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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.

Canaletto’s masterpiece – The Stonemason’s Yard – is returning to Wales as part of the National Gallery's anniversary celebrations. The exhibition at the National Library of Wales tells the incredible story of 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 selection of items on display. Following successful trials with local visitors who are Blind or have visual impairments, 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."

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 after having taken refuge here 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.


** Mae’r datganiad hwn hefyd ar gael yn y Gymraeg **

The National Library of Wales Media Contact
Rhodri ap Dyfrig, Head of Marketing and Audiences  / 07521761762

About the National Library of Wales

The National Library of Wales is a library for Wales and the world. Located in Aberystwyth, it is the home of the story of Wales.

Opened in 1907, the Library is the centre of research into the culture and heritage of Wales and the Celtic nations.

The purpose of the Library is to make our culture and heritage accessible for everyone to learn, research and enjoy.

We are a legal deposit library, which means we are entitled to a copy of every print publication in Britain and Ireland, but our collections also include the following:

  • 7,000,000 feet of film
  • 250,000 hours of video
  • 6,000,000 books and newspapers
  • 40,000 manuscripts
  • 1,500,000 maps
  • 150,000 hours of sound
  • 950,000 photographs
  • 60,000 works of art
  • 1,900 cubic meters of archives

You can search the collections online. You will find further information along with a list of resources on our website.

About the National Gallery

The National Gallery was founded in 1824 as an art collection for the nation. Its mission has been to make the greatest paintings in the Western European tradition freely available to all. From a founding purchase of just 38 works, the Gallery’s collection has grown to include over 2,400 pictures, dating from the 13th to the 20th centuries. As one of the most important public collections in the world, the Gallery welcomes millions of visitors to its building on Trafalgar Square every year and reaches millions more through its exhibitions, digital platforms and national touring programmes.

About the National Treasures project

The National Treasures project celebrates the National Gallery’s founding principle of collective ownership as well as celebrating the expertise and creativity of local communities and cultural organisations across the UK. Each work will be part of exhibitions curated by twelve partner venues that will shed light on well-known paintings. As they look towards the Gallery’s third century, by bringing new audiences and perspectives to the nation’s treasures through fresh interpretation, collaboration and dynamic exchange, these displays will enrich our understanding of the power of painting.

About the painting and the artist

Canaletto was born in 1697 and raised in the city of Venice, and was the most famous Venetian painter of his day. He was celebrated for his vedute (views), which evocatively captured Venice’s dazzling light, shimmering water and the crumbling plaster of its buildings. In the 1730s and 1740s his pictures became extremely popular with Grand Tourists – British aristocrats travelling through Italy, for whom his views of Venice were a must-have souvenir.

The Stonemason’s Yard is unusual within Canaletto’s oeuvre. An early work, it was probably painted for a Venetian patron, as the scene of daily life it depicts is unlike the artist’s celebrated views of the Grand Canal, regattas and festival days. Instead of pomp and pageantry, the painting presents ordinary people. The Campo San Vidal had been temporarily turned into a stonemason’s yard, strewn with blocks of stone, tools and figures at work. Today, this area has changed almost beyond recognition.

Canaletto, 1697-1768, The Stonemason’s Yard, about 1725

© The National Gallery, London