Discover Upton's extensive art collection

A close up look with a torch of the Adoration of the Magi by Hieronymus Bosch

Upton House and Gardens has something rather special for lovers of art - Lord Bearsted’s collection of paintings and porcelain.

A fine place to display a growing collection

In 1927 Upton House became the country home of Walter Samuel, 2nd Lord Bearsted, a retreat from his busy life in London as Chairman of Shell and his other business and philanthropic interests.  Upton, in the idyllic Warwickshire countryside, was a splendid setting for his growing art collection, considered to be one of the finest in private hands in Britain.

How it all began

Walter Samuel began collecting in his early 20s, inspired by his father and mother who were both keen collectors. It was after the First World War that his passion for paintings grew and he made many purchases. Eventually the squash court at Upton had to be converted into a picture gallery in order to display them all; this is where visitors can still enjoy admiring them today as originally intended.

A varied collection

While his greatest love was paintings, he also collected tapestries, illuminated initials and oriental works of art, as well as eighteenth century French and English porcelain, all of which are represented at Upton.

One of the more rare pieces by Pieter Bruegel
Dormition of the Virgin by Pieter Bruegel
One of the more rare pieces by Pieter Bruegel

10 of the 100 Paintings

One of the latest National Trust publications is '100 Paintings From the Collections of the National Trust’ by John Chu and David Taylor, and it centres around some of the most special and celebrated works of art. In this tabletop guide, 10 of these 100 featured pieces are to be found in the Picture Gallery at Upton House, and include works El Greco, Hieronymus Bosch and Gabriel Metsu to name a few. 

Discover the paintings in a new way

The latest project has focused in on these 10 selected works, and from 14 February visitors will be able to enjoy new labels giving the top line information about each piece, as well as pop up talks from our volunteers. Each talk lasts approximately 10 minutes and will explore one of the 10 paintings. Delve deeper into some of the back stories, look again closer at some of the pieces, see what new discoveries you may find in these nationally treasured works of art.

Watch below as our Property Curator Michelle Leake and co author of 100 Paintings and Senior National Curator John Chu explore these top 10 in the collection.


The treasures of Upton House

Curators John Chu and Michelle Leake discuss three paintings in the Upton House collection 'Le coup de soleil' by Jacob van Ruisdael 'The Duet' by Gabriel Metsu 'The Disrobing of Christ' by El Greco


The treasures of Upton House part two

Curators Michelle and John look at three more of Upton's treasures 'Portrait of an Unknown Man' by Corneille de Lyon 'The Adoration of the Magi' by Hieronymous Bosch 'The Emperor Maximillian (1459-1519)' by Bernhard Strige


The treasures of Upton House part three

Curators John and Michelle give expert insight into four more of Uptons world-renowned paintings. 'The Madonna and Child with Two Music-Making Angels' by Gerard David 'A Magus at a Table' by Jan Lievens 'The Dormition of the Virgin' by Pieter Breugel the Elder 'Portrait of a Young Girl' Unknown Artist

Please note the following information on the pop-up talks

-    They will happen weekdays up until May 20 (they will not be taking place at weekends). 
-    There will be several talks per day approximately 10 minutes in length per talk and each one will focus on a different painting.
-    There are no set times for talks, and the number per day may vary depending on volunteer availability.
-    You do not need to pre book the talks in advance.
-    The talks are subject to availability and last-minute change.
-    They will happen in the Picture Gallery in the main house.
-    There will always be a volunteer in the Picture Gallery, so you can ask any questions you may have throughout the day.

A legacy for us all to enjoy

In the changed world after World War II, Walter Samuel, already in failing health, wanted to ensure that the collections and gardens he and his wife had created and loved be kept intact for others to enjoy for ever. He decided to give Upton House, the Gardens and the collections to the National Trust.

His generosity and philanthropy live on today every time visitors come to Upton House and enjoy the artworks he was so passionate about. We hope you enjoy discovering, or in many cases rediscovering these treasured pieces in the collection.