Significant watercolours and shields secured for Ayrshire

  • Published 18 December 2009

With help from The Art Fund and other funding bodies, East Ayrshire Council has successfully raised the £85,100 needed to buy a nationally significant set of watercolours which will go on display at Dean Castle, Kilmarnock, early next year.

The Eglinton Watercolours by James Henry Nixon are considered to be of outstanding significance for the study of Scottish social history and of the Gothic Revival in 19th century Britain. The accompanying historic shields, which were used to furnish the knights’ tents at the 19th century tournament, have been purchased for £7,000, along with the watercolours.

Culture Minister Barbara Follett placed an export bar on the set of twenty watercolours, providing a last chance to raise funds to keep them in the UK. The paintings depict scenes from The Eglinton Tournament, an important event in 19th century Scottish social history. The watercolours were created to be used by lithographers for a folio account of the Eglinton tournament which was published in 1843.

The successful purchase and £156,100 funding package means that the watercolours and shields will go on display at Dean Castle, Kilmarnock, during March 2010. A new exhibition will take place during the summer of 2011 at The Dick and will feature collections from throughout the country relating to the tournament and the Gothic Revival of the period.

Adam Geary, Arts and Museums Manager at East Ayrshire Council, said: “Thanks to all funders who worked very quickly to ensure we met the requirements of the temporary export bar. These include Heritage Lottery Fund (£50,000) The Art Fund (£37,000), Barcapel Foundation (£20,000) and National Fund for Acquisitions (£17,000). The watercolours and shields will make a great addition to our already impressive collections. “

Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund, said: “These lively and detailed watercolours shed light upon the Gothic revival that took hold of Europe in the mid 18th -19th centuries, and, together with the shields, make an important addition to East Ayrshire’s collections. We are thrilled to have helped save these pieces for Ayrshire, where the last great tournament was held, so locals can learn more about the area’s rich history.”