Study day: Collections, collaborations and displays
Buying, collecting and display: the impact of the Bridgewater Collection with special reference to Titian’s ’Diana and Actaeon’
Susanna Avery-Quash, Research Curator in the History of Collecting, National Gallery
To celebrate the recent display of Titian’s Diana and Actaeon, which went on tour to the National Museum Wales from the National Gallery, Susanna outlined how the picture arrived in the UK and the impact of the Bridgewater Collection on buying and display practices in the country.
The painting and its pair Diana and Callisto were displayed in a novel two-venue exhibition with the other Italian and French pictures from the celebrated Orléans collection in 1798, when it was bought by a group of nobles – the Bridgewater Syndicate – who intended to re-sell a portion of them (but not the Titians!). These pictures were later put on show to the public in Stafford House (from 1806) and later in Bridgewater House.
Susanna explained that this pioneering venture by the British nobility to create picture galleries open to the public in their great homes allowed more people than ever before to see the Old Masters than had previously been the case, when most people had been restricted to viewing pictures in salerooms or as reproductions. She also explained how important the Bridgewater family was in the creation of temporary exhibitions, starting with the British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom (1805-67) that held a series of loan exhibitions of Old Master pictures (including Titian’s two Diana pictures) and that ultimately encouraged the formation of the country’s first permanent painting collection in its capital - the National Gallery in 1824.
Revolutionary Dreams: Researching French paintings with the University of Bristol
Anne Pritchard, Assistant Curator - Historic Art, National Museum Wales
This talk gave the background and development of ‘Revolutionary Dreams: Investigating French art’, the National Museum Wales’ redisplay of the mid-19th century collection of French paintings chosen and developed by a group of students from the MA History of Art course at the University of Bristol.
Anne explained how the project was discussed between the museum and university, and aided by a grant from the Association of Art Historians. The students selected and researched the exhibits, developed the themes and wrote the exhibition material with the guidance of the museum and university staff. They also had a chance to see work in conservation, work with the communications, learning and design teams at NMW and give some tours to the general public.
The students felt that they had greatly benefited from this project, although it was extremely hard work as it was organised in a relatively short timescale. Elizabeth Prettejohn, Professor of History of Art at the University of Bristol, explained that they could rethink the preparation time which could help students working on a future project.
Find out more about the display Revolutionary Dreams: Investigating French art (24 March – 9 September 2012) at the National Museum Wales
The afternoon concluded with a tour of the historic collection redisplay and a tour of the ‘Revolutionary Dreams’ display.