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25 April 2017

International exhibition brings Romantic Scotland to China

A brand new exhibition is set to tell Scotland’s story to an international audience when it opens in China this Friday 28th April.

Hugh Morrison, Collections Registrar at Historic Environment Scotland, packing a 17th Century helmet from Dumbarton Castle to go on display at Nanjing Musuem as part of the Romantic Scotland exhibition
Romantic Scotland explores how a romantic view of the country’s past popularised by writers like Sir Walter Scott and painters like Alexander Nasmyth compares with archival evidence of Scotland’s history. Curated by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and the National Galleries of Scotland, the exhibition will see nearly 100 objects, paintings, photographs and other treasures flown over 5,000 miles to be enjoyed by visitors at one of China’s largest cultural institutions.
Visitors will be taken back in time to the eighteenth century, when a new cultural movement transformed Scottish art, literature and national identity. Romantic Scotland will use a combination of paintings, historic photographs and artefacts to tell the story of a time when artists let their imaginations and emotions run free in an expressive new movement that came to be known as ‘Romanticism’.
Romantic Scotland aims to draw Scotland and China closer together by strengthening the cultural ties between the two nations. The artworks and artefacts going on display in Nanjing all exemplify the sheer strength and richness of Scottish culture, and will both engage the Chinese public and help raise awareness of Scotland’s illustrious history. This in turn encourages interest from potential visitors to Scotland, fulfilling the long-term commitment of made by both countries to strengthen Sino-Scottish relations.
The exhibition will also provide a platform for landmark research, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), into what motivates visitors to engage with Scottish culture and heritage. Academic partners from the UK and China will explore how visitors move through the museum and interact with the exhibits, as well as monitoring how visitors engage with the artworks and artefacts on display. Visitors will be encouraged to get interactive both in the exhibition and on social media, sharing photographs and video, posting thoughts on a huge graffiti wall, and sending postcards back to Scotland.
The research will facilitate knowledge exchange between academic and cultural institutions in Scotland and China, with the aim of increasing understanding of audiences in both countries. Heritage tourism contributes £2.3 Billion to the Scottish economy every year, with China emerging as a particularly strong market in recent years. Improved understanding of what attracts international visitors to Scotland could yield great benefits for the heritage sector.
Rebecca Bailey, Head of Education and Outreach for HES, said: “It’s fantastic to be collaborating with Nomad Exhibitions, National Galleries of Scotland, and Nanjing Museum once more to bring this exciting new exhibition to a Chinese audience.
“The exhibition showcases spectacular romantic interpretations of Scotland’s changing landscape, from storm-lashed coastlines and majestic castles to jagged mountain peaks and haunting rural landscapes. These images of Scotland are still influential around the world today, and we’re interested to hear from visitors about their views of modern Scotland.”
'Celebrating Scotland's Art' is the National Galleries of Scotland's project to redevelop its spaces devoted to Scottish art at the Scottish National Gallery. Its Co-Director, Patricia Allerston, said "Chinese visitors are one of the National Galleries of Scotland's fastest growing audiences. We are delighted to have this opportunity to present 31 of our top historic Scottish paintings in Nanjing, alongside the collections of Historic Environment Scotland."
The project has grown out of a long-standing relationship between HES, Nomad Exhibitions and Nanjing Museum, which has previously produced the award-winning A Tale of Two Cities exhibition.
Tim Pethick, Director of Nomad Exhibitions, added, “We are delighted to be once again collaborating with Historic Environment Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland and Nanjing Museum in the production of a ground-breaking new exhibition. Following on from the highly successful and award-winning A Tale of Two Cities exhibition, Romantic Scotland has given us the opportunity to introduce some wonderful Scottish paintings and artefacts to Chinese museum visitors. The project continues the ambition of Nomad Exhibitions to work with international cultural partners to conceive, manage and produce exciting and diverse international travelling exhibition programmes.”
Highlights from the exhibition include:
  • A Distant View of Stirling by Alexander Nasmyth (NGS)
  • Glass Plate negatives of Coll and Ben Nevis by Erskine Beveridge (HES)
  • 17th Century helmet from Dumbarton Castle (HES)
  • 18th Century Targe, or shield, of the type traditionally used by Highland clansmen, from Arbroath Abbey (HES)
  • 19th Century Visitor's Book from Edinburgh Castle (HES)
  • Bell Rock Lighthouse by Joseph Mallord William Turner (NGS)
  • John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore by Sir Joshua Reynolds (NGS)

Notes for Editors

  • The research project ‘Producing/Consuming Romantic Scotland’ is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Historic Environment Scotland lead a team of researchers at Bath, Bournemouth and Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool (Suzhou, China) Universities. The research is delivered in partnership with Nanjing Museum.
  • Images are available from communications@hes.scot

National Galleries of Scotland

The National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) looks after one of the world's finest collections of Western art, ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day. These holdings include the national collection of Scottish art, which is displayed in an international context. Every year, NGS welcomes over 2.2 million visitors from Scotland and the rest of the world to our three Galleries in Edinburgh: the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
The Scottish National Gallery is home to our collection of fine art from the early Renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century. The collection includes masterpieces by Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Constable, Turner, Monet, Van Gogh and Gauguin, amongst many others. The most comprehensive part of the collection covers the history of Scottish painting with all the major names represented, including Ramsay, Raeburn, Wilkie and McTaggart.
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art comprises two buildings, Modern One and Modern Two, which house our outstanding collection of modern and contemporary art. The early part of the collection features French and Russian art from the beginning of the twentieth century, Cubist paintings and superb holdings of Expressionist, modern British and international post-war art. The gallery is a world-renowned centre for the study of Dada and Surrealism and home to the world's most important and extensive collection of modern and contemporary Scottish art.
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery first opened to the public in 1889 as the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery. Over the past century, its collection of portraits has grown to become one of the largest and finest in the world, comprising 3,000 paintings and sculptures, 25,000 prints and drawings. The Gallery tells the story of Scotland through the people who have shaped its history - past and present, famous or forgotten. This distinctive red sandstone building also houses the national collection of photography, with some 38,000 historic and modern photographs and film.
The Nanjing exhibition launch takes place during an ambitious redevelopment of the Scottish National Gallery (SNG) in Edinburgh. This major project will transform the way the Gallery's unparalleled collection of Scottish art is displayed, tripling the exhibition space in which it is shown and radically improving visitor access. In addition, the recent launch of the Scottish National Galleries new website has seen our entire national art collection – over 100,000 objects and artworks – become digitally accessible to anybody, from anywhere in the world, via any device, at any time.
For further information please go to nationalgalleries.org or call 0131 624 6200. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter or Instagram.

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES)

Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017

2017 is the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology (HHA), a year that will celebrate Scotland’s people, our distinct culture and traditions, our historic landscapes, attractions and icons as well as our hidden gems and amazing stories. From World Heritage Sites to ancient monuments, listed buildings to historic battlefields, cultural traditions to our myths, stories and legends, 2017 is the year to explore Scotland’s fascinating past. This is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland and a variety of partners.

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For further information

Ali George
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
Direct Line: 0131 668 8714
Mobile: 07583 018 790