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Collections, collaborations, and displays

  • National Museum Wales Cathays Park Cardiff CF10 3NP United Kingdom (map)

Programme: Morning

Collectors and displays

National Museum of Wales Cardiff redisplays: ‘Collecting paintings in Wales pre-1800. The case of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn (1749-1789)’, Oliver Fairclough, Keeper of Art, National Museum Wales

Oliver gave a clear description of the refurbishment project for the new display of paintings in the National Museum Cardiff.

He then gave an outline of the life of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, one of the greatest art patrons of his day. On the Grand Tour of Europe from 1768-9, Williams-Wynn had himself painted with his companions in Rome by Pompeo Batoni, and this painting now provides a focal point for the 18th-century gallery in the museum. He also commissioned several works from Sir Joshua Reynolds including the portrait of his wife, ‘Charlotte Grenville and her children’, also in the gallery.

The Douglas-Pennant Collection at Penrhyn Castle, Alastair Laing, Curator of Paintings and Sculpture, National Trust

Edward Douglas-Pennant (1800-1886) married the heiress to Penryhn Castle in 1833, and he became 1st Baron Penryhn of Llandygai in 1866. He was also a great collector of art, and his collection in Penryhn Castle is a rare survival of a 19th-century collection. He bought his pictures through the most reputable dealers, and was also concerned that they had a strong provenance of previous distinguished collectors.

Alastair outlined the wide range of paintings that Douglas-Pennant purchased, which include some Spanish paintings. Sadly, Jan Steen’s ’A burgomaster of Delft and his daughter‘ is now owned by the Rijksmuseum, but Rembrandt’s ‘Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet’ remains in the collection.

The Richard Glynn Vivian Bequest at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, Kirstine Brander Dunthorne, researcher, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea

The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery is undergoing a major refurbishment project, which will enable the redisplay of the collection formed by Richard Glynn Vivian, much of which will be on public display for the first time.

Richard Glynn Vivian (1835-1910) became a great philanthropist and art collector, particularly of paintings and ceramics. In addition to his worldwide travels, he travelled extensively in Europe and wrote meticulous details of his purchases in his diary, noting prices and provenance and making little sketches.

Kirstine showed many paintings which are now being reattributed, and noted that more research needs to be carried out. The paintings were catalogued by Bryony Dawkes for the National Inventory of Continental European Paintings (NICE Paintings).

Programme: Afternoon


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 loan of Titian’s Diana and Actaeon from the National Gallery to the National Museum Wales, 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 (excluding 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. Prior to this, 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 items in conservation, work with the communications, learning and design teams at National Museum Wales, 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.


The afternoon concluded with a tour of the historic collection redisplay and a tour of the ‘Revolutionary Dreams’ display.

Earlier Event: November 25
Dutch art in museums