13 July 2008

Bowes Museum

Bowes Museum has a nationally renowned art collection and is situated in the town of Barnard Castle, Teesdale, County Durham, England.

The museum contains an El Greco, paintings by Goya, Canaletto, Boucher, Fragonard and a sizable collection of decorative art, ceramics, textiles, tapestries, clocks and costumes, as well as older items from local history. A great attraction is the 18th century Silver Swan automaton, which periodically preens itself, looks round and appears to catch and swallow a fish.

Bowes Museum was purpose-built as a public art gallery for John Bowes, the illegitimate son of the Earl of Strathmore, and his wife Joséphine Benoîte, Countess of Montalbo, who both died before it opened in 1892.

It was designed by the French architect Jules Pellechet in a grand French style within landscaped gardens. The building was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as "... big bold and incongruous, looking exactly like the town hall of a major provincial town in France. In scale it is just as gloriously inappropriate for the town to which it belongs (and which it gives some international fame) as in style".

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