It's being billed as the "advent calendar of your dreams". Twelve of the most famous paintings in the world are to be transported to South London next year. The occasion? The 200th anniversary of Dulwich Picture Gallery.
In a dramatic coup for the institution, the first purpose-built public art gallery in England, a swathe of high-profile works will be appear as part of its year-long Masterpiece a Month exhibition. The artists featured are a dramatic cross-section of some of the greatest names ever to have graced galleries' walls, everyone from David Hockney to Vincent van Gogh, Constable and Rembrandt. Each artwork will go on display for a month at London's Gallery Road from 2011. The first piece to be exhibited is Sir Thomas Lawrence's Portrait of Sir John Soane, the gallery's original designer.
"We wanted paintings that would knock your socks off at 50 paces," said gallery director Ian Dejardin. "This is a very important date in the history of all museums in the country and if you're going to celebrate, then you might as well do it all year."
The works are loaned from a Who's Who of A-list galleries around the world, including the Uffizi, the Frick Collection, the Tate and New York's Met. July will see Van Gogh's 1887 self-portrait appear in Dulwich. The Dutch post-Impressionist once visited the gallery, and broke the pen attached to the visitors' book, said Dejardin.
The director also announced the gallery's summer exhibition, Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters, which for the first time will "bring together these two artists separated by three centuries, but sharing common themes."
"Dulwich Picture Gallery is set to make another step forward as we enter the third century of our existence," he added.
The gallery's first incarnation was assembled by Sir Francis Bourgeois and his business associate Noel Desenfans as a royal collection for the then King of Poland, Stanislaus Augustus.
For more information visit www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk
Full list of paintings
January Sir Thomas Lawrence, Portrait of Sir John Soane
February Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez, Don Sebastian de Morra
March Johannes Vermeer, A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman ("The Music Lesson")
April El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos), The Vision of Saint John
May Paolo Veronese, Venus and Mercury before Jupiter
June Rembrandt van Rijn, Rembrandt's son Titus dressed as a monk
July Vincent van Gogh, Self-portrait (1887)
August Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, Comtesse d'Haussonville
September Thomas Gainsborough, Mrs Richard Brinsley Sheridan
October John Constable, The Leaping Horse
November David Hockney, Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy
December Domenichino (Domenico Zampieri), The Adoration of the Shepherds