Bellotto masterpiece coming to Sunderland

Bellotto Fortress

One of the most impressive examples of 18th century landscape painting is coming to Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens as part of a major UK-wide tour organised by the National Gallery London, supported by Art Fund.

The Fortress of Königstein Castle from the North (1756–8), by Venetian painter Bernardo Bellotto was saved for the nation in 2017 by the National Gallery, with the support of Art Fund and other funders.

Bellotto’s masterpiece will be displayed alongside five other castle themed European Old Master paintings from the National Gallery’s collection, and paintings from Sunderland Museum’s own collection when the exhibition, Castles: Paintings from the National Gallery, London, opens on Tuesday, September 8.

These include The Castle of Ischia (1841), a large oil painting by Sunderland-born artist Clarkson Stanfield (1793-1867); a watercolour of Hylton Castle by JMW Turner, who visited the site in 1817; a pencil and ballpoint drawing of Bamburgh Castle by LS Lowry (1959) and a painting of Lumley Castle by English landscape painter Thomas Hearne (1779).

Shauna Gregg, Exhibitions, Collections and Archives Officer, said: “We are thrilled to be working in partnership with the National Gallery in celebrating the acquisition of one of the most significant European landscape paintings.

“Together with other paintings from the National Gallery it will complement Sunderland Museum’s impressive collection of castle-related paintings and artwork, including work by Stanfield, Turner and Lowry.”

Lowry’s drawing of Bamburgh Castle was sketched on to the back of an envelope. As well as a regular visitor to Sunderland, Lowry liked to visit Bamburgh and produced other more detailed drawings of the castle, as well as an oil painting.

Clarkson Stanfield’s watercolour of Roch Castle in Pembrokeshire will also be in the exhibition. Stanfield was a prominent Victorian artist, particularly known for his marine and landscape work which include his famous painting of The Battle of Trafalgar, painted five years before The Castle of Ischia.

Other castles from Sunderland Museum’s collection include Brancepeth Castle, Warkworth Castle, Lambton Castle, Barnard Castle, Durham Castle and Prudhoe Castle.

Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Vibrant City, Councillor John Kelly said:

“We feel privileged to be one of only three venues hosting the National Gallery tour – because of our history, castles have long been part of the north east landscape and this exhibition is a great way of celebrating great art and our heritage. This will be our first new on-site exhibition since lockdown, and I’m sure will prove very popular.”

Other works to be included in the exhibition are Ubbergen Castle (1655) by Aelbert Cuyp; Adoration of the Kings (c1515) by Gerard David; The Castle of Muiden in Winter (1658) by Jan Beerstraaten; Saint George and the Dragon (1889-90) by Gustave Moreau and The Enchanted Castle (1664) by Claude (correct).

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, said: “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.”

Bellotto’s view of the fortress of Königstein was painted between 1756 and 1758. It is one of five large-scale views of Königstein commissioned from Bellotto by his most important and prestigious patron, Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony.

Castles: Paintings from the National Gallery, London will be accompanied by a free learning and participation programme featuring talks, blogs, virtual tours, competitions, and a huge variety of fun family activities. Free family takeaway packs, packed with castle-themed activities such as model castle-making, heraldry and family crest design, will also be available to pick up from the Museum from August 24 and available to download online.

For more information on the programme, opening hours and the most up to date visitor guidance, please visit and keep an eye on the Museum’s social media channels @sunderlandmuseum

The tour, supported by Art Fund, began at the National Museum Cardiff, and the Sunderland exhibition will finish on November 15. The tour then moves to Norwich Castle Museum where it finishes in March 2021.


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Did you know?

2013 marked 21 years since Sunderland city status from HM The Queen, on 23rd March 1992.


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