FALMOUTH Art Gallery’s exciting summer exhibition Wreck and Ruin puts a new and unique twist on the classic nautical shipwreck theme.

The exhibition explores the metaphorical meaning of "wrecks" and "ruins" in every meaning of both words, through an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary works. Striking images of classical ruins by the 18th century Italian master of the Grand Tour, Giovanni Piranesi, and a later atmospheric rendition by Sir Alfred Munnings are juxtaposed with scenes of a darker nature and narratives of societal ruin depicted across the centuries by William Hogarth, Walter Sickert, and Grayson Perry.

Cornwall’s rocky coastline has been the cause of many wrecks and ruination most notably locally on the perilous Manacle rocks on the Lizard celebrated in images by JMW Turner, Sir Henry Moore and Falmouth’s own Henry Scott Tuke.

Falmouth recorded 121 shipwrecks between 1700 and 1865 most of which were caused by ships having difficulties at sea and then trying to reach the harbour. Attempts at salvage provided dramatic scenes of lifesaving made popular in print by the Hemy brothers in the 19th century with stirring titles such as Got ‘em All and And Every Soul was Saved.

The port of Falmouth was frequently used as a safe haven during hazardous gales, however, sheltering vessels risked attack from the infamous and piratical Killigrew family whose family home Arwenack Manor features in the exhibition.

John Killigrew, head of the household from 1536 to 1567, quickly amassed a fortune having made a reciprocal arrangement with Henry VIII by which John gained the income from "the lease of Penryn Foreign and Minster" in return for the land on which Pendennis Castle was subsequently built. John was made first Captain of the Castle by Henry in gratitude.

The Killigrews were well known in the area for smuggling despite amassing considerable wealth they were investigated repeatedly for offences and felonies linked to piracy with each head of household serving time at his majesty’s pleasure. In 1565, the Privy Council reportedly visited Arwenack to recover 184 rubies stolen by the family, during which John threatened to stab the envoy with his sword. His son, Peter, was well known at the time to be an "old pirate, whose name and exploits are most notorious."

Other artists featured in the exhibition include Ivor Abrahams, Richard Harry Carter, Claude Hamilton Rowbotham, Alfred Wallis and William Henry Williamson.

For younger visitors with piratical tendencies there will be a series of dastardly activities drawing on the gallery's collection of John Ryan illustrations for Captain Pugwash.

Wreck and Ruin can be seen for free at Falmouth Art Gallery between 10am and 5pm, Mondayto Saturday, until September 3. For further information on the exhibition or children's workshops contact Natalie Rigby on 01326 313863 or email collections@falmouthartgallery.com.