Mick Jagger and friend with one of the Canalettos visible in the background – now it is back without the rock star
After a varied past featuring Mick Jagger and Capability Brown, Canaletto has come home to the castle, for a month anyway.
At an atmospherically-lit opening night with prosecco, canapés and the great and good of Warwickshire for company it was a charming welcome back for the works.
Two paintings of Warwick Castle by Canaletto from 1752, owned by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, have been loaned to go on show in the room they used to hang in until November 29, and can be seen by all paying visitors.
They are part of the Arts at the Castle month, which also includes a room of works by mainly local artist featuring or inspired by the castle and its grounds.
Canaletto visited at the time when Capability Brown had been taken on to turn Warwick Castle from a fortress to a grand family home. On the opening night a member of the History Team described how the castle had been painted to show it as part of the town, and with people at leisure and also humble, working folk going about their days too. In one picture, the raised-up courtyard, a Brown development, can be seen with windows now below ground, and St Nicholas Church visible through an archway, which was an artistic addition as it would not be viewable from there.
There were a total of five paintings commissioned by the castle’s owner Francis Greville, and they were on show for the public for a total of only two years in the 1950s before being taken into the family’s private apartments. It was here that in 1969 Mick Jagger, a friend of the castle’s owner David Greville, went to stay and is pictured, smiling widely and leaning against the wife of another friend, with one of the paintings visible in the background.
In 1977 Greville sold the paintings, with the two now on show saved for the nation, and the other two going to Spain and America; one was given away by the family many years ago and its whereabouts is now not known.
There is also a picture showing the red-painted room where the paintings hung, with a third one visible in the background.
Warwick Castle is hung with lots of portraits of from over the centuries, many of royalty, so it’s interesting to see the Canalettos here, demonstrating the pride in the castle of the owners at the time. General manager Geoff Spooner hinted he would like them to stay, but it is surely unlikely Birmingham Museum, where people can see them for free, would let them go for good.
However another attraction to Warwick Castle during Arts at the Castle month is the room of Warwick-inspired works. Mark Kaiser is well-known locally and two of his pieces, one with large patch-works of colour, are included, showing little tents, and the dappled river.
Jan Rawnsley has painted some large works of the castle including one from its best-known position across the river bridge, and Rebecca Woodbine’s smaller, less abstract works show local sites including St Mary’s church and Thomas Oken’s House.
Luise Buckberry has created an interesting glass work incorporating foliage from the estate, and Tom Ellis has created the Lohengrin Swan, showing a man riding a swan set in a crown, incorporating items from the Greville crest.
Kevin Parrish’s monochrome works are very detailed, and Anna Rennie is showing a cabinet of heavy metal jewellery influenced by items in the castle.
The works are an interesting contrast to the likes of portraits of Charles I looking down at them, and the Arts at the Castle month in general adds an extra interest for visitors.