These 21 views of north Wales by Paul Sandby (1731-1809) feature iconic locations from all over Snowdonia, Caernarfon and Harlech castles, Bala and Llangollen (full list below)., They give a vivid insight into what it was like to make a pioneering journey through Wales in 1771 before it was viewed as a destination for travellers. Sandby painted them in the early 1770s following his tour of the area in 1771 in the company of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, 4th Baronet (1749-1789).
The group has been purchased from the Douglas and Angus Estates via Sotheby’s for £240,000, with support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (£115,000), Art Fund (£75,000) and the remainder from a bequest from Mary Cashmore.
These small images, each 182 x 260mm, are painted in bodycolour (opaque watercolour paint) on paper or linen. They illustrate the tourists’ experience as a complete journey with a sequence of Welsh views in vibrant colour. They show a lively and detailed interest in the landscape, in the people, and in the interactions between classes and between travellers and local inhabitants. Later, Sandby published prints based on these paintings which promoted the beauty of this part of Wales and encouraged people to visit the area.
This group couldn’t be a more appropriate addition to Amgueddfa Cymru’s collection: not only does it underline the prominent role of the life and patronage of Sir Watkin in the Museum’s collections and in the cultural and political history of Wales, but more fundamentally it is also highly significant in the history of how Wales has been experienced, understood and presented.
Andrew Renton, Keeper of Art, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, said,
“We’re hugely grateful to the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund and Mary Cashmore, whose generous support has made this acquisition possible.
“The acquisition is the most important recent addition to Amgueddfa Cymru's outstanding collection of Welsh landscape art. I’m sure people in Wales will really enjoy studying these works in detail and seeing how the landscape of north Wales has changed – and not changed – in the last 250 years.
“These views played a ground-breaking role in popularising Wales as a tourist destination, presenting it as an economically active, ‘picturesque’ and ‘sublime’ country rather than the impoverished and barbarous region of earlier prejudicial stereotypes.
“It would be very exciting if these paintings could return to the area they depict, and we’re hoping to be able to display them in venues in north Wales as soon as we can.”
Wendy Phillips, Head of Sotheby’s Tax, Heritage and UK Museums Department, and Deputy Chairman of Sotheby’s UK and Ireland, said,
“It’s fantastic to see this exquisite portfolio of watercolours return home to Wales, 250 years after Sandby painted them. Sotheby’s Tax, Heritage and UK Museums team work hard to provide support and advice to owners and UK museums, and it is stories like this which make our job so rewarding. Congratulations to all at National Museum Wales for the wonderful new acquisition – we very much look forward to seeing the landscapes in your rooms in the near future”.
Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales is a family of seven museums and a collections centre, which are all free to enter thanks to the support of the Welsh Government. Together, it is home to the nation’s art, history and science collections, which will continue to grow so that they can be used and enjoyed by both present and future generations.
One of its museums, St Fagans National Museum of History which explores the history and culture of Wales, won the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019.
As a registered charity, Amgueddfa Cymru is grateful for all support. The events and exhibitions programme is supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.
Amgueddfa Cymru has recently launched a public consultation asking the people of Wales for their view on what they should do over the next 10 years, to help make Wales a better place in which to grow up, to live and to work.
The consultation will be live until 30 September. People can contribute in different ways by visiting museum.wales/yoursay, sending comments via email, completing a survey, or by getting creative through family activities.
There is also an easy read document and survey and a spoken version of the consultation.There will also be opportunities throughout the consultation period to respond through our Amgueddfa Cymru Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.