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Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt (1820-1877)

Competition Design for a New National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London 1866

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Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt (1820-1877) Design for a New National Gallery London, 1866 Gallery Lingard

Pencil, ink & wash
Signed & dated:  M Digby Wyatt / 1866
Inscribed:  Original Sketch Design for a New National Gallery submitted in Limited Competition by M Digby Wyatt
18 x 33 cms 

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Early in 1866 invitations were sent to six architects to submit designs for extending or rebuilding the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, London. These architects included Sir Charles Barry, James Pennethorne, F P Cockerell and Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt.  A year later in 1867 some ten architects submitted their designs for the competition.  The committee were not persuaded by any of the schemes and it was announced "Not one set of designs could be recommended as to be carried out, although in all cases possessing very considerable merit as scholastic drawings". 

The Builder reviewed each design in considerable detail.  A full description of the central part of Digby Wyatt's facade noted the very "... considerable elaboration of detail"  that was envisaged for his entry.   The design is full of embellishment and complex decorative detail which are trademarks of the work of Digby Wyatt (as may be seen at The India Office on Whitehall, London of 1868).  Many of the features adopted for the New National Gallery design were discovered by Digby Wyatt on his tours around Europe during which he accumulated many sketch drawings, which he called his 'specimens'.  These drawings of architectural and decorative details were intended to create a repository of designs for future use as reference tools and illustrations covering the history of design.  The National Gallery competition committee commended Digby Wyatt's drawings as "... almost equally good" to those of F P Cockerell, whose designs were considered to be the best of all those submitted.

Digby Wyatt exhibited his Design for a New National Gallery in the Royal Academy in 1867.  Other competition drawings by Wyatt for this proposed scheme are kept in the RIBA Drawings Collection.