Joseph Ainsley Davidson Shipley,
Joseph Ainsley Davidson Shipley, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Joseph Shipley was born in Gateshead in 1822. He made his fortune as a partner at a firm of Newcastle solicitors. His life’s passion was the collection and study of fine art and to this end, he accumulated a collection of hundreds of paintings. His taste is commonly perceived as ‘eclectic’. He bought paintings in a range of styles from all periods and European schools. However, he also bought paintings with a range of quality and not every piece worthy of public display.

Shipley’s intention was built a public gallery in Newcastle so that anyone could enjoy his art collection after his death. In his will, he left £30,000 to fund the construction of a gallery. The will was explicit in that his collection could not be gifted to the already established Laing Art Gallery, built in Newcastle for £30,000 in 1901. Unlike his contemporary Laing (1828-1905), who simply built the museum that bears his name, Shipley had the means to construct a gallery and then also to gift the artworks to populate it.

When Newcastle Council declined Shipley’s gift, Gateshead Council agreed to construct the gallery. The overall size of his collection was in excess of 2,000 pieces, but the poorer quality pieces were sold for capital, meaning that only 504 pieces were kept and eventually displayed in 1917. Today, the Shipley Art Gallery hosts five gallery spaces and offers workshops, talks and family activities for everyone from ardent art enthusiasts to playgroups.

The gallery also hosts the Henry Rothschild Study Centre and the gallery of the late art-collector Henry Rothschild (1913-2009). Henry gifted over 300 pieces to the Shipley Gallery and endowed five annual bursaries to support the study of local ceramicists.

When the Hatton Gallery of Newcastle University was opened in the early 1950s, the first three paintings by Victor Pasmore (1908-1998), Salvator Rosa (1625-1675) and Lorenzo Sabatini (1520-1576) were purchased by Lawrence Gowing using Joseph Shipley’s university bequest for the study of art.


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Shipley Art Gallery History. Available here (Accessed: 28/06/2018).

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Hatton Acquisitions 1948-58. Available here (Accessed: 28/06/2018).

Greg, A. (2009). Henry Rothschild Obituary, The Guardian, Available here (Accessed: 28/06/2018).