The Bowes Museum > Collection > Explore The Collection > Galleries > Picture Galleries

Picture Galleries

The Bowes Museum is perhaps best known for its extensive and comprehensive collection of European paintings which span from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The collection is wide ranging, covering a variety of schools and styles in a way unparalleled outside the National collections in London and Edinburgh.

John Bowes purchased more than 50 paintings before he married Joséphine and conceived the idea of opening a museum. Following their marriage in 1852 John and Joséphine collected paintings which formed part of the furnishings of their house on the rue de Berlin in Paris and their country home at Louveciennes. From the 1860s they acquired works in greater numbers for the collection of their proposed museum.

The newly refurbished picture galleries display highlights from the paintings collection in three rooms which are laid out roughly in chronological order. The height of the panelling has been raised in each gallery and loosely mirrors the dense display that was adopted when the museum first opened its doors in 1892. The display allows for more paintings to be exhibited, whilst each gallery benefits from a new energy-efficient lighting system and labelling scheme.


15th and 16th Century Gallery

17th and 18th Century Gallery

19th Century Gallery

The Bowes Museum grounds are open!

Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors. However, the grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 - 4.00 daily, and we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, two spring trails and outdoor guided tours are available from 29 March 2021.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Café Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.