arts and design

The Great British Art Tour: how a French artist gave us plenty to see in Barnard Castle


Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle wouldn’t exist without the painter of this work. Joséphine Bowes was a French actor with Théâtre des Variétés in Paris who captured the heart of the English landowner John Bowes. She was also a talented artist, whose work was chosen to be exhibited at the Paris Salon four times and more than 60 of her works, including landscapes (such as this) and still lifes, can be seen in the museum they founded.

They married in 1852 and John gave Joséphine the Château du Barry, shown bathed in sunlight in this painting, as a wedding gift. It is suggested that the figure of the lady who can be seen sitting beside the path between the tall trees could even be Joséphine herself.

By the 1860s the couple realised they would be childless and John credits Joséphine with coming up with the idea of creating a museum to share their passion for art with the people of the area they loved, John’s family home in Teesdale, County Durham. They sold the Château du Barry to fund their museum project and began a decade-long buying spree, amassing more than 15,000 objects during that time, ranging from Spanish paintings to delicate French ceramics and glass.

In 1869 Joséphine laid the foundation stone for the museum, saying, “I lay the bottom stone, and you, Mr Bowes, will lay the top stone.” But sadly, neither of them lived to see their magnificent museum open to the public in 1892.

You can see more art from the Bowes Museum on Art UK here and find out more on the museum’s website.

This series is brought to you in collaboration with Art UK, which brings the nation’s art together on one digital platform and tells the stories behind the art. The website shows works by 50,000 artists from more than 3,000 venues including museums, universities and hospitals as well as thousands of public sculptures. Discover the art you own here.



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