Art in Focus: The British Castle—A Symbol in Stone

Hundreds of medieval castles dot the British landscape—most are now ruins, but some are still inhabited by aristocratic families or serve as government buildings. More than any other building type, the castle, in its rise and fall, encapsulates the history of British society. This exhibition brought together a selection of paintings that explored the castle in art—its historical role, place in the landscape, architectural development, and literary associations. Among the specific castles featured were Windsor, the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world and home to the monarch; Corfe Castle, whose ruins after the Civil War serve as a warning that, in a modern democracy, power must bow to the will of the people; and Dover, whose mass kept watch against invasion from France from before the Norman Conquest through to the Second World War. These selections gave insight into castles, both real and imagined, and summarized their symbolic role in British life.

Exhibition brochure

Download an illustrated booklet, including descriptive text and a list of works on display that accompanied this exhibition.

View works from the collection included in this exhibition here.


Marking its tenth year with this exhibition, Art in Focus is an annual initiative for the Center’s Student Guide Program, providing curatorial experience and an introduction to all aspects of exhibition practice. Student curators select objects for exhibition, write text panels and object labels, and make decisions about installation under the supervision of Center curators and staff. In researching and presenting this exhibition, the students were guided by David Frazer Lewis, Postdoctoral Research Associate; Linda Friedlaender, Senior Curator of Education; and Jaime Ursic, Assistant Curator of Education. The student curators were Irene Chung, BR ’17; Zoe Dobuler, TC ’17; Julia Fleming-Dresser, TD ’19; Claire Goldsmith, ES ’18; Caroline Kanner, JE ’18; Daniel Leibovic, TC ’17; Catherine Liu, ES ’18; and Nicholas Stewart, JE ’18.

This exhibition and the accompanying brochure were generously supported by the Marlene Burston Fund and the Dr. Carolyn M. Kaelin Memorial Fund.

Top image
John Hamilton Mortimer, West Gate of Pevensey Castle, Sussex (detail), 1773–74