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Press Release by Nottingham Castle:

Illuminating the Wilderness at Nottingham Castle


Twenty-five landscape drawings from the Royal Collection – recently identified as by English artist Thomas Gainsborough – will go on display in the exhibition Young Gainsborough: Rediscovered Landscape Drawings, paired with the film Illuminating the Wilderness, by 2021 Turner Prize nominees Project Art Works, which chart the pleasures and challenges of neurodiverse responses to the landscape.

These exhibitions at Nottingham Castle open on Saturday 2 July and run until Sunday 13 November.

Young Gainsborough: Rediscovered Landscape Drawings is a display of twenty-five landscape drawings from the Royal Collection along with loans from The National Gallery, York Museums Trust, and Nottingham City Museums.

Produced in the late 1740s when Gainsborough was in his early twenties, this previously unseen selection of drawings offers an intimate glimpse into the early career of this master of portraiture and landscape, highlighting his youthful enthusiasm for nature.

The exhibition will feature other paintings and drawings from Gainsborough’s early years, along with works by the Dutch landscape painters who influenced him.

The re-discovered Gainsborough drawings were previously believed to be by the painter Sir Edwin Landseer, having been acquired by Queen Victoria from his studio in 1874. In 2013, art historian Lindsay Stainton identified one of the drawings as a study for Gainsborough’s most celebrated landscape painting, Cornard Wood (c.1748), leading to the reattribution of the drawings to Gainsborough.

In this touring exhibition, the study for Cornard Wood will hang alongside the finished painting, newly conserved and loaned by The National Gallery, London, uniting the painting with its preparatory drawing for the first time since they were last together in Gainsborough’s studio.

Nottingham Castle is also showcasing Illuminating the Wilderness, a film production by Turner Prize 2021-nominated Project Art Works, conceived and directed by Kate Adams and Tim Corrigan and filmed on location with Ben Rivers, Margaret Salmon and neurodivergent artists and makers, families and carers.

This 40-minute film follows the exploration of a remote Scottish Glen over several days during October 2018 and reveals the pleasures, challenges and shared experience of neurodivergent responses to nature.

Shot from multiple viewpoints and cameras, the film is unscripted and reveals the subtle fluidity of roles and interactions between this unique and itinerant community away from the practical, attitudinal and social barriers they face in their everyday lives.

Moments of humour, and tender consideration for each other, unfold in and around the landscape and weather systems of the mountains. The remoteness, scale and indifference of the landscape provide a rare sense of freedom and belonging for everyone involved.

Illuminating the Wilderness displays a touching, joyful connection to nature, showing how a simple encounter with the natural world can benefit individuals who are neurodivergent or have special educational and complex learning needs.

By contrasting these two exhibitions, it is clear how nature is and continues to be, our teacher: Gainsborough reflects the (romantic) past, in a fabricated yet idyllic creation of the perfect landscape, whereas Project Art Works shows us the beauty of neurodivergency and how vital and healing nature can be.

Within the exhibition galleries, visitors are also invited to participate and share their creative responses to the natural world through drawing and writing, creating a room filled with love notes and messages of gratitude to the planet, surrounded by a wild ‘forest’ of illustrations on the walls.

Young Gainsborough is a touring exhibition and collaboration between Royal Collection Trust; York Art Gallery; the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; and Nottingham Castle. Additional works have been generously loaned by The National Gallery, London; The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; and Colchester and Ipswich Museums.

Illuminating the Wilderness was made as part of the EXPLORERS project, led by Project Art Works. Working in partnership with leading cultural organisations in the UK and Australia, the programme was informed and led by neurodiverse communities, placing them at the heart of social, civic and cultural activity.


Saturday 2 July – Sunday 13 November.
Included in the general admission price.

For public information visit or follow @nottinghamcastle / @NottmCastle

For more information contact:

High-resolution press images and image credits can be downloaded here.

Notes to editors

Nottingham Castle, operated by not-for-profit charity Nottingham Castle Trust, is a historical landmark which has recently undergone a £30m conservation, renovation, and redevelopment, including the creation of new galleries housing permanent collections of fine-art and temporary exhibitions, mixed reality games, a new Visitor Centre and an outdoor family adventure playground, Hood’s Hideout.

Thomas Gainsborough (1727−88) was born in Sudbury in Suffolk, the son of a family of cloth merchants. As a young man, Gainsborough showed promise as an artist and began to travel regularly between London and Suffolk, to train under French painter and illustrator, Hubert-François Gravelot (1699–1773).

Although he was later to become a dazzling portrait painter, in these early years Gainsborough’s real passion and interest was landscape, drawings of the Suffolk countryside, inspired by Dutch 17th century landscape paintings that were fashionable on the London art market.

About Royal Collection Trust
Royal Collection Trust, a department of the Royal Household, is responsible for the care of the Royal Collection and manages the public opening of the official residences of The Queen. Income generated from admissions and from associated commercial activities contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational programmes. Royal Collection Trust’s work is undertaken without public funding of any kind. The Royal Collection is among the largest and most important art collections in the world, and one of the last great European royal collections to remain intact. It comprises almost all aspects of the fine and decorative arts and is spread among some 15 royal residences and former residences across the UK, most of which are regularly open to the public. The Royal Collection is held in trust by the Sovereign for her successors and the nation, and is not owned by The Queen as a private individual.

About Project Art Works
Project Art Works is a collective of neurodivergent artists and activists based in Hastings, UK.
Intersecting art and care, they promote the rights and representation of neurominorities through an expansive art practice, embracing holistic and practical support for individuals and caregivers alongside established artistic outputs.

Working in partnership nationally and internationally, they seek to reverse the entrenched power dynamics of inclusion and to provide genuine opportunities for people to represent themselves within culture and society.

Project Art Works Contacts

Jessica Courtney Bennett, Communication and Projects Manager, Project Art Works

[email protected]

+44 1424 423555

About neurodiversity
The term neurodiversity, composed of neurology and diversity, has been developing into a concept and as a movement based on the fundamental assumption of neurological diversity and the impact of this diversity on perceptual processes, behavioural patterns, and forms of representation.

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