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"Hilly Wooded Landscape", 1780s, by Thomas Gainsborough (all images copyright David Lewis and family interests)

David Lewis is too modest. "There was never any game plan," he said in a recent interview with Apollo. "In fact, I never even thought of it as a collection." After four decades, the Schorr Collection (named after his wife's family) consists of something over 400 paintings and 200 prints, mostly Old Masters. There are works by household names and works which are unattributable — the consistent element is Lewis's own taste, and his interest in how works of art relate to each other across the traditions of European art. 

"Portrait of Barbara Palmer, née Villiers, Lady Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland” (c.1662) by Sir Peter Lely 
 
Christopher Wright, the compiler of the recently-published catalogue — The Schorr Collection: Catalogue of Old Masters and Nineteenth-Century Paintings (£295, 720pp, Marylebone & General Fine Art)-calls it a "historic collection". To him this means it's "interest[ed] in looking at Old Masters from a historical point of view and avoiding fashionable trends . . . It is collections which have some historical basis which are often the more satisfying."


Portrait of Cardinal Giovanni Grimani, Bishop of Ceneda and Patriarch of Aquileia” (1560s) by Jacopo Tintoretto

The book is the only place you will see the entire collection together. Much of its inventory is on long-term loan — to museums, historic houses, the Palace of Westminster. Lewis, a retired London property investor, was "never interested in publicity" — he simply found it "rather wonderful" helping public institutions fill gaps in their collection: "I think if you are lucky enough to have things you should share them in this way."

“Dr Johnson and Mrs Siddons in Bolt Court” (1884) by William Powell Frith

“Presumptious maid! with looks intent/Again she stretched”: Alexandre-François Desportes’s “A cat with dead game”, 1711, brings to mind Thomas Gray’s 1747 “Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat”

 
“Judith with the Head of Holofernes” (mid-16th century) by Vincent Sellaer

 

 
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