A tale of two dinners at Walker Art Gallery

6 June 2013 by Laura

Two paintings

(From L to R) Isabella by Millais displayed alongside ‘The Dinner Party’ by Walsh

We have a very welcome guest amongst our Pre-Raphaelite paintings in room 6 of the Walker Art Gallery at present.

‘The Dinner Party’ (1980) by Sam Walsh is displayed for the first time next to its 19th century inspiration, ‘Isabella’ (1848-49) by John Everett Millais.

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

This is a great opportunity to display Walsh’s popular and incredibly complicated painting next to Millais’ ‘Isabella’. It 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.

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


Walsh exhibited in the John Moores Painting Prize at the Walker in in 1963. The call for entries for this year’s John Moores opens on 22 July 2013.

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