Document Type



Robert Vernon, John Sheepshanks, Art--Collectors and collecting, Tate Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, England, 19th century, British art


Arts and Humanities


Robert Vernon (1774–1849) and John Sheepshanks (1787–1863) were middle-class English tradesmen Who became major partrons of contemporary British art in the middle years of the nineteenth century. They both donated their substantial collections to the nation with the intention of forming a National Gallery of British Art. Yet today the collections are in two different museums; the Vernon collection can be found primarily in the Tate Gallery and the Sheepshanks collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum. In addition to edamining the ‘nationalistic’ commentary that accompanied the Vernon and Sheepshanks gifts, this article will discuss why these rival collections were dispersed to two different sites in London and why, as a result, a true ‘National Gallery of British Art’ was never formed in the nineteenth century as a results of these generous donations.

Publication Title

Journal of the History of Collections 12, no. 1 (2000)

Article Number


Publication status

Published; SherpaRomeo status: Yellow

Publication Date




DOI of published version