Paintings by two of the greatest landscape artists are being exhibited at Chester’s Grosvenor Museum this summer. Landscape paintings by Thomas Gainsborough and Claude Lorrain are now on display until 18 September.
Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) was one of the founding fathers of British landscape painting. His ‘Coastal Scene’ was exhibited in 1781 at the Royal Academy, where it was purchased by Richard, 1st Baron Grosvenor, later 1st Earl Grosvenor. In his landscapes Gainsborough combined observation and his own imagination with references to Old Master paintings, in this instance 17th-century Dutch art. He used dramatic contrasts of light and shade, while the sweeping diagonals of the composition convey the windswept nature of the scene. The waves and foam are so brilliantly rendered that, as Horace Walpole wrote in 1781, ‘one steps back for fear of being splashed’.
Claude Gellée (1600-1682), known in Britain as Claude Lorrain, worked in Rome and became the most famous and influential painter of idealised landscapes. ‘The Rest on the Flight into Egypt’, painted around 1631-5, shows the Holy Family seated in a landscape. Warned in a dream that King Herod was searching for the infant Jesus to kill him, Joseph took the child and his mother Mary away to safety in Egypt, where they remained until Herod’s death. The small figures are absorbed into an enchanted pastoral landscape, rendered with extraordinary sensitivity to the effects of light.
These paintings are part of a programme of loans to the museum from the Grosvenor fine art collection, which belongs to the Grosvenor Estate Trustees headed by the Duke of Westminster, and was mostly acquired by the 1st and 2nd Earls Grosvenor in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Health and Wellbeing, said: “We are deeply grateful to the Duke and the Trustees of the Grosvenor Estate for the loan of these wonderful paintings, which will enable them to be seen and enjoyed by the museum’s many visitors this summer.”
Councillor Gittins continued: “The Grosvenor Museum has a long and happy association with the Dukes of Westminster. The museum is named after Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster, who donated part of the site and building costs and opened it in 1886. His great-grandson the present Duke has been the President of the Grosvenor Museum Society, our friends organisation, since its establishment in 1980.”
The programme of related events includes:
27 July, Art Discovery Day for families
10 August, The Grosvenor Museum’s 130th Big Birthday Party
11 August, Make a Little Boat family activity
7 September, Art Gallery Tour with Peter Boughton, Keeper of Art
14 September, Talk on the History of the Grosvenor Museum
The Grosvenor Museum is open Monday – Saturday 10.30-5 and Sunday 1-4, admission free, donations welcome.