Twenty-five landscape drawings from the Royal Collection – recently identified as by English artist Thomas Gainsborough – will go on display in the exhibition Young Gainsborough: Rediscovered Landscape Drawings.
These exhibitions at Nottingham Castle open on Saturday 2 July and run until Sunday 13 November.
Young Gainsborough: Rediscovered Landscape Drawings is a display of twenty-five landscape drawings from the Royal Collection along with loans from The National Gallery, York Museums Trust, and Nottingham City Museums.
Produced in the late 1740s when Gainsborough was in his early twenties, this previously unseen selection of drawings offers an intimate glimpse into the early career of this master of portraiture and landscape, highlighting his youthful enthusiasm for nature.
The exhibition will feature other paintings and drawings from Gainsborough’s early years, along with works by the Dutch landscape painters who influenced him.
The re-discovered Gainsborough drawings were previously believed to be by the painter Sir Edwin Landseer, having been acquired by Queen Victoria from his studio in 1874.
In 2013, art historian Lindsay Stainton identified one of the drawings as a study for Gainsborough’s most celebrated landscape painting, Cornard Wood (c.1748), leading to the reattribution of the drawings to Gainsborough.
In this touring exhibition, the study for Cornard Wood will hang alongside the finished painting, newly conserved and loaned by The National Gallery, London, uniting the painting with its preparatory drawing for the first time since they were last together in Gainsborough’s studio.
Nottingham Castle is also showcasing Illuminating the Wilderness, a film production by Turner Prize 2021-nominated Project Art Works, conceived and directed by Kate Adams and Tim Corrigan and filmed on location with Ben Rivers, Margaret Salmon and neurodivergent artists and makers, families and carers.
This 40-minute film follows the exploration of a remote Scottish Glen over several days during October 2018 and reveals the pleasures, challenges and shared experience of neurodivergent responses to nature.
Shot from multiple viewpoints and cameras, the film is unscripted and reveals the subtle fluidity of roles and interactions between this unique and itinerant community away from the practical, attitudinal and social barriers they face in their everyday lives.
Moments of humour, and tender consideration for each other, unfold in and around the landscape and weather systems of the mountains. The remoteness, scale and indifference of the landscape provide a rare sense of freedom and belonging for everyone involved.
Illuminating the Wilderness displays a touching, joyful connection to nature, showing how a simple encounter with the natural world can benefit individuals who are neurodivergent or have special educational and complex learning needs.
By contrasting these two exhibitions, it is clear how nature is and continues to be, our teacher: Gainsborough reflects the (romantic) past, in a fabricated yet idyllic creation of the perfect landscape, whereas Project Art Works shows us the beauty of neurodivergency and how vital and healing nature can be.
Within the exhibition galleries, visitors are also invited to participate and share their creative responses to the natural world through drawing and writing, creating a room filled with love notes and messages of gratitude to the planet, surrounded by a wild ‘forest’ of illustrations on the walls.
Young Gainsborough is a touring exhibition and collaboration between Royal Collection Trust; York Art Gallery; the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; and Nottingham Castle. Additional works have been generously loaned by The National Gallery, London; The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; and Colchester and Ipswich Museums.
Illuminating the Wilderness was made as part of the EXPLORERS project, led by Project Art Works. Working in partnership with leading cultural organisations in the UK and Australia, the programme was informed and led by neurodiverse communities, placing them at the heart of social, civic and cultural activity.