Exhibitions

Opening hours

(main building)
  • Open Tuesday – Sunday
  • Closed Mondays except Bank Holiday Mondays
  • 10am – 4:30pm (last admission 4.10pm)
  • Free admission

 The Welsh at Mametz Wood by Christopher Williams (1873 – 1934)

IMG_9955Now on display in our Great War Exhibition.

Four thousand men from the 38th (Welsh) Division were killed or injured at the battle of Mametz Wood between the 7th – 12 July, 1916. It was one of the most significant and bloody battles fought by Welsh soldiers during the Somme offensive and the First World War. The year 2016 marked the centenary of this battle.

The 14th (Swansea Service) Battalion, the Welsh Regiment, went into the attack with 676 men. After a day of hard fighting they had lost almost 400 men, killed or wounded before being relieved.

The battle has come to represent the bravery and sacrifice of Welsh troops in World War One. This heroic ideal was captured in the painting by the artist Christopher Williams, who was commissioned by David Lloyd George to travel to the Western Front a few months after the battle.

Kindly on loan from Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.

Lost Treasures of Swansea Bay
16 May 2017 – 13 Aug 2017

‘The Lost Treasures of Swansea Bay’ is the first Community Archaeology project funded by the HLF project Saving Treasures, Telling Stories. Run by Swansea Museum, the project is inspired by a collection of finds made by a local metal detectorist on Swansea Bay, which has also been acquired for the museum by Saving Treasures.

It includes some mysterious items, such as a Bronze Age tool with a curved blade which has had archaeologists scratching their heads. Ideas about its purpose range from opening shellfish to scraping seaweed off nets or rocks or carving bowls.

Among the other items found on the Bay are a number of medieval pilgrim badges, including one brought back from the important shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury. Pilgrim badges are usually made of lead or pewter and were often bought at shrines as a souvenir and worn on the pilgrim’s hat or cloak.

 

Swansea City Opera Musical Routes
8th July 2017

Swansea City Opera Musical Routes Project funded by Heritage Lottery and Arts Council Wales – in conjunction with:

•Community groups – the African Community Centre, The Swansea Chinese Community Cooperative, Unity in Diversity and YMCA Swansea

•Schools – Blaen-y-Maes Primary School, Bishop Gore Secondary School, Cefn Hengoed Community School and Parkland Primary School.

Since September 2016 Swansea City Opera have been working with four schools and four community groups from the Swansea area to encourage the exploration of their cultural / musical heritage and the impact this has made on modern day Swansea.

The community groups (each linked to a different migrant group) have researched into their own musical and cultural heritage to take this journey and the schools are participating the opera Dido and Aeneas, by Henry Purcell, to encourage their own research into migration.

Our project will culminate in an exhibition at Swansea Museum that will reflect these heritage led journeys. Exhibits will include an exciting mix of film of cultural heritage, interpretation boards, costumes, pictures and recordings.

 

 

Swansea and the Great War – ongoing…
The exhibition focuses on the stories of the men who went to fight in the Great War many of which were Swansea people.
The exhibition also reveals the struggles faced by women who were left behind and looks at their contribution to the war effort. It also explore the stories of conscientious objectors.

 

Meleager Presenting the Boar’s Head to Atalanta, 1619 – 1621 by Jacob Jordaens (1593 – 1678) is now on display in our paintings gallery on the main stairway.

Bendor Grosvenor…

When the BBC commissioned Jacky Klein and I to make a new series, ‘Britain’s Lost Masterpieces’, we knew that in the Art UK website we had the perfect tool with which to begin our voyage of discovery. And fortunately, hundreds of hours searching through Art UK have thrown up some intriguing mysteries.

The first programme in the series examines a painting that we discovered in Swansea Museum, via Art UK. It was catalogued as a work by an unknown artist, but has now been proved to be a rare and highly important preparatory study by Jacob Jordaens. The subject is the Greek classical myth of Meleager and Atalanta, which Jordaens explored a number of times throughout his career.

Finding the picture was, in this case, only the beginning of the story. The painting had been comprehensively over-painted by a previous restorer, probably in the 1960s or 1970s. This ‘restoration’ – some of the worse I have ever seen – obscured large swathes of original paint, and in order to prove the attribution to Jordaens we would have to remove it. But it was far from clear when we first examined the painting that this would be possible. In most cases, overpaint, even if badly applied, is there to cover up damage to the original painting.

But we were lucky. After initial analysis with our series restorer, Simon Gillespie, we could see that the Swansea painting had been overpainted largely for cosmetic reasons. The original light blue, overcast sky had been turned into the sort of sky you’d find in a Club Med brochure; the horses’ manes had been trimmed in garish pink; and Atalanta’s white dress had been made red. Happily, Simon was able to safely remove the overpaint, revealing a painting made in Jordaens’ characteristic technique, with numerous ‘pentimenti’, or alterations, showing how the artist evolved his creative ideas.

A far harder challenge came in the form of received wisdom on Jordaens’working technique. According to many art historians, the finished picture for which we believed the painting in the Swansea Museum was a study, a large depiction of Meleager and Atalanta in the Prado Museum in Madrid, was painted in two stages, some 20 years apart. The right-hand section showing Atalanta and Meleager was thought to have been painted in 1620, and the left, with additional figures and horseman, in about 1640. A prominent seam down the centre of the Prado painting appeared to prove the theory. And because the painting from Swansea showed elements found in both sides of the Prado picture, it must, according to Jordaens’ scholarship, be a copy painted after the Prado painting was completed.

We therefore had to prove that the painting in the Prado was painted all at once, and not over two decades. Indeed, we had to counter the idea that Jordaens was an habitual ‘adder on’ of bits of canvas, and the suggestion that he did not think deeply about his compositions, but rather bodged them together in an ad hoc manner over decades.

Fortunately, after detailed analysis of much of Jordaens’ oeuvre, as well as a study of the materials available to him at the time, we were able to demonstrate that the Prado picture was indeed conceived and constructed as a single composition. The seam can be explained by the fact that Jordaens was buying canvas in 120 cm wide sections, a standard width available at the time, and simply joining them together when he wanted to make a larger composition. A number of Jordaens paintings from early in his career are, like the Prado picture, 240 cm wide, and show a similar seam down the centre. Furthermore, we found a series of panel makers marks on the back of the wooden panel on which Swansea study was painted, which proved that it had to date from between 1619 and 1621. Final confirmation came when we were able to show the painting to the director of the Rubenshuis museum in Antwerp, Ben van Beneden.

Many might be surprised that such discoveries could still be made in British museums. But thanks to Art UK we can now, for the first time, undertake a truly complete survey of the UK’s national art collection. And the best news is that this work can be undertaken by all manner of expert eyes, both professional and amateur. I later discovered that a number of other Art UK users had already connected the painting in Swansea to Jordaens, including Prof. David Ekserdjian, the eminent art historian, Al Brown, a sharp-eyed regular on the Art Detective website, and Francis Mouton, a sleuthing blogger from Belgium. In other words, anyone can have a go – so why not start your own search today?

http://artuk.org/discover/stories/new-bbc-series-uncovers-a-lost-masterpiece-in-swansea-museum