Dulwich Outdoor Gallery Tour

Dulwich Outdoor Gallery

Street artists from all over the world have created works in and around Dulwich, London, inspired by 17th and 18th century paintings from the permanent collection at Dulwich Picture Gallery. 

In 2012 the street artist Stik met Ingrid Beazley, a teacher at Dulwich Picture Gallery, England's oldest public art museum. 

They agreed that not enough young people knew about, appreciated, and so visited Dulwich Picture Gallery's wonderful permanent collection, comprised mainly of 'old masters' from the Baroque period, and not many older people, especially those who lived outside the east end of London, knew much about, and appreciated street art.   

They decided to do something about it.

Renowned street artists from all over the world were invited into Dulwich Picture Gallery and asked to choose a painting that particularly inspired them and interpret it in their own style on the streets around Dulwich Picture Gallery.  

Street art followers have come to Dulwich/Peckham/Nunhead to see works by the artists they admire, and, understanding the link to the old masters, they have discovered Dulwich Picture Gallery as well.  

Local residents have been watching quality murals by the world's top street artists go up in their area.  Generally the reactions has been very positive.

Thierry Noir, famous for painting the Berlin wall at risk of his life throughout the 1980s, chose 'Joseph Receiving Pharaoh's Ring' 1733-5 by Giambattista Tiepolo.  

The half figures suit Noir's compositional style, and his simple, colourful shapes work well near the children's playground in Dulwich Park.

System and Remi Rough (both from the UK), members of the Agents of Change, collaborated on a wall opposite East Dulwich station...  

System painted a modern version of Rembrandt's 'Girl at a Window', 1645, and Rough created an abstracted background based on 'The Triumph of David' by Nicholas Poussin, 1628-31.

Phlegm (from the UK) also chose a detail from 'The Triumph of David' by Nicholas Poussin.  He painted this strange trumpeter in Poussin's celebrating crowd, near a primary school.  The children love it.

Charlotte Walsh, wall owner.

'Phelgm’s mural, and all the others I have seen so far are just great.  My son Kaius loved giving him a hand, and I am so grateful to him for letting him have an input...he feels proud to of been a part of it, and now feels very protective towards the wall!'


David Shillinglaw (from the UK) chose 'Samson and Delilah' by Anthony van Dyck, 1618 to interpret on the Florence pub in Herne Hill.

David has used Van Dyck's strong diagonal and his flowing lines of fabric, and incorporated the scared yet fascinated eyes of the onlookers and the numerous hands.  He uses colour symbolically: red for drama, danger, violence and a broken heart.

RUN (from Italy) chose the top part of 'The Translation of Saint Rita of Cascia' by Nicholas Poussin 1630, that shows the saint being transported on clouds to a convent, somewhere she had always wanted to go.

Wearing similarly flowing robes, RUN's St Rita is careering down into the convent, whereas Poussin's saint is journeying in a more sedate manner.

REKA (from Australia) chose a part of 'Europa and the Bull', the 17th century painting by Guido Reni.  

'I paint a lot of female figures in motion using flowing hair as a way to give the piece a dynamic quality.  In a sense it is moving on the wall'   REKA

Faith47 (from South Africa) also chose 'Europa and the Bull' by the 17th century artist Guido Reni to interpret.  She also left out the bull.

 'The absence of the bull and the introduction of a guiding bird are suggestive of a premonition of the abduction to come, her inner emotions and thoughts or perhaps a new interpretation of the ancient fable.'  Faith47

MadC (from Germany) took into account the location of the wall she was given.  She chose 'Vase with Flowers', 1720, by Jan van Huysum and wove his flowers and insects into her signature.

ROA (from Belgium) only paints animals.  He scoured the 17th century Dutch paintings in Dulwich Picture Gallery and chose a dog that features prominantly in 'Landscape with Sportsmen and Game' 1665, by Adam Pynacker.

Appropriately for a children's playground, Stik chose to interpret 'Three Boys' 1670, by Bartolome Esteban Murillo.  These 17th century Seville street urchins and negotiating for food and drink. Their ragged clothes and dirty feet position them in the social hierarchy.  

Stik's children are interacting too, but without reference to clothes, colour or gender they are universal children and perhaps easier to identify with.  

Stik had help to paint this from children at a local primary school.

Michael Beerens (from France) has probably produced the most interesting and subtle works based on Dulwich Picture Gallery old masters in the entire Dulwich Outdoor Gallery.  

He chose Murillo's 'Three Boys', but converted the children into sheep and painted each of them on three different houses in Court Lane in Dulwich.

Beerens' black hungry sheep, on barren ground, is painted on a side wall directly opposite a white sheep standing on lush grass, who has lots to eat.  The black sheep is imploring the white sheep for food.

Murillo's third mischievous boy is represented further down the road by a sly looking white sheep with a fox's tail.

Also on the house with the sly sheep is another Dulwich Outdoor Gallery work by Stik.  It is his version of 'Eliza and Mary Davidson' 1784, by Tilly Kettle.

Kettle's sisters are wearing beautiful costumes with an oriental reference, Stik's mural is all about the girls' easy and loving relationship, nothing more.  

Stik has found the gas meter box useful in his composition.

The Dulwich Outdoor Gallery is unusual in that many of the street art works are on private houses in quiet residential roads.

Inevitably the artists make friends with the owners.

Stik 'Stikified' Adam and Eve in 'The Fall of Man' by Pieter Coecke van Aelst, 1520.  

In the old painting are Adam's eyes fixed on the apple or Eve's breasts? Whatever, he is rejecting the offer. 

Stik gave his Adam a red toilet ball-cock to stare at.  It didn't last long on the garage door.  You can see it in the video, but not on in the images.

The figures on these hoardings are by street artist RUN.  He has based many of his people on those in ‘The Triumph of David’ by Nicholas Poussin, painted in 1628 and hanging in Dulwich Picture Gallery which is round the corner.  In both these art works the people are celebrating.  In Poussin’s they are fêting David for decapitating Goliath, in RUN’s they are marching happily towards Dulwich Picture Gallery.

 Both Poussin and RUN have used body language to express emotion and movement.

Poussin has painted a realistic depiction of a severed head dripping with blood, while RUN has interpreted it as a carnival head with ribbons.  RUN's version is more suitable for family viewing.

'The Old Nun's Head' pub in Nunhead wanted their three blank panels painted as part of the Dulwich Outdoor Gallery project.  

What could be more appropriate than to chose a painting of a nun's head for three different street artists to interpret? 

Pure Evil, Inkie and APHQ (all from UK) created their versions of 'St Catherine of Siena' painted in 1665 by Carlo Dolci, part of Dulwich Picture Gallery's permanent collection.

Not all street art has to be large, or even on walls.  Ben Wilson (from the UK) is a master of miniature painting.  He paints exquisite artworks on discarded pieces of chewing gum that he finds on pavements.

He also was inspired by 'St. Catherine of Siena' by Carlo Dolci 1665.

'Poor Catherine, locked up in a convent.  I painted her running away.  She is having a vision of a banana.'  Ben Wilson

Paris is the judge of a beauty contest between Juno, Venus and Minerva.  Cupid clings to his mother.  Ben only had room for 2 of the goddesses.  

He comments, 'I put everyone in this picture in the same boat. They are naked together.  So I ripped away Paris' bit of material to make them equal.'

Conor Harrington, (from Ireland) looked at the violent concept of 'The Massacre of the Innocents' 1660 by Charles Le Brun and also at 'A Stag at Sharkey's 1909 by George Bellows.  

His fighting men, in Regency costume, are 'a portrayal of global powers turning on themselves, the massacre of the not-so-innocent'  Conor Harrington.

Conor Harrington continued depicting this fight internationally - in Puerto Rico and the USA.

Stik always chooses people to interpret as that is pretty much all he paints.  Here he chose 'A Couple in a Landscape' by Gainsborough.  It is exactly what the title implies, we know nothing about them.  But we can guess from the clothes, pose and background.  

They are landowners (background), pretty rich (clothes), possibly its a marriage portrait (double portrait, the girl with a marriage contract in her lap?), a loveless match (pose).

Stik leaves out all the symbols of wealth and status leaving us with a couple staring out at us, not in the least bit interested in each other.

Stik interpreted Gainsborough's double portrait of 'Elizabeth and Mary Linley'. Gainsborough placed the sisters in an idealised, painted English landscape while Stik's girls reside in a real English suburban garden.

Gainsborough's girls are in the fashionable attire of 1772, and they are holding instruments of their profession.  Thirteen years after the completion of this painting, Elizabeth, the girl in blue, asked Gainsborough to change her hairstyle to the fashion of that moment.  

Stik's people will never go out of fashion.

Walter Kershaw, 'Britain's first graffiti artist', now in his 70s, chose to interpret a small landscape by Jacob van Ruysdael painted in 1650 and copied by John Constable in 1831, on an end-of-terrace wall.  Both these small masterpieces are in Dulwich Picture Gallery's permanent collection.  

Walter copied them on a huge scale and added some modern touches.  He chose to replace the church on the horizon with Dulwich Picture Gallery - art as a modern religion.  Why the spitfire?  'Because I like them.'

Continuing the theme of windmills and wind turbines, underneath his 'Ruysdael' landscape, Walter painted a child holding up a toy windmill to the wind.  This he based on 'The Infant Christ as the Good Shepherd' by Murillo.

He left out the sheep in the original, and local children painted insects, flowers and butterflies around the child instead.

Mear One (from the USA) based his mural on 'The Madonna of the Rosary' 1670 by Murillo.  He called it 'New World Revolution'. 

Murillo emphasised the humanity and beauty of his mother and child.  She holds him gently and they play idly with the same rosary.

Mear says of his version, 'My revolutionary Madonna is a blazing beacon of motherly love to guide humanity into a future of profound transformation, holding her child, a symbol of rebirth.  Her golden halo bathes us in a warmth of spiritual wisdom, a beautiful haze of positivity and choice, fist raised to the sky, not in anger, but in universal solidarity and strength.'

Credits: Story

Ingrid Beazley, Dulwich Outdoor Gallery
Stik , artist, co-founder of Dulwich Outdoor Gallery   
Richard Howard Griffin, Howard Griffin Gallery, co-creator of Baroque the Streets festival. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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