The sharp and angular Saxon fortress of Königstein (southeast of Dresden) silhouetted against a pale sky, is one of the five views of Königstein commissioned from the artist, by King Augustus III of Poland in 1756. To celebrate its acquisition, and reflect the commitment of London’s National Gallery to ensure its collection is shared and enjoyed throughout the UK, this picture, accompanied by five other National Gallery European Old Master paintings featuring castles and fortresses, will be shown in exhibitions and displays in venues around the UK in 2020 and early 2021.
The tour – supported by Art Fund – comes first to National Museum Cardiff, before heading to Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens and Norwich Castle Museum. This display brings together both real and imagined castles to explore the creative possibilities that castles have presented to artists over the last 500 years.
In Cardiff, Imagine a Castle: Paintings from the National Gallery, London will show these works for the first time in Wales. Often called the ‘land of castles’, Wales has over six hundred of them and they hold an important symbolic role in the Welsh 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 were invited to explore what castles mean to them and to respond imaginatively to Bellotto’s painting. These responses are in the form of ‘gifs’ that they created with an artist and which will be shown on a screen in the exhibition.