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

Reigning Queens (Royal Edition): Queen Elizabeth II, 1985 by Andy Warhol.

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 2018

© 2018 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

An Old Woman, called ‘The Artist’s Mother’, c1627-9

Rembrandt’s painting is a timeless and moving record of old age. The hooded eyes, thinning lips and the loose and creased folds of skin are all exaggerated and highlighted, designed to evoke our pity and perhaps a sense of our own mortality. Such paintings, virtuoso exercises of imagination, also brilliantly displayed Rembrandt’s talent, and helped establish his reputation.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018

Rembrandt van Rijn: An old Woman called 'The Artist's Mother' c. 1627-9 Oil on panel Royal Collection

Artemisia Gentileschi

Self-Portrait as the Allegory of ‘Painting’, c1638-9

This is one of the most revealing portraits of a 17th-century woman. Artemisia has depicted herself as a working artist and as ‘La Pittura’, the idea of painting as illustrated in emblematic handbooks. Artemisia used these descriptions to create her self-portrait: the artist is lost in the moment, her hair tied back but dishevelled, her body contorted as she concentrates on the canvas.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018.

Artemisia Gentileschi: Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura), c. 1638-9 Oil on canvas Royal Collection RCIN405551
Frank Holl: No Tidings From the Sea, 1870 Oil on canvas Royal Collection RCIN405161

Frank Holl

No Tidings from the Sea, 1870

Victorian artists drew on a long legacy of narrative art. This painfully emotional scene captures a family’s desolation after the death of a fisherman. Holl’s muted colours and the quiet grief of each of the figures is relieved only by the mystical light around the bright white shirt of the young girl, a sign of hope and an echo of the religious symbolism of earlier artworks.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018.