'Castles: Paintings from the National Gallery, London' resumes tour at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens
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'Castles: Paintings from the National Gallery, London' resumes tour at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens
Aelbert Cuyp, Ubbergen Castle, about 1655. Oil on oak, 32.1 x 54.5 cm © The National Gallery, London.

LONDON.- In 2017 Bernardo 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, are being shown in exhibitions and displays in venues around the UK in 2020.

Bringing together both real and imagined castles, this tour – supported by Art Fund – explores the creative possibilities that castles have presented to artists over the last 500 years. The tour resumed at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens on 8 September following the exhibition at the National Museum Cardiff, which was cut short due to COVID-19.

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, enables audiences beyond London to access these paintings in their own locality, and in close proximity to a local castle: Cardiff Castle and Sunderland’s Hylton Castle.

Stephen Deuchar, Director of Art Fund, says: ‘We were proud to have been amongst 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.’

The next stop on the tour is Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.

The Castles: Paintings from the National Gallery, London tour allows 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.

Other topographical images from the watercolour and prints collection 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 Castles: Paintings from the National Gallery, London tour 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.’

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