Castles: Paintings from the National Gallery, London
Issued October 2019
28 January – 7 March 2021
In 2017 Bellotto’s The Fortress of Königstein from the North – one of the most original and impressive examples of 18th-century landscape painting – was saved for the nation.
To celebrate its acquisition, and reflect the National Gallery’s commitment to ensuring its collection is shared and enjoyed throughout the UK, this picture, accompanied by five other National Gallery paintings featuring castles and fortresses, will be shown in exhibitions and displays in venues around the UK in 2020 and early 2021.
Bringing together both real and imagined castles, this tour – supported by Art Fund – to National Museum Cardiff, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, and Norwich Castle Museum will explore the creative possibilities that castles have presented to artists over the last 500 years.
Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, says:
"The National Gallery was created for the benefit of the British public, but we must recognise that a number of visitors may find it difficult to make the journey to London. We hope that the 'Castles: Paintings from the National Gallery, London' tour of these great masterpieces will reach people who have never visited their national collection or haven’t done so for a long time, and we hope that many of those whom we do reach will then feel inspired to visit or revisit the collection. We look forward to seeing the different ways in which these paintings will be displayed in each setting."
Paintings of castles play a significant role in the National Gallery’s collection. Some – like Albert Cuyp’s sunlit depiction of the crumbling Ubbergen Castle or Jan van Beerstraaten’s snowy Castle of Muiden in Winter – chronicle real buildings, capturing their physical state of preservation as well as a particular mood. Other castles are imaginary, providing the backdrop for stories from Ancient Rome, as with Claude’s Enchanted Castle, or Christian legend, as with Gustave Moreau’s Saint George and the Dragon. Still more use castle architecture as a metaphor: in Gerard David’s Adoration of the Kings, the crumbling castle ruins symbolise the decline of the old pagan order with the rise of Christianity.
'Castles: Paintings from the National Gallery, London', will enable audiences beyond London to access these paintings in their own locality, and in close proximity to a local castle.'
Stephen Deuchar, Director of Art Fund, says:
"We are proud to be among those who made possible the purchase of this powerful and important picture, and we admire the National Gallery's ingenuity and determination in making it so widely available to the UK public through the 2020-21 tour."
National Museum Cardiff
'Imagine a Castle: Paintings from the National Gallery, London'
28 January – 10 May 2021
The first stop on the tour will be the National Museum Cardiff. 'The Fortress of Königstein Castle from the North' (1756-8) painted by the Venetian master, Bernardo Bellotto, along with a selection of European Old Master paintings will all be shown in Wales for the first time.
Wales is often called the ‘land of castles’ and with over six hundred of them, they hold an important symbolic role in the nation’s history and contested identity. Many renowned artists have used the motif of the castle as a way to represent Wales’ wild, majestic, and romantic landscapes. In this way, Imagine a Castle will complement and highlight the rich and diverse representations of castles in the collections of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. These works, from two national collections, will encourage the formation of new and imaginative perspectives.
As part of the interpretation of the exhibition schoolchildren will be invited to explore what castles mean to them and to respond imaginatively to Bellotto’s painting. These responses will be in the form of ‘gifs’ that they will create with the artist and which will be shown on a screen in the exhibition.
David Anderson, Director General, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, says:
"We are delighted to be working in partnership with the National Gallery in celebrating the acquisition of one of the most significant European view paintings. Wales is often called the land of castles so it is fitting that we display this fine acquisition here for the first time in Wales. Together with other paintings from the National Gallery it will complement Amgueddfa Cymru’s displays of European Old Masters as well as the museum’s collection of pictures of Welsh castles. The exhibition, along with a varied programme of public events, will allow us to draw on the sense of identity and history that many communities in Wales associate with their local castles."
Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens
'Castles: Paintings from the National Gallery, London'
25 July – 15 November 2021
The next stop on the tour is Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.
'The Castles: Paintings from the National Gallery, London' tour will allow Sunderland Museum to highlight one of its most important works including a large oil painting by Sunderland-born artist Clarkson Stanfield (1793–1867), 'The Castle of Ischia from the Mole', 1839–41. Stanfield was one of the most popular marine painters of his day and friend of Turner. An oil painting of Hylton Castle painted around 1830 by an unknown artist will also be shown.
Sunderland’s 14th-century Hylton Castle will open to the public in 2020 having undergone a £4.4 million makeover. The Castle will be transformed from an empty shell into a building that benefits the local community and visitors from outside the city.
Other topographical images from the watercolour and prints collection will form part of the exhibition, some of this work being rarely seen by visitors.
Jo Cunningham, Exhibitions, Collections, and Archives Manager at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, says:
"We are thrilled to host the National Gallery Castles tour next year and look forward to seeing Bellotto’s 'The Fortress of Königstein from the North' here in Sunderland for our audiences to experience. It will also be a fantastic opportunity to highlight some of the most important works from our own collection including a large oil painting by Sunderland-born artist Clarkson Stanfield,'The Castle of Ischia from the Mole'."
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
Castles: Reality, History, and Myth, Paintings from the National Gallery, London
28 November 2020 – 7 March 2021
The final venue is Norwich Castle Museum. This leg of the tour will focus on a group of related themes: power, defence, sanctuary, imagination, and ruin, expressed in images of castles both real and imagined, historical, and contemporary. The six paintings from the National Gallery will be displayed along with watercolours by John Sell Cotman from Norwich Castle’s collection, and also by other loans. The exhibition will have a global approach and will feature artworks from beyond Europe reflecting the same evocative themes that feature in images of castles worldwide.
Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Norfolk County Council, says:
"We are very excited by the opportunity to be one of the three venues to host the touring exhibition 'Castles: Reality, History and Myth, Paintings from the National Gallery, London', which is due to come to us next November. It could not be a more appropriate exhibition for Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, especially at a time when the nationally important redevelopment of our historic Norman castle keep is in progress. We are very much looking forward to this unique exhibition"
For further information and images please contact the National Gallery Press Office on 020 7747 2865 or
Publicity images can be obtained from https://press.nationalgallery.org.uk/
NOTES TO EDITORS
Bernardo Bellotto, 'The Fortress of Königstein from the North', about 1756-8 © The National Gallery, London
Oil on canvas, 132.1 × 236.2 cmught with the support of the American Friends of the National Gallery, The National Gallery Trust, the Estate of Mrs Madeline Swallow, the Art Fund (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation), Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, The Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation, The Manny and Brigitta Davidson Charitable Foundation, The Sackler Trust and through private appeal, 2017
The National Gallery
The National Gallery is one of the greatest art galleries in the world. Founded by Parliament in 1824, the Gallery houses the nation’s collection of Western European paintings from the late 13th to the early 20th century. The collection includes works by Bellini, Cézanne, Degas, Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens, Titian, Turner, Van Dyck, Van Gogh and Velázquez. The Gallery’s key objectives are to enhance the collection, care for the collection and provide the best possible access to visitors. More at nationalgallery.org.uk
Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators. Art Fund is independently funded, with the core of its income provided by 151,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions and subscription to Art Quarterly magazine. In addition to grant-giving, Art Fund’s support for museums includes Art Fund Museum of the Year (won by St Fagans National History Museum near Cardiff in 2019) and a range of digital platforms.
Find out more about Art Fund and the National Art Pass at artfund.org
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National Museum Cardiff
Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales is a family of seven museums and a collections centre, which are all free to enter thanks to the support of the Welsh Government. Together, it is home to the nation’s art, history, heritage and science collections, which will continue to grow so that they can be used and enjoyed by both present and future generations. More at museumwales.ac.uk
One of its museums, St Fagans National Museum of History which explores the history and culture of Wales, won the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019.
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Sunderland Culture was set up in 2016 to bring together the cultural programmes of Sunderland City Council, University of Sunderland and Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust into a single, independent, resilient delivery model and realise the ambition of a city brimming with creative potential. Sunderland Culture works in National Glass Centre and Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Arts Centre Washington, The Fire Station and delivers programmes of cultural engagement and events across the whole city. It works across the city to ensure the power of great art, culture and creativity is harnessed for the benefit of Sunderland, its residents and visitors. Sunderland Culture’s mission is to improve life for everyone in Sunderland through culture.
In spring 2017 Sunderland Culture was successful in its bid to be one of 16 pilot areas for the Great Place scheme, jointly funded over three years by Arts Council England (ACE) and Heritage Lottery Fund(HLF) with funding made possible by National Lottery players, to put arts, culture and heritage at the heart of communities. On April 1, 2018, Sunderland Culture joined Arts Council England’s National Portfolio. More at sunderlandmuseum.org.uk.
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Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery is part of Norfolk Museums Service, a multi-award-winning service comprising ten museums and a study centre. NMS is now regarded as one of the leaders in the museum sector and in 2017 was successful in its bid for continuing major investment from Arts Council England. From April 2018, NMS has been a National Portfolio Organisation for Arts Council England, one of only 45 out of 845 heritage and arts organisations in England to be awarded the highest level of support. Norfolk Museums Service is a partnership between Norfolk County Council and Norfolk's district councils, funded through council tax, earned income and grants. More at museums.norfolk.gov.uk.
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Bernardo Bellotto, 'The Fortress of Königstein from the North', about 1756-8
Oil on canvas, 132.1 × 236.2 cm
Bought with the support of the American Friends of the National Gallery, The National Gallery Trust, the Estate of Mrs Madeline Swallow, the Art Fund (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation), Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, The Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation, The Manny and Brigitta Davidson Charitable Foundation, The Sackler Trust and through private appeal, 2017
Sharp and angular, the Saxon fortress of Königstein, about 25 miles southeast of Dresden, is silhouetted against a pale sky. The artist, Bellotto, was from Venice, and he has applied the traditions of Venetian view painting – a high level of detail, the large scale – to this northern landscape. It is one of the five views of Königstein commissioned from Bellotto by King Augustus III of Poland in 1756.
Bellotto has treated the crumbling stone walls with miniaturist precision: each window and scaffolding pole is highlighted, and soldiers created with just a few dots of paint stand guard on the ramparts. This minute observation is combined with a broad panorama. Soft sunlight picks out the men in a grassy glade and a woman with her children while, a little higher, a slice of intense light illuminates the livestock perched on a craggy ledge and a horseman descending into the valley beyond.
Aelbert Cuyp, 'Ubbergen Castle', about 1655
The ruins of this castle seem to have been absorbed by the landscape. Aelbert Cuyp has employed the same palette of colours and the same camouflage patterns to depict the crumbling walls as he used for the autumnal woods and the hillside behind. The reflections in the still waters of the lake add to the impression that the stone towers and tumbledown ramparts are merging into their surroundings.
The scene may have had some resonance to a contemporary audience who were likely to have recognised the castle. It is the castle of Ubbergen, near Nijmegen in the Dutch Province of Gelderland. The 14th-century building was ruined in 1582 during the Spanish occupation of the Netherlands and as such was seen as a symbol of national independence. This painting isn’t dated but was probably made in 1655, less than a decade after the Treaty of Münster (1648), when the Dutch finally won independence from Spain.
Gerard David, 'Adoration of the Kings', about 1515
The Three Kings – Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar – present gifts to the Christ Child in the ruins of a grand building. The Virgin Mary sits on the edge of the manger while Saint Joseph, her husband, comes down a staircase just visible to the left. A crowd of curious onlookers, some wearing turbans, peer through the arch on the right. In the field behind Caspar’s head we can see an ox and a donkey, while everyday life goes on in the street of the town behind.
This painting was perhaps once part of a polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) showing the life of Christ painted by Gerard David in Antwerp after 1515. It is likely that a similarly sized panel, the Lamentation, comes from the same complex.
Jan Beerstraaten, The Castle of Muiden in Winter',
The heavy, black clouds that hang low over the castle seem to threaten snow and yet more snow. Although a fitful sun struggles through, the eerie light on the castle’s yellow walls and steely tipped towers seems to come more from the moon than the sun. The tiny people skating on the ice seem insignificant against the building’s imposing presence.
Muiden Castle was one of the oldest and most important medieval castles in early 17th-century Holland, and Beerstraaten treats the painting almost as a portrait of the ancient building. We see it from the north-east, accurate and atmospheric, although Beerstraaten has altered the arrangement of the landscape to suit the picture’s composition. Looking from the north-east the sea would be behind the castle, but the artist needed the reflected light to pick out the front of the building and take the eye into the distance beyond it.
Gustave Moreau, Saint George and the Dragon , 1889–90
Gustave Moreau was a leading figure in the French Symbolist movement. He completed this painting in 1889, although he began working on it many years earlier.
The story of Saint George and the dragon had long been popular with artists, and the painting shows Moreau’s awareness of earlier images of the saint and his eclectic range of sources. Moreau not only looked to Italian Renaissance artists, such as Raphael and Carpaccio, but was also influenced by Byzantine (Eastern Christian) art, particularly icon painting, and by Indian and Persian miniatures.
Moreau has depicted Saint George as a slender youth rather than a mature man, his long flowing hair further enhancing his already androgynous appearance. Although a warrior, his Saint George is also a figure of spiritual purity who, in killing the dragon to rescue a princess, is perhaps also vanquishing crude animal appetites.
Claude, 'Landscape with Psyche outside the Palace of Cupid ('The Enchanted Castle')', 1664
Threatened with marriage to a monster Psyche, a mortal, is blown away by the West Wind. She awakens near a magical palace and falls in love with Cupid. He makes Psyche promise not to look at his divine face, but she breaks this promise and Cupid abandons her. The subject of this painting is taken from Apuleius' Metamorphoses.
Psyche sits in the foreground, deep in thought or melancholy. Claude perhaps shows the moment before Psyche meets Cupid rather than when he leaves her. Alternatively, this scene may represent another episode in the story when Psyche is alone, when her two jealous sisters leave after persuading her to murder Cupid. The two figures in the boat on the right are perhaps her sisters.
Cupid’s enchanted castle combines architecture seen by Claude in and around Rome with the imaginary: the grand exterior of a townhouse or palazzo is attached to circular towers and ruins. The imposing rocky hillside and sheltered seaside cove show Claude’s imagination and skill at conveying perspective and scale.