Wales What's On

Imagine a Castle

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: Cardiff Castle, Sunderland’s Hylton Castle, and Norwich 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.”
National Museum Cardiff
Imagine a Castle: Paintings from the National Gallery, London
28 January – 10 May 2020
The first stop on the tour will be the National Museum in 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.”
For further information and images please contact the National Gallery Press Office on 020 7747 2865 or