BOURGEOIS, Sir Peter Francis 1756-1811. Painter, collector and founder/patron of Dulwich Picture Gallery. Born in London, Bourgeois seems to have been abandoned by his Swiss watchmaker father on his mother’s death. He was early taken under the protection of Noel Desenfans [qv] and lived with him, and later his wife Margaret, for the rest of their lives. Desenfans encouraged his protégé to become a painter, sending him as a pupil to Philip de Loutherbourg, and subsequently in 1776 on a grand tour of France, Italy and Switzerland. With Desenfans’ determined backing Bourgeois became a Royal Academician in 1793, and Landscape Painter to George III in 1794. He was, however, a painter of limited talent; Dulwich Picture Gallery possesses twenty-one of his works, but rarely exhibits any of them.
Bourgeois’ claim to fame is as a collector and benefactor: he added to the Desenfans’ stock of pictures originally collected for King Stanislaus of Poland, to whom he had been appointed Court Painter in 1791, being keener than Desenfans that the collection should remain intact. Bourgeois directed in his 1810 Will (of which Lancelot Baugh Allen, Master of Dulwich College, was one of the Executors) that after Mrs Desenfans’ death the paintings (by then numbering 377) which he had inherited on Desenfans’ death in 1807 should be bequeathed to Dulwich College. He also left an endowment for the housing of the collection and for the building of a mausoleum to accommodate his remains and those of the Desenfans. He died in 1811, aged 55, as the result of a fall while riding. None of the trio ever lived in Dulwich, but the bodies of all three were in 1815 placed in the Mausoleum attached to the Picture Gallery, where they remain to this day.