Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! To celebrate, Tahnee, one of our Explainers, has written a blog about some of the items we love from the collection. Read on to find out more.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day at Nottingham Castle, we Explainers have put together a self-guided trail, which leads visitors through our Creative Galleries. Throughout, there are hand-written love notes, which highlight some of our favourite pieces in the collection.

When making this trail, it was important to me that we focussed on all the different types of connections we experience in our lifetime. We wanted to celebrate the love shared between family and friends, as well as self-love, platonic love, and romantic love.

Valentine’s Day can be a difficult time for some, especially after the last few years which, for some of us, have brought loneliness and loss.

However, the Valentine’s Day trail at the Castle aims to remind us all of the connections we have discovered in the wake of these difficult times, whether it be through the kind acts of neighbours, the support of colleagues, the loyalty of our friends, or the immense gratitude we have for our loved ones.

Tibullus in the House of Delia, Charles Haslewood Shannon (1863–1937), Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

an oil painting showing a woman in a red dress surrounded by men
Tibullus in the House of Delia,
Charles Haslewood Shannon (1863–1937),
Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

One piece I really wanted to include in the trail was Tibullus in the House of Delia by Charles Haslewood Shannon.

Charles Haslewood Shannon’s lived alongside his artistic life-partner, Charles Ricketts, for almost 50 years after the pair met as teenagers. Together, they created art, designed and illustrated books and adopted a shared creative mindset – you would seldom hear one or the other say ‘I think’ or ‘I feel’, but ‘we think’ and ‘we feel’. They were so dedicated to one another that Ricketts even gave up his own artistic aspirations at a young age so that he could help to financially support Shannon’s career. Shannon unfortunately suffered a brain injury in 1928 after falling from a ladder whilst trying to hang a painting; despite this, he still tried to paint until Ricketts sadly passed away a few years later. After Ricketts’ death, Shannon never attempted to paint again.

It has been debated whether Shannon and Ricketts were romantic or non-romantic partners, and they are often celebrated as LGBTQI+ pioneers in the art world. Either way, I think we should celebrate the beauty of their companionship and dedication to one another, and the wonderful life they shared together.

Self Portrait, Evelyn Gibbs (1905 – 1991), Nottingham City Museums and Art Galleries

pencil sketch of a young girl drawing a self portrait
‘Self Portrait’, Evelyn Gibbs (1905-1991), Nottingham City Museums and Galleries

Another piece I thought would be fitting for our trail is this self-portrait by Evelyn Gibbs, which to me, perfectly illustrates the importance of self-love. Producing any kind of art can be incredibly rewarding, but there’s something about a self-portrait; dedicating the time and energy to draw yourself as you feel and not how others see you, to have fun with it, and to make something that is entirely for you, is a true act of self-love. So, if you visit the Castle this Valentine’s Day, we’d like to encourage you to take one of the sketch boards provided in our Art Gallery and take some time to draw your own self-portrait!

Old Sea Dogs, William Holt Yates Titcomb (1858–1930), Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

an oil painting of three older men sat on a bench by the sea
‘Old Sea Dogs’,
William Holt Yates Titcomb (1858–1930), Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

Also included in the trail is Old Sea Dogs by William Holt Yates Titcomb. To me, this painting is a great depiction of kindred love, defining the beauty of friendship in a way that feels nostalgic just by allowing us to imagine the stories these Cornish fisherfolk are sharing, and all the experiences that they may be reminiscing about. Hopefully, this painting will encourage you to reach out to an old friend or colleague, perhaps someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, and swap your own stories to recreate the nostalgic feeling of this painting in your own way.

Other pieces you might find in the trail include Motherhood (c.1922) by Dame Laura Knight, which is a great portrayal of parental love and devotion, The Chess Players by James Lonsdale, which celebrates the love shared between siblings, and Love’s Oracle by Albert Ritzberger, which not only alludes to romance in the fortune teller’s cards, but also depicts an almost sisterly bond between the women featured.

Once you’ve discovered our favourite items, there will be craft activities for you and your loved ones to get involved in in the Art Gallery. If you’re feeling creative, or a fan of all things pre-loved, why not complete an unfinished colouring sheet, started by another visitor? We’ve called this activity ‘You Complete Me’, and we think it’s a lovely way to share skills and get talking! You can also get crafty and make your very own ‘Love Bug’ decoration, or even write a love letter of your own.

Sound good? Come and join us this Valentine’s Day (or any day throughout February half term). The Explainers and I can’t wait to meet you!

By Tahnee (Nottingham Castle Explainer)

With thanks to Tahnee, one of our Explainers at Nottingham Castle, for writing this blog. Book your tickets to Nottingham Castle here.