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The Picture Gallery: Advent Doors 2018

Written by Eleanor Sanger, posted on Saturday, December 22, 2018

Down the rabbit hole, and into wonderland, in the form of our world-renowned collection of Old Masters. This door may look just like any other in Canterbury Quad, but step inside and descend the short flight of stairs that lies behind it and you’ll find yourself in Christ Church Picture Gallery, a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered.

The Picture Gallery entrance in Canterbury QuadAt first glance, this door matches all of the others dotted around the edge of Christ Church’s Canterbury Quad, but what’s inside is quite different. Down the stairs you’ll find our Picture Gallery, designed by Powell and Moya (who also designed Blue Boar Quad) and opened by the Queen in May 1968.

So, how did the gallery come to be here, hidden behind an unexceptional door on the eastern edge of the college? Around the same time that Powell and Moya were constructing Blue Boar, it was decided that the college would need a brand new art gallery to house our large collection of paintings and drawings. Many of these were at that time located on the ground floor of the Library, as had originally been intended (find out more in our Library Door blog post…), but more and more space was needed for the Library’s own collections – and, of course, the hard-working students who wanted to study there.

Several sites were put forward as potential homes for our new gallery, with the eventual choice being the east end of the Deanery garden, with an entrance in Canterbury Quad. And the rest, as they say, is history. The gallery was built half underground beneath the back of the Dean’s garden, making it almost invisible from the ground, but still providing a light and airy space to display the artworks.

There are two main galleries, one for Renaissance art and one for Old Masters, a long gallery, and a print room to display Renaissance drawings. The gallery was constructed from both Portland stone and concrete, giving it its own distinctive look – and continuing the pairing of old and new, which begins when you open this door in the eighteenth-century Canterbury Quad and emerge into the far more modern space beyond.