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18th Earl of Eglinton Comments on Saved Watercolours

The Eglinton Watercolours by James Henry Nixon were recently the subject of an export bar as they are considered to be of outstanding significance for the study of Scottish social history and of the Gothic Revival in 19th century Britain.
The twenty 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 accompanying historic shields, which were used to furnish the knights’ tents at the 19th century tournament, are also on view.

The Earl of Eglinton said of the recent acquisition and exhibition, ‘I, and the whole of the family, are delighted that the watercolours of the Tournament have found their way home to Ayrshire thanks to the cooperation and generosity of all the organisations, both in the public and private sectors, that were involved.

In particular, I should like to pay tribute to the interest and enthusiasm shown by the East Ayrshire Council.’
The Eglinton Tournament, which took place over three days in August 1839, highlighted the 19th century fascination with all things medieval. It is fitting, then that they should now be exhibited at the 14th century Dean Castle.
Privately funded by the 13th Earl of Eglinton at a cost of £40,000 and held in front of the castle on his Ayrshire estate, the spectacle included a procession, jousting by tilt and mêlée, a banquet and a ball. It was attended by 100,000 people who travelled from across Britain, Europe and even America. The event captured the imagination of a public whose appetite for recreating the Age of Chivalry had been whetted by authors such as Sir Walter Scott. It drew attention to Scottish heritage and helped to fan the flames of the Gothic Revival.
Little is known about the artist, James Henry Nixon, except that he was artistic partner in a London stained-glass firm. His watercolours provide a detailed record of the event and the published lithographs were accompanied by text identifying the people depicted and describing their costumes. The blue skies which appear in the background represent artistic licence because, in true British fashion, the first day of the tournament was deluged by torrential rain.
Leader of the Council Douglas Reid said, ‘It has taken the Council a great deal of determination to ensure these historically important watercolours were brought back to Ayrshire. They look fabulous alongside the shields and other collections from the event and I am delighted that members of the public can now enjoy for free at our historically important and family friendly Dean Castle .’

The Eglinton Watercolours Exhibition runs at the Dean Castle, Kilmarnock from March 27th 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. A publication and interactive will also be produced to coincide with the exhibition, alongside a dynamic event programme including jousting competitions at Dean Castle.

Dean Castle, Kilmarnock is open seven days a week and further information can be obtained by visiting www.visiteastayrshire.com or www.futuremuseum.co.uk