Cumberland Art Gallery highlights

Thomas Gainsborough

Diana and Actaeon, c1785-8

This is the only known mythological scene by an artist more famous for his studies of later Georgian royalty and the upper classes. As punishment for spying on her while bathing, the goddess Diana throws water in the face of Actaeon, transforming him into a stag that is destined to be killed by his own dogs. Gainsborough blends the figures into the landscape to evoke the mystery and power of nature, an approach that reaches back to Titian and forward to Renoir, Cézanne and Matisse.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Artwork recorded on display in the Cumberland Art Gallery in September 2017

Andy Warhol

Reigning Queens (Royal Edition): Queen Elizabeth II, 1985

Royal portraits often aim to create and project an iconic image. This is as true today as it was 500 years ago.  Warhol has redrawn an official portrait of the Queen, simplifying it to create an almost mask-like representation. By repeating this portrait in a series of prints in different colours, the artist is emphasising the Queen’s global presence, but reducing our ability to see beyond the icon.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

© 2017 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London

Duccio di Buoninsegna

Triptych: Crucifixion and other Scenes, c1302-8

Christ is at the centre, but this work is about his mother, the Virgin Mary, who appears four times. Duccio skilfully painted her emotions so that the viewer could identify with her sorrows, acceptance and trusting faith. This altarpiece was for private use. Its hinged sides originally closed like doors to protect and conceal the painting. When opened for prayer by candlelight, the gold leaf glowed and shimmered, evoking the riches of heaven.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Sir Anthony van Dyck

Portrait of Mary, Princess Royal and later Princess of Orange, c1637

Court artists worked directly for the royal family. Van Dyck’s portrait of the 6-year-old daughter of Charles I is a statement of dynastic wealth – the expensive lace, pearls and gold damask curtain – but also a delightful image of a little girl with her hands clasped uncertainly in front of her silver apron, attempting a mature pose beyond her years.

Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to Historic Royal Palaces, 2008.

Rembrandt van Rijn

A Rabbi with a Cap, 1635

Rembrandt’s portraits are deeply evocative, artfully lit and masterfully drawn. His paintings of the 1630s often show an exuberant energy, leaving some passages apparently incomplete. Rembrandt’s style evolved, as he sought to experiment and innovate, but the freshness and vigour of his brushwork is always in evidence, as well as his intuitive understanding of the human condition.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Artwork recorded on display in the Cumberland Art Gallery in September 2017

Jacopo Bassano

The Adoration of the Shepherds, c1546

Charles I established the Royal Collection as one of the greatest private art collections in the world. This masterpiece was one of his many enlightened acquisitions. Bassano sets the story of Christ’s birth in the foothills of the Dolomites, with his own home town in the distance. The naturalistic setting is reinforced by the strikingly realistic shepherds and animals. Instead of a traditional stable, Bassano locates the event in a ruined temple. The old stones will be used to build a new church, symbolising the rise of Christianity.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Sir Peter Paul Rubens

Portrait of a Woman, c1625-30

The art of Rubens is all about movement, colour and flesh. Even his portraits have a fluid sensuality, decadent colours and textures, and dramatic lighting. This portrait was long thought to be of Rubens’ own wife, Helena. There is no proof, but the painting’s informal and engaging charm at least suggests that the sitter is a member of Rubens’ family, someone he knew well.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017.

Artwork recorded on display in the Cumberland Art Gallery in September 2017
Artwork recorded on display in the Cumberland Art Gallery in September 2017

Jan Steen

A Village Revel, 1673

The sun is setting on a chaotic village party. Steen’s paintings are laced with humour, his characters dressed as actors on a stage, delivering a moral message. Here, the artist explores the theme of lust and its consequences: the tumble-down inn is a brothel, and the crowd outside has degenerated into a drunken brawl. The church tower in the distant landscape reminds us that there may be better ways to spend our lives.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017.

}