Rex Whistler at Plas Newydd in Anglesey

Rex Whistler includes himself in his painting

Last week we were in North Wales, staying in Caernarfon, never sure about the spelling, and spending the week looking at some very good National Trust properties

The house I had wanted to see for a long time was Plas Newydd on Anglesey, the ancestral home of the Marquess of Anglesey. This houses the magnificent mural painted by Rex Whistler, unfinished due to his untimely death in 1944 in France.

The mural, painted on canvas and at 56 feet reputed to be the longest in the country, is such a wonderful work that it needs to be seen to be appreciated. I took some pictures, but because of the understandable light level in the viewing chamber, these are poor, and I am still debating whether to include them or not.

Whistler had fallen madly in love with Lady Caroline, daughter of the then Marquess, and there are references in the painting. His self portrait I have included above. There is also a painting of Lady Caroline in the picture too

At the far right of the painting are two trees intertwined, one of which is dying. That one represents Whistler who is dying of unrequited love.

The whole thing is of a fantastical scene of a classical harbour with magnificent buildings and ships with an atmospheric backdrop of mountains based on Snowdonia with dramatic cloud formations

At the time he was in great demand for stage sets and murals in great houses. Many times I have admired his work at Mottisfont in Hampshire, and of course in the restaurant at the Tate

The Plas Newydd mural is staggering and just holds you for hours if necessary. My pictures disappoint so I will not include them. There are websites or go and see the real thing

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The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath, finished painting

The Royal Crescent Hotel

This commissioned painting is finished and approved, and once I have cut a mount and signed and dated, then this will be going off to its new owner

Testing in many ways, classical architecture doesn’t leave a lot of room for error, nonetheless enjoyable to do, and I am happy with the way it has turned out

I shall be otherwise engaged for a few days, but as soon as I can, I need to start on another commission, which is a really interesting looking house portrait. That will need a shetch for approval before getting started.

Added to that I have an important exhibition coming up mid October at one of the local hospitals. This is one where I usually sell. I pray that I sell something as I am bulging with framed pictures. It’s lovely to sell on the internet, but I get left with frames. However, a happy problem

So quite busy for a while

I don’t know what made me do it, but I started going through boxes of slides which I took in the 1970s. Some of us can remember that colour photographs were made into slides at one time, for projecting onto a screen, for amusement of family and friends with our holiday pics, or not as the case may be.

I found amongst the many, a lovely shot of a fishing harbour in Brittany where we stayed in 1972. I have had it printed so that I can work from it, and that will be up after the commissioned work.

Much to do

Mary Wollstonecraft Exhibition at Chawton House in Hampshire

Chawton House associated with Jane Austen

An exhibition of work by Louisa Albani, not an artist I’m familiar with, opened at Chawton House in Hampshire, yesterday, and goes on into November. Not a large exhibition, held in one of the garret rooms,but powerful none the less, and deals with the period that Mary Wollstonecraft spent in Paris during the French Revolution

Known as a writer and legendary advocate of women’s rights, she was in Paris from December 1792, a month before Louis XVI was guillotined, until April 1795 when she returned to London. The artwork in the exhibition was inspired by what she saw and what she did during her stay, and what she wrote, whilst acting as a war correspondent for the English journal Analytical Review

I was struck by one of her quotations.

People thinking for themselves have more energy in their voice,than any government, which it is possible for human wisdom to invent; and every government not aware of this sacred truth will, at some period, be suddenly overturned

Written during the French Revolution by Mary Wollstenecraft

Hint of a warning there for someone perhaps

Chawton House is a gem in itself. An Elizabethan Manor House. of which there are not too many. It belonged to Edward, Jane Austen’s brother who had inherited from the Knight family. Jane was a frequent visitor to the house which is only a short walking distance from the village. The lovely tea room served teas to visitors back in the c19

Lapsed into disrepair during the c19, for lack of funds, the house was rescued by the North American branch of the Jane Austen Society, and has been splendidly restored whilst retaining the character of a country house of the Elizabethan style

Artwork from the exhibition referring to the quote above:

The caption would have to be her quotation above

A delightful visit

The Royal Crescent in Bath : the Preparatory Sketch

The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath

I went to Bath a few days ago and took some pictures as reference for sketch ideas for the commission I have been given. I have been commissioned to paint the Royal Crescent Hotel which is dead centre of the crescent of that name. I have never stayed there, although I believe it is magnificent, and certainly world famous

This is my black and white sketch in ink and wash which covers the points that the client wanted. The large window is included which is about the only thing that identifies the hotel, that and the tubs by the railings. There was no signage that I could see, presumably not allowed. I managed to get some idea of the crescent shape in the roof line

Georgian architecture is certainly magnificent, drawing on classical details. It is certainly quite testing to draw. Having said that, I try not to include too much detail, as this will be a painting, not an architect’s drawing. That is my excuse anyway

If the sketch is approved then I move on to the drawing proper ready for painting, which will keep me out of mischief for a while

It may be some time before I post again, but I haven’t gone away

One day I shall have to count and see how many categories I have covered over the years. Certainly quite a lot and all things that have interested me

The Royal Crescent in Bath

I have been commissioned to paint the facade of the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath. which is a beautiful building in a beautiful city

Bath was made especially fashionable in the c18. It was a spa town. The rich and the famous went there for their health, to take the waters and to see and to be seen. It had been famous for its natural spring waters since Roman times, and the Roman baths today are a favourite tourist attraction. The Roman name for Bath was Aquae Sulis, or the waters of Sul. Sul was a British god whom the Romans adopted, so presumably the spring waters were venerated long before the Romans arrived.

The Royal Crescent

This is a long shot of the famous crescent. Sadly a dull day when I was there so the light does no justice to the lovely Bath stone which is a gorgeous honey colour. I have been commissioned to paint the hotel which is in the middle of the crescent and has a larger central window than the rest of the houses in the terrace

The terrace was designed in 1774 by an architect called John Wood the Younger. It looks out over parkland to this day, and has earned the soubriquet of “rus in urbe”. The Royal Crescent is considered to be the finest example of neo-classical architecture in the country, and has been imitated in Brighton, Buxton and London

I now have the task of doing this fine building justice in paint, which should prove challenging to say the very least.

Eilean Donan Castle Painting Completed

Eilean Donan Castle Completed

The painting completed

The foxgloves were really all that was left to do. I took great care with the colour match, yet still they turned out a tad too dark. I did actually remove some pigment which put in some highlight, and I thought they might dry lighter than that, but they didn’t. Perhaps they are a more exotic species.

Having said that, I quite like the colour even if not authentic. They give a welcome relief to all that green

I’m sitting here typing and my spotlight is on the painting, and the flowers look quite good. I shall have to recommend front lighting to anyone who might be interested

Not sorry to put this one to bed and perhaps move onto something else

Eilean Donan castle Painting part Finished

The castle Part Finished

This is the painting so far

Still quite a lot of green even though I have left some out. I am hoping that the green effect will be mediated by the two foxgloves in the foreground. I have just removed the masking, and I think the shapes will work well enough. I only have to get the colour right. Permanent rose with Crimson I am told by my reference books, but no clue how much of each so I will have to do some trials first. Also some more green for the stalks but I have a bright green in mind for them

I have put the little figures in on the bridge, and tiny as they are, seem to add some life to the composition. Also they gave me an opportunity to add a spot of hot colour into the painting

The base colour for the painting was from a mix of raw sienna and Naples yellow. This gave a bright light source in the background which lit up one side of the castle conveniently. The bridge was in deep shadow so that seemed to work. I had to tone down some of the reflections in the water, otherwise the painting turned very dark

All now rests on two simple foxgloves which hopefully will relieve the green. They will make or break the composition, so I will need to be careful

The Eilean Donan Castle near Kyle of Lochalsh in Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle of Lochalsh

I thought I would have a crack at painting this scene by way of a change. I have never tried painting a Scottish view before, usually too busy with the Mediterranean. Scotland has a lot to offer, with any amount of castles ea ch set amongst stunning scenery. Every family or clan had its stronghold, which they needed in lawless times. many are ruined as was this one, but thankfully restored in the 19c, when the bridge was added too.

Quite a gem. We went here when cruising around northern Scotland and its islands early in July.

I have got as far as doing a drawing, first in pencil and then in ink, which I have transferred onto watercolour paper

I have drawn the pink foxgloves separately, and then traced my drawing. I think I will include them right in the front of the painting. What I tend to do, is slide the tracing paper over the picture until I find a spot where they look right

I have just had a commission to paint the entrance to the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath, which will be interesting. Pure architecture which I quite enjoy

Bosham Sunset Finished

The Finished Painting
About to come off the board

The Bosham painting is finished at last. At the end of the day, there wasn’t too much that I could add to the painting on the last post

I completed some details like the spinnaker on the nearest boat. This is now plumper and more realistic. I have added more suggestions of reflections from this boat, which is already in shadow, but some more red around the stern gives a highlight

I have my eye on the next project, which will be from my recent Scotland trip. I haven’t done anything Scottish as far as I can remember, usually too busy with the Mediterranean, so perhaps it’s time to correct that

The subject will be the Eilean Donan Castle which is near the Kyle of Lochalsh, the mainland side of the Skye Bridge. It is a beautiful spot. I have started already doing some sketches just to work out the composition, and when I have something to show, then I will publish

The other good thing was that I received a commission this week to paint a hotel in Bath, a beautiful city, mostly Regency in style and built in a lovely honey-coloured stone. Commissions have been quiet this year and this is the first, so very welcome. It will be one of those paintings that will be enjoyable to do, and again more of that later.

Bosham Harbour at Sunset: part finished

Bosham Sunset not quite finished

This is the painting so far, which wants tidying up, and at the moment I am just looking at it, and wondering the best way to go

I’m thinking that the nearest boat needs some more detail, but it is also supposed to be in deep shadow, so detail obscured which contradicts

I am going to work on the spinnaker, which needs beefing up. I am not a sailor, but even to me, the spinnaker is rather puny. Quite a lot of sail gets wrapped around this so it needs to look a good deal fatter than I have shown it

In the shadow of the nearest boat, I would like to see more red, which won’t necessarily be correct, but I would like relief from the grey. I have tried to convey the sun catching the stern

Other than that I shall just keep looking, whilst all the time trying not to fiddle, which is a cardinal sin in watercolour.

I am also itching to start on something fresh, a castle in a loch, which I saw in Scotland a couple of weeks ago, which is very dramatic, so I may wrap Bosham up and move on soon