The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum was founded by Sir Merton (1835–1921) and Lady (1835–1920) Russell-Cotes on Bournemouth’s East Cliff at the turn of the 20th century. The Russell-Cotes is a rare survivor as the residence of a Victorian private collector, which was purpose-designed and perpetuated as a permanent art museum. As a result, our collection of mainly 19th- and early 20th-century paintings can be viewed within their original context of sumptuous period interiors.
The distinctive tastes and personalities of Sir Merton and Lady Russell-Cotes are still very much preserved within the collection, but our first curators added significantly to it by acquiring some interesting works by key artists. The collection ranges from work reflecting the typical taste of the middle-class Victorian art collector through to paintings given by the War Artists Advisory Committee. Sir Merton was a supporter of female artists and they are well represented in the collection. He also acquired a good number of works by European painters. The early curators of the Museum were strong supporters of the Tempera Revival between the wars and so we have a number of interesting works as a result. The Museum still collects locally relevant art by contemporary artists as well.