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Highlights of David John Lewis's collection to go on show next February in Liverpool

The more than 400 hundred works are described as “one of the largest collections of old masters amassed since the second world war”.

London

A discreet British collector who has 150 paintings out on anonymous loan to museums is to come into the open, with an exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. He is David John Lewis, a property developer, and highlights of his collection will go on show next February.

The 150 loans currently out are billed as coming from a private collection. They are scattered among a dozen venues, so very few in the art world have realised its full extent. Altogether comprising 400 works, it is named the Schorr Collection, after a family name of Lewis’s wife. Walker Art Gallery director Reyahn King describes it as “one of the largest collections of old masters amassed since the second world war”.

London-based Lewis is a retired chartered surveyor and made a fortune from commercial property. In around 1970 he began to collect French impressionism and then moved on to old masters. He has bought mainly at auction, but his closest adviser has been Richard Herner of Colnaghi. Art historian Christopher Wright is now completing a catalogue of the collection, to be published at the end of next year.

The largest borrower of Lewis’s paintings is English Heritage, which displays them in three London houses—Chiswick, Kenwood and Marble Hill. Others include Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Bowes Museum (County Durham), Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge), the Holburne Museum (Bath) and the National Portrait Gallery.

Lewis also has a substantial group of works on loan to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and a Turner at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.

The Liverpool exhibition, “A Collector’s Eye: Cranach to Pissarro” (18 February-15 May 2011), will comprise 64 highlights. When asked why he had chosen to unveil his collection in Liverpool, Lewis said that it was because they had asked. He added: “London has so many marvellous works that I wanted to help out other venues.”

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Collector goes public in Liverpool'