Orleans House or Orleans House Gallery is the primary art exhibition venue of the Greater London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Famous for its stunning 18th century interior design, the structure is a Palladian villa nested on six acres of garden and woodland near the banks of the River Thames.
Visited by over 40,000 tourists, students, and artists every year, the gallery offers art displays and exhibitions, festivals, and art education programs that are open to the general public.
For more information about the many great historic buildings in the area, visit our page on historic houses.
Orleans House was built in the early 18th century for the English politician, diplomat, and royal envoy James Johnston. In 1720, a superb baroque octagonal room designed by architect James Gibbs was commissioned by Johnston ostensibly to entertain George II's Queen Consort, Caroline who was a close friend to Johnston.
Between 1813 and 1815, the Duc D'Orleans, Louis-Phillippe lived briefly in the Johnston villa during his exile after he was implicated in the plot of his commanding officer General Charles-Francois du Perier Dumouriez to overthrow the French revolutionary government. The house was later named after the exiled French royalty.
By the early 20th century, the house fell into disrepair and was finally demolished in 1926. Parts of the property including Gibb's octagonal room were fortunately preserved after a local art patron Nellie Levy interceded and left the property along with her sizable art collection to the Richmond upon Thames borough council.
The building was converted into an art gallery in 1972. Between 2005 and 2008, the Coach House Education Centre, the Stables Gallery, and the North Stables cafe were added to the property during extensive refurbishing works undertaken by architects Patel Taylor.
The Orleans House Gallery is home to the extensive London Borough of Richmond upon Thames' art collection. On regular display are a portrait of James Johnston (the original owner of the property) by 18th century portrait artist Thomas Gibson, paintings of Orleans House by Canadian artist Arthur Vickers and artworks by several other artists. The gallery also houses the remarkable Burton Collection which includes all the paintings, photographs, and personal effects of the famed British explorer, diplomat and scholar Richard Francis Burton.
Orleans House Gallery hosts six free historical and contemporary exhibitions a year for the public and was shortlisted in the prestigious Art Fund Prize in 2009.
Artistic visitors who want to mix their recreation with short exercises in creativity can call Orleans House before their visit and enroll to join any of the regular art workshops at the gallery. This is a great location to learn more about architecture and history and enjoy nature - and the famous Marble Hill House and Ham House, surrounded by their own extensive woodland parks and gardens, are nearby.
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Easter is just around the corner, so you might want to think about booking a table for Easter Sunday lunch.