963.

The painting has been lent to the gallery by John Entwistle, OBE.

 

 

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