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Visit the Old Speech Room Gallery

The Old Speech Room was built in 1819-21 as a chamber in which to encourage public speaking. It was converted into a gallery by Alan Irvine in 1976 as a repository for the School's distinguished collection of antiquities and fine art. The Gallery runs the Old Speech Room Gallery Arts Society, through which boys help to research, design and curate exhibitions. 

The collections

The collections comprise Egyptian, Greek and Etruscan antiquities, English watercolours, Modern British paintings, Japanese prints, photographs, sculpture, manuscripts, rare Bibles, printed books, coins, stamps and natural history. There is also a set of Stuart Devlin’s parcel gilt Easter eggs. Designed in the tradition of Fabergé, each egg contains a surprise when opened, such as a jester, a fish in seaweed or a mouse in a wedge of cheese.

Sir Winston Churchill’s A Distant View of Venice, 1929 is one of the highlights of the collection. It is an excellent example of his robust and energetic style. Churchill is above all a colourist. He captured the essence of the Venetian colour in the city, the clouds and their reflections in the water. The bravura brushwork gives texture to the surface of the canvas, from the impasto in the sky to the long, fluid strokes in the water. His enthusiasm was inexhaustible. In his essay Painting as a Pastime, he wrote: "When I get to heaven I mean to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting, and so get to the bottom of the subject."

Not all of the collections can be displayed at the same time but the following items are usually on show: Greek and Egyptian antiquities, paintings by Romney, Sir Winston Churchill, David Jones and Dan Llywelyn Hall and portrait busts of Old Harrovians such as Byron and Sheridan.

Recent exhibitions

Recent exhibitions from the collections include Cecil Beaton's Portrait Photographs (2012); Revealing Byron (2012); The Hill Then and Now (2012); Aspects of Albion (2013); About Turn: The best of the BAMS collection (2013); Second Definition (2013); Cloudscapes (2013); Fifty Years On (2013).

Please see the Current Exhibitions page for information on what you can see in the Gallery at the moment.

Recent acquisitions

  • Pencil and wash drawing by Hendrik-Frans De Cort: View of Harrow-on-the-Hill, c.1793. This is one of the earliest known views of the Hill. Acquired June 2013.
  • Two crayon and wash drawings by Simon Page: Falls above Tuolumne Camp, Yosemite, 2013. Acquired November 2013.
  • Pewter tankard, awarded for the Harrow School Races in 1877. Presented by the Kahn family, December 2013. 
  • Watercolour by Jon Scheuler: View from Mallaig, 1970. Acquired December 2013.
  • Oil painting by George Edward Robertson: Student's Account at Harrow School, 1888. Acquired December 2013.
  • Charcoal, ink and chalk drawing by Angela Edmonds: Storm clouds over Sherborne, Gloucestershire, 1989. Presented by the Artist, February 2014.

 

Object of the term

 

Bookplate artwork, 1915

Initialled HJF

 

Harrow Head Masters have special bookplates made that are used during their term of office. In 1915 Lionel Ford commissioned this artwork for use during the years of the First World War. It depicts two Harrovians in their Officer Corps uniform. The young officer, wearing the sword, looks skywards where an image of a battlefield – possibly that of Mons in Belgium (1914) – can be seen. It is a poignant image with a wealth of possible interpretations.

 

 

The Old Speech Room Gallery App

The OSRG App is now available to Gallery visitors and is free to download. It introduces sixteen items from the permanent displays as well as featuring some of the treasures that are not usually on exhibition.