Art Museum Warns That Images Of British Countryside Can Evoke ‘Dark’ ‘Nationalist’ Feelings

Paintings seen at the museum. The Fitzwilliam Museum is the art and antiquities Museum of Cambridge University in England, the museum currently houses masterpieces by different artists.
Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

An art museum in England has issued a warning to patrons that images of a British countryside in paintings can evoke what it labeled “dark,” “nationalist feelings.”

The Fitzwilliam Museum, owned by the University of Cambridge, decided to overhaul some of its displays, something that the museum’s director Luke Syson insisted is not being “woke.”

“I would love to think that there’s a way of telling these larger, more inclusive histories that doesn’t feel as if it requires a push-back from those who try to suggest that any interest at all in [this work is] what would now be called ‘woke,'” Syson told the Telegraph, as reported by Yahoo News.

The paintings have been moved around into categories in an effort to make the museum “inclusive.”

“Being inclusive and representative shouldn’t be controversial; it should be enriching,” Syson said.

One of the signs in the Nature Gallery, showing the work of artist John Constable’s paintings of English hills, noted that the artwork can stir feelings of “pride towards a homeland.”

“Landscape paintings were also always entangled with national identity,” the sign read.

“The countryside was seen as a direct link to the past, and therefore a true reflection of the essence of a nation,” it added. “Paintings showing rolling English hills or lush French fields reinforced loyalty and pride towards a homeland.”

However, another part of the sign told visitors that “there is a darker side” to the images of the British countryside. 

“The darker side of evoking this nationalist feeling is the implication that only those with a historical tie to the land have a right to belong,” it added.


Constable is known for his famous landscapes of the Suffolk countryside, the National Gallery in London noted. Interestingly enough, as popular as his paintings are now, the London Gallery noted that “they were not particularly well received in England during his lifetime.”

In another part of the museum, the sign for the new Identity Gallery told patrons that portraits of wealthy and uniformed sitters “became vital tools in reinforcing the social order of a white ruling class, leaving very little room for representations of people of color, the working classes or other marginalized people,” the outlet noted.

And that, “portraits were often entangled, in complex ways, with British imperialism and the institution of transatlantic slavery.”

In the Migration and Movement gallery, signage noted that “while some people chose to leave their homes, global conflict, discrimination and European colonialism meant others fled or were exiled by force.”

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