Jennifer Scott, Dulwich Picture Gallery


In celebration of our partnership with Dulwich Picture Gallery we are delighted to bring you an interview with the recently appointed Sackler Director, Jennifer Scott.

Q. When did you decide you wanted a career in the art world

A. I had an inspirational art teacher at school who introduced me to art history. I hadn’t realized that it was something you could specialize in – I never looked back!

Q. Tell us about the first project you ever curated

A. I curated an exhibition called Bruegel to Rubens: Masters of Flemish Painting which opened at the Queen’s Gallery in Edinburgh and then travelled to the Queen’s Gallery in London and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels. It was an exciting project as it looked at the art produced by the greatest Flemish Old Masters in the period of the Eighty Years War and so the tone of the show drew out the historical context in which the artists were working so that the exhibition then told the history through the paintings.

Q. The major Sargent: The Watercolours exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery is the first one to open since you’ve joined Dulwich Picture Gallery, tell us about the project and what makes it special.

A. The exhibition is the first in over 90 years to focus specifically on Sargent’s watercolours – he is much better known as a portrait painter. Watercolours are sometimes thought of as quite a light medium, perhaps not as serious as oil paintings, but this exhibition challenges that notion – the works really make a strong visual impact. Also and it was co-curated by the artist’s great-nephew, he was able to source works from private collections which gives the exhibition a personal feel.

Q. Do you have a design hero who influences your work?

A. The contemporary artist – Olafur Eliasson. His work has a powerful visual impact and makes people feel strong emotions just by engaging with his installations and buildings. I recently visited the Harpa concert hall in Reykjavic and I lost time wandering around the interior where light and colours fused harmoniously with the shapes and function of the building.

Q. What makes DPG so special?

A. Completed in 1815, Sir John Soane’s pioneering design for Dulwich Picture Gallery incorporates a series of roof-lanterns which diffuse a natural top-light, thereby creating the ideal viewing conditions for paintings.  Ever since visitors first came here in 1817 they have been able to experience art in a special way because the architect was responding to the specific Collection of Old Masters when he created the space. It gives the Gallery a real sense of integrity where the site and paintings work together, creating a memorable experience as well as a contemplative atmosphere for enjoying art.

Q. Paint features quite heavily in the displays at the Gallery; do you have any favorite colours?

A. Green has always been my favourite colour and I have often used it as a wall colour in Collection displays and exhibitions but it can be a difficult colour at times as there are so many distinct tones of green. I once had to rehang a wall in an exhibition because the green of the wall clashed with the green tones in one of the major paintings (Diana and Actaeon by Thomas Gainsborough) so I moved the painting onto a red wall where it looked spectacular.

Q.What are the quickest and easiest ways to incorporate art into the home? Any tips for choosing colour(s) to go with specific artwork?

A. I think it’s really important when picking a colour palette for an exhibition to find something that allows the artworks to sing. It should feel comfortable and in keeping with the tone of the show without dominating. I find the best way to pick a colour is to pull together all the artworks in an exhibition and to find the one tone that unites all the works. This can sometimes be a surprising colour – for instance in Sargent: The Watercolours we went with a deep purple tone Plum Tree No.283 for the exhibition walls. I had expected our exhibition co-ordinator, Phoebe Newman, and the exhibition curators Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, to suggest a pastel shade, but they were bold in their choice and it works extremely well in the exhibition space and really draws out the depth of Sargent’s works.

 Sargent: Watercolours Dulwich Picture Gallery with Mylands paint

Sargent: The Watercolours is at Dulwich Picture Gallery until 8 October. For more information visit