The Grosvenor fine art collection includes the work of a number of old masters collected over many generations, including Velasquez, Stubbs (who was commissioned to paint the Grosvenor Hunt), Lorrain and Rembrandt as well as contemporary works by Hodgkin and Freud. Paintings are often loaned to exhibitions and from time to time are displayed at the Grosvenor Museum in Chester.
The foundations of the present fine art collection were laid over two centuries
ago by the 1st Earl, Richard Grosvenor (1731–1802) and his son Robert Grosvenor (1767–1845), who became the 1st Marquess in 1831.
Richard Grosvenor, the 1st Earl’s two great passions were horse racing and collecting art. He selected some of the best pictures formerly in the possession of Lord Waldegrave and Sir Luke Schaus. He added some very fine works which were purchased for him in Italy in 1759, by Richard Dalton who was librarian to King George III. He also discovered and patronised the rising talent of the English School and selected some of the best works of West, Gainsborough, Stubbs and Hogarth. In 1806 Robert Grosvenor (1767–1845) acquired the Agar collection, which was a prodigious collection of Old Masters, largely acquired abroad. Among the highlights of the collection, which numbered 129 pictures, were works by Raphael, Claude Lorrain, Poussin and Van Dyck. In 1805 Robert acquired a new town house in London, on Upper Grosvenor Street, which he named Grosvenor House. In 1827 his architect Thomas Cundy designed a large and handsome gallery which was added to the house on the Park Lane side. The picture gallery, which was open by ticket to the public, housed his world famous collection of pictures. John Young’s catalogue ‘Pictures at Grosvenor House, London’, published in 1820 lists among its old masters eleven Rubens and ten Claudes as well as works by Titian, Rembrandt, Velázquez and Murillo. The 1st Duke (1825–1899) made some notable additions, including a case of twelve miniatures from the Magniac collection, amongst them being three by Lucas Cranach. The Duke commissioned two canvasses by H Stacy Marks depicting Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrims for the north and south walls of the saloon of Eaton Hall. Sir John Everett Millais (1829–1896) was one of the most talented artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and painted several family portraits of the 1st Duke and his family. The 2nd Duke collected some fine works by contemporary artists of the day, including Francis Bernard Dicksee, Sir John Lavery, Sir Winston Churchill and Sir William Orpen. The Grosvenor tradition of collecting pictures has been revived by the present Duke.