Archive for the ‘Watercolours’ Category

A sense of Romantic humour

November 28, 2014
Two wings of an altarpiece, painted by William Bankes, watercolour on vellum, c.1803. ©Lowell Libson Ltd

Two wings of an altarpiece, painted by William Bankes, watercolour on vellum, c.1803. ©Lowell Libson Ltd

William Bankes, the collector and all-round man of taste who created the house and collections at Kingston Lacy as we can still see them today, was in many ways a product of the Romantic era. He knew Lord Byron, he sketched Gothic architecture and he traveled around the Mediterranean and in the Middle East, picking up works of art and antiquities on the way.

Miniature portrait of a young William Bankes by George Sanders, 1812, at Kingston Lacy, inv. no. 1251251. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

Miniature portrait of a young William Bankes by George Sanders, 1812, at Kingston Lacy, inv. no. 1251251. ©National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

Exiled from Britain because of his homosexuality, he spent his later years in that most romantic of cities, Venice, allegedly making secret trips back to Dorset to see his beloved Kingston Lacy under the cover of darkness.

View of Kingston Lacy. ©National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

View of Kingston Lacy. ©National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

We have recently been able to purchase from Lowell Libson a pair of watercolours on vellum painted by Bankes in about 1804, when he was a student at Cambridge. These pictures were once the wings of an altarpiece which Bankes created for his rooms at Trinity College, as an irreverent set-piece of neo-Gothic interior decoration.

Left-hand altarpiece panel by William Bankes, inv. no. 2900102. ©Lowell Libson Ltd

Left-hand altarpiece panel by William Bankes, inv. no. 2900102. ©Lowell Libson Ltd

The left-hand panel depicts a kneeling knight bearing the Bankes coat of arms, probably a medievalised self-portrait, with the words ‘Domine Labia Mea Apenies’ (Thou O Lord wilt open my lips) coming from his mouth. Above the knight hovers an angel holding a scroll reading ‘Gloria in Excelsis deo’ (Glory be God in the highest), and the scene is surmounted by the Bankes coat of arms.

Right-hand altarpiece panel by William Bankes, inv. no. 2900103. ©Lowell Libson Ltd

Right-hand altarpiece panel by William Bankes, inv. no. 2900103. ©Lowell Libson Ltd

The right-hand panel shows a group of cloaked and hooded mourners around a coffin covered with a pall exclaiming ‘Orate pro anima Wulie’ or pray for Wulie’s – William Bankes’s – soul. In this scene the coat of arms has been replaced by an ominous skull with the inscription ‘Non Deus est Mourton’ – God is not dead.

The ruins of the Corfe Castle, on the Kingston Lacy estate, which William Bankes knew well. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

The ruins of the Corfe Castle, on the Kingston Lacy estate, which William Bankes knew well. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

Although the altarpiece was clearly intended as part of an elaborate theatrical joke, which apparently included the burning of incense and the occasional chanting of services, Bankes was also using it to express the various interests and personal characteristics that would find their full flowering in the creation of Kingston Lacy. He was imaging himself as a romantic knight, he was picturing his own funeral as something out of a classic Gothic novel, he was being irreverently ‘Papist’ and borderline blasphemous, and he was indulging his love of Gothic architecture and decoration.

Drawing of Gothic cloisters, by William Bankes, at Kingston Lacy, inv. no. 1252998. ©National Trust

Drawing of Gothic cloisters, by William Bankes, at Kingston Lacy, inv. no. 1252998. ©National Trust

This acquisition was made possible by grants from the Art Fund as well as from the Ervin-DesChamps Fund through the Royal Oak Foundation.

Nunnington re-imagined

August 9, 2011

The Oak Hall, Nunnington Hall, by Jane Pinkney. Chris Beetles Gallery, London

Illustrator Jane Pinkney was recently invited to be artist in residence at Nunnington Hall, North Yorkshire.

The Oak Hall. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

Pinkney is well known as the illustrator of books such as The Mice of Nibbling Village, Mouse Mischief and Mouse Time.

The Oak Bedroom, Nunnington Hall, by Jane Pinkney. Chris Beetles Gallery, London

She grew up on the rural outskirts of Barnsley, Bradford and Middlesbrough. Her father’s interest in botany inspired her own fascination with the natural world. Pinkney combined a prodigious talent for drawing with a vivid, nostalgic imagination.

The fireplace in the Oak Bedroom. ©NTPL/Mike Williams

Now her watercolours are being exhibitied for the first time in this selling exhibition at Nunnington, organised in collaboration with the Chris Beetles Gallery. The show includes both older work and new pictures inspired by the house.

The Panelled Bedroom, Nunnington Hall, by Jane Pinkney. Chris Beetles Gallery, London

The exhibition runs at Nunnington Hall from 9 August until 18 September 2011. 

The Panelled Bedroom. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

The book The Mice of Nibbling Village has also been brought out in a new edition by the National Trust.

Flower power

September 15, 2010

The grand staircase at Lyme Park, by Sybil Legh, 1898. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

At Lyme Park in Cheshire there is a group of small watercolours of interiors by Sybil Legh (pronounced Lee), painted in 1897 and 1898.

Early nineteenth-century wire plant stand in the entrance hall at Lyme Park. The stand is actually from nearby Dunham Massey. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Leghs had been at Lyme since about 1400.

The library at Lyme by Sybil Legh, 1897. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Sybil Legh wasn’t a professional watercolourist, but she certainly had an eye for framing a view.

Early nineteenth-century flower arrangement in the yellow bedroom at Lyme. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

 All of the watercolours include houseplants and flowers. 

The yellow bedroom at Lyme, by Sybil Legh, 1898. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

There was a project a few years ago recreating and photographing a number of documented historic flower arrangements, including the examples shown here.

The dining room table laid to design number 14 from John Perkins's 'Flower Decorations for the Table', 1877. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Flower arrangements are of course the most ephemeral of creations – but in this case they were recorded in the book Flora Domestica: A History of British Flower Arranging, 1500-1930, by Mary Rose Blacker.

At home with Betty Hussey

March 31, 2010

 

The hall at Scotney Castle. Image: National Trust

Last week I showed photographs of a few rooms at Scotney Castle. Here are the same rooms, and some others, but now seen through the medium of watercolour. 

Mrs Hussey in the Kitchen. Image: National Trust

The pictures are by Sam Beazley, who is an actor as well as an artist and who used to own the Portmeirion antique shop in Pont Street, London.

The garden lobby. Image: National Trust

Mr Beazley was a friend of the late Mrs Betty Hussey and often visited Scotney during her lifetime. He painted these views in the 1980s.

The flat. Image: National Trust

Last year he generously donated a group of 18 of these watercolours to the National Trust for display ay Scotney Castle.

The bamboo bedroom. Image: National Trust

The artist has not only captured the quality of the light in the different rooms, but he has also faithfully recorded the formica kitchen table, an electric heater, a television and other signs of modern life.


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