THE ANN BRYANT ART GALLERY
This elegant old house was built by E.D.U. Bowen in 1905 for Mr. Arthur Savage, father of the well-known local artist, Elaine Savage. The estimated cost was £3000, a large sum in those days.
Mr E.A. Bryant, a well known businessman of the firm Gibberd & Bryant, bought the house in 1907 and later extended the site to include the whole block between Belgrave Road and Oxford Street.
The Bryant’s were interested in art and built up a private collection mainly of paintings by British and European artists of the later part of the 18th century and of the 19th century.
Mrs. Ann Bryant survived her husband by several years and when she died, bequeathed her home, then known as "The Gables", to the City of East London as an art gallery. She also left a valuable collection of pictures. The gallery is now known as the Ann Bryant Art Gallery" after her.
The beautiful rooms downstairs remain almost as they were. Some of the walls upstairs, however, were removed to open up the bedrooms and passages into suitable exhibition spaces. The area next to the kitchen was converted into a caretaker's flat.
To appreciate the elegance of the old residence, arrive at the main gate in St Luke’s Road. The tall twin facades with their chimney topped gables lie at the culmination of a long lawn and tree-lined path. The heavy timber door opens within an arch of stained leaded glass. Wrapped around the sides and the back (the usual entrance) is a wooden balcony. From inside, the glass around the main door glows like an iridescent peacock tail. The detail that was characteristic of a more relaxed but elegant bygone age lingers here still. Note the door furniture and the ceilings. One room has a cornice moulding with cherubs faces. Upstairs there is a beautifully ornate mantlepiece. The originals were removed during modernisation. This one comes from a now-demolished house down Belgrave Road. Also ask to see the bathroom!
The gallery opened officially to the public in 1947. Today it houses a fine collection amongst which those of Thomas Bowler, Maud Sumner, Lawrence Scully, George Pemba, Willie Bester and Norman Catherine deserve note. Catalogues of the permanent or special exhibitions are available from the attendant.
“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”