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Iconic Canaletto painting returns to Wales after 80 years

26 Apr 2024 3 minute read
Canaletto, 1697-1768, The Stonemason’s Yard, about 1725 © The National Gallery, London

Canaletto’s masterpiece, The Stonemason’s Yard is returning to Wales for the first time in over 80 years in an exhibition that tells the remarkable story of how this iconic painting was protected in a Welsh slate mine during the Second World War.

The Idyll and Industry exhibition, including National Treasures: Canaletto in Aberystwyth, will open in the Gregynog Gallery at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth on 10 May 2024.

The exhibition at the National Library of Wales details how this painting and how it came to Wales as a ‘refugee’ from bombing during the Second World War to be safely protected in the cavernous Manod slate mines.

This painting and the wider Idyll and Industry exhibition coincides with the National Gallery’s 200th anniversary.

The National Treasures project celebrates this special occasion by placing twelve masterpieces from the National Gallery’s collection in museums and art galleries across Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

This exhibition will be the only opportunity to view one of these masterpieces in Wales.


The Idyll and Industry exhibition will also display Welsh landscapes from the National Art Collection and will explore the artistic and thematic links between The Stonemason’s Yard and the scenery of Wales.

A rich tapestry of the idyllic and the industrial, Wales’ vistas have been a source of inspiration for many artists. The exhibition will include works by classical artists such as Richard Wilson, J. M. W. Turner and Penry Williams alongside more modern works by artists like Graham Sutherland, Mary Lloyd Jones and Ernest Zobole.

In a first for the Library, the exhibition will include an audio described tour for a selction of items on display. Following succesful trials with local vistors who are Blind or have visual impaiments, this is further development towards our aim of making the Library’s collections more accessible and the exhibitions more inclusive.

Rhodri Llwyd Morgan, Chief Executive of the National Library of Wales said: “This promises to be a very special exhibition and we are extremely grateful to be working in partnership with the National Gallery.

“It is an honour to have one of Canaletto’s masterpieces here, and displaying the work alongside some of the highlights of the National Art Collection in the Library creates a great opportunity to appreciate the richness and diversity of the Welsh experience and the responses to that in art.”

“Fascinating story”

Mari Elin Jones, Interpretation Officer at the National Library of Wales said: “Working with the National Gallery on this exhibition to mark their 200th anniversary has been an incredible privilege.

“Being able to welcome Canaletto’s masterpiece back to Wales for the first time since it took refuge here over 80 years ago is tremendously exciting, and we cannot wait to share with the public this fascinating story.

“This exhibition has also been a fantastic impetus to delve deeper into our own national collection of Welsh landscape art, and we’re thrilled to be showcasing nearly 100 works spanning over 250 years in the majestic Gregynog Gallery.”

The exhibition will be on display at The National Library of Wales from 10 May until 7 September 2024 and a programme of associated events will be shared on the Library’s website in the coming weeks.

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