'By the Gains of Industry We Promote Art': Building the Birmingham Municipal Museum and Art Gallery


In 1891 Marius Vachon, the French Minister of Culture, reported back to his government that, ‘Today the Birmingham Museum is the finest museum that exists in the provinces and the one that through the whole of England (British
Museum excepted) receives the greatest number of visitors. This stems from municipal pride. The museum’s aim is to give the public, artists and artisans models of art of the purest taste, the most beautiful forms and highest execution.’ This glowing testimony, from a Parisian well versed in civic culture, provides evidence of the Museum’s exalted reputation by the end of the nineteenth century, when Birmingham was reputed to be ‘the most artistic town in England.’

Author and local historian Andrew Reekes discusses the importance of art in nineteenth-century Birmingham and the building of the museum and art gallery.

Keywords: Birmingham; Andrew Reekes; civic gospel; Pre-Raphaelites

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