Grand Tourists and Others: Travelling Abroad before the Twentieth Century

Weston Gallery, Nottingham Lakeside Arts, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD

Friday 29 April – Sunday 7 August  – Admission Free

Grand Tourists_1

This exhibition, jointly curated by Dr Ross Balzaretti (School of Humanities) and Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham, takes the visitor on a journey through the history of travel since the sixteenth century drawing on the University of Nottingham’s rich archives. Beginning with the elite ‘Grand Tour’ of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and ending with the more commercial tourism of the mid-nineteenth century, the exhibition explores the travels of local families and others throughout Europe and beyond. People travelled for education and pleasure, to buy and sell things, to escape pressures at home, and much more besides. The trips of men and women, girls and boys, servants and even pets are recorded. Many places across Europe and some beyond feature among the exhibits, with a special focus on Italy which became and remained the country most people were keen to see.

Grand Tourists_2Exhibits include passports, diaries and journals, sketches, bills, prints, photographs and guide books, objects which are still familiar now when we travel abroad. Follow travellers as they walked around Rome, climbed Vesuvius, boated around Venice, and looked at art in Florence. Watch them shop for the latest fashions in Paris, and bargain in Naples. Travel with them as they try foreign food, attempt to speak the local language, and encounter both danger and excitement; just as we do today.

Grand Tourists_3The exhibition will be opened on Thursday 28th April (5pm-7pm), by Levison Wood, explorer, author of Walking the Himalayas, and History graduate (Nottingham 2004).

Items of particular interest:

  • Mystery album of photographs associated with Prince Leopold: The exhibition features images from a photograph album which, research seems to be confirming, belonged to Prince Leopold, youngest son of Queen Victoria. The pictures, of the South of France, Italy, and Switzerland, are likely to have been purchased on the tour which the Prince made of northern Italy in the late spring of 1876. Prince Leopold opened University College Nottingham in June 1881. The album was donated to the University in 1981 by Col. Abel Smith, a direct descendant of Prince Leopold. The album has been conserved and digitised using funds kindly donated by alumni of the Department of History. The original album is unfortunately too large to display in the exhibition but a virtual version is being prepared which will make it possible for viewer to flick through digital pages of the album.
  • University Park residents on tour: Whilst researching the exhibition, Dr Balzaretti made a chance discovery revealing the travels of some former residents of University Park. Visiting cards found within the papers of William Drury-Lowe advertised that a Mr and Miss Needham of Lenton House, were living at no. 6 Lungo D’Arno Nuovo on the third floor. This was a fashionable address in Florence on the banks of the River Arno, in a new street which was opened in 1855. Visiting cards were used by tourists to insert themselves into local social life while they were travelling. The Needham family had lived at Lenton House, one of the historic houses visible from Beeston Lane (now owned by Walgreens Boots Alliance), since the 1820s. They sold the property in 1865. This information means that these two Needhams were in Florence between 1855 and 1865, something which would not be known without the survival of these two ephemeral objects.
  • Diary of a young explorer: The exhibition is being opened by explorer Levison Wood, but visitors to the gallery will be able to see a diary kept by 12 year old George Chaworth Musters when he visited Spain with his uncle in 1853. George went on to become an explorer, who in 1870 became the first Englishman to cross Patagonia from north to south. He recounted his exploits in a book At Home with the Patagonians, which was a best-seller and can also be seen in the exhibition. In his diary, the young George describes their sightseeing in Spain, including visits to bullfights, by which he was particularly impressed.
  • Famous Nottinghamshire travellers: The exhibition features a letter from Lord Byron (1788-1824) who lived at Newstead Abbey as a young man. Notoriously ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ his scandalous life abroad formed the subject of much of his work, especially his long poem Don Juan. The letter, dated 15 May 1809, is addressed to a male member of the Chaworth or Musters family, and Lord Byron states that he is sailing for Gibraltar in June and then to Malta. This marked the start of his Grand Tour of the Mediterranean.

A series of talks/events will be held to accompany the exhibition. Places are limited so please book in advance via the Nottingham Lakeside Arts Box Office: 0115 846 7777

LUNCHTIME TALKS – Djanogly Theatre – Admission free 1-2pm

Archives of Travel: Grand Tourists and Others – 5 May 2016

Gain an insight to the preparations behind the scenes the exhibition with curator Dr Ross Balzaretti. He explains how the research process for the exhibition took place, and how the resulting exhibits fit into the exciting history of travel since the sixteenth century.

The Grand Tour of the Fanshawe Sisters in 1829 – 14 June 2016

In this richly illustrated talk, Professor Charles Watkins and Dr Ross Balzaretti (University of Nottingham) will focus on the Grand Tour of the Fanshawe sisters who ‘did Europe’ in 1829. Using their surviving sketches, letters and poems this talk sheds light on the difficulties and pleasures of travel in the early nineteenth century.

Danger and the Grand Tour – 14 July 2016

Mountain precipices, erupting volcanoes, battles, malaria and the ever-present danger of social failure: travel on the eighteenth-century Grand Tour could be unpleasantly hazardous. Join Sarah Goldsmith (University of York) to explore why Grand Tourists risked such dangers. Could these perils ever be more than a dangerous nuisance?


Journey to Italy

Djanogly Theatre

Thursday 19 May, 7.30pm (2 hrs)

£5 (£3 concessions)

Dr Ross Balzaretti (Department of History) and Sarah Lutton (BFI London Film Festival Programme Advisor, co-editor ‘Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real’ ) will introduce a showing of Roberto Rossellini’s 1954 black and white classic Journey to Italy, one of the great films of the fifties. There will be a post-show discussion.


The Art of Travel

Nottingham Lakeside Arts

Saturday 23 July, 10.30-13.00

11-13 yrs


Make art inspired by your travels and your imagination with local artist Pilar Chamorro-Pascual and Ross Balzaretti, curator of ‘Grand Tourists and Others’.


The Grand Tour Season 2 Fringe

Grand Tourists and Others is part of the Season 2 Fringe Programme of The Grand Tour, a partnership of Nottingham Contemporary, Chatsworth, Derby Museums and The Harley Gallery, together with Experience Nottinghamshire and Visit Peak District & Derbyshire, creating a compelling cultural adventure that is a Grand Tour for our own times. It offers a chance to see great houses, extraordinary art collections and romantic landscapes, interpreted anew by some of today’s most exciting contemporary artists. Season 2 delves deeper into these historical collections and the historic relationship between Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and The Grand Tour alongside contemporary interpretations from Turner Prize-winner Simon Starling, Sir Peter Blake and Rose English. The Fringe Programme of events celebrating the tradition of the Grand Tour, a rite of passage for young gentlemen in the 17th and 18th century, includes Doug Fishbone’s Venice Biennale installation Leisure Land Golf at the New Art Exchange and Derby Cathedral’s exhibition The Enlightenment Cathedral

Fringe Connections:

  • A selection of passports from the Drury Lowe Collection at The University of Nottingham have been loaned for display in one of the Grand Tour Season Two exhibitions Joseph Wright and the Lure of Italy at Derby Museums.
  • The Grand Tourists and Others exhibition itself features a loan from one of the Fringe partners, Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, of The Castelbarco Tomb in Verona, by Richard Parkes Bonington, a Nottingham-born celebrated of English watercolourist, painted following a tour of northern Italy in 1826.


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