From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The museum contains an El Greco, paintings by Francisco Goya, Canaletto, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, François Boucher and a sizable collection of decorative art, ceramics, textiles, tapestries, clocks and costumes, as well as older items from local history. A great attraction is the 18th century Silver Swan automaton, which periodically preens itself, looks round and appears to catch and swallow a fish.
The Bowes Museum was purpose-built as a public art gallery for John Bowes, the illegitimate son of John Bowes the 10th Earl of Strathmore, and Kinghorne, and his wife Joséphine Benoîte, Countess of Montalbo, who both died before it opened in 1892.
It was designed by the French architect Jules Pellechet in a grand French style within landscaped gardens. The building was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as "... big bold and incongruous, looking exactly like the town hall of a major provincial town in France. In scale it is just as gloriously inappropriate for the town to which it belongs (and to which it gives some international fame) as in style".
A major redevelopment of the Bowes Museum began in 2005. To date, improvements have been made to visitor facilities (shop, cafe, toilets); galleries (new Fashion & Textile gallery, Silver gallery and English Interiors gallery); and study/learning facilities. The three picture galleries on the second floor of the museum are currently being refurbished (December 2010).
The museum hosts an internationally significant programme of exhibitions, recently featuring works by Monet, Raphael, Turner, Sisley, Galle, William Morris, and Toulouse Lautrec.
- Charles E. Hardy - John Bowes and the Bowes Museum (1970, reprinted 1982) ISBN 0-9508165-0-7
- Caroline Chapman - John and Josephine: The Creation of The Bowes Museum (2010)