A Holiday of a Lifetime: The Grand Tour, Art and Wales at Wrexham Museum

By Charlie Stockton | 28 January 2013

Exhibition preview: A Holiday of a Lifetime: The Grand Tour, Art and Wales, Wrexham Museum, Wrexham, until April 13 2013

An image of a large expansive dark green and blue oil painting of Welsh hills and castles
Richard Wilson, who painted View of Tivoli by Richard Wilson, was an 18th century landscape artist sponsored by Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. The gardens of Tivoli were one of the must-sees of the Grand Tour sir Watkin embarked upon© National Museum Wales
Mixing North Wales, artists, a rich aristocrat and the 18th century equivalent of a gap year, the Wrexham Museum points a magnifying glass at human tongue-twister Sir Watkin Williams Wynn of Wynnstay, showing how his nine-month journey through France and Italy would change the face of Welsh art forever.

Sir Watkin is best remembered as a fervent patron of the arts, rubbing shoulders with the greatest painters, composers and architects of his day. Funded by the Sharing Treasures Scheme and the Heritage Lottery Fund, this show seeks to explain why his experiences on his travels were the catalyst for his championing role.

The route he took, pieced together using his steward’s account book, has been reconstructed so that visitors can see how the sights, smells and sensations of the continent inspired Sir Watkin to become Welsh creativity’s greatest benefactor.

An obscenely expensive velvet coat, owned by Sir Watkin and described in the aforementioned account book, is just one way in which the former MP’s  time abroad is brought to life.

Items never before seen in North Wales, including paintings by colossi Richard Wilson and Thomas Jones and the dinner service commissioned by Sir Watkin from Robert Adam, who was to 18th century neo-classical architecture as Charles Dickens was to the novel,  will also be on display.

  • Open 10am-5pm (10.30am-3pm Saturday, closed Sunday). Admission free.
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