Schlee Collection at Mottisfont Abbey


Mottisfont Abbey near Romsey in Hampshire, UK, owned by the National Trust

We were at Mottisfont yesterday to see the roses which are magnificent now. These are grown inside the old walled kitchen garden, which give them a superb backdrop against old brickwork. I took some pictures of specimens, especially blooms which are about to fall, hopefully to do a rose study again. I haven’t done one for a long time. Not just the roses though. We had come to see the art, in the form of the Schlee Collection which is on loan from Southampton Art Gallery until July 3rd

There is an exhibition of the Schlee Collection of drawings and sketches, on loan from Southampton Art Gallery, which lasts until July 3rd. A private collection which was bequeathed to Southampton Art gallery in 2013, which includes work or should I say squiggles, by David Hockney, Henry Moore and Franz Auerbach, plus many others. I would like to say that I was thrilled by them, but I wasn’t. Heavily worked and corrected jottings are not very impressive, even if by one of the great names in British art. I was more pleased to see a drawing by Barbara Hepworth of an operating theatre, placed next to her mentor Henry Moore’s work. The Barbara Hepworth was borrowed from the Derek Hill collection which is in permanent residence at Mottisfont.

Derek Hill was a portrait and landscape painter of note, who became sought-after during the 1960s. From the south of England he moved to the west coast of Ireland and founded the Tory Island School of painting, where he taught the fishermen to paint the wild Irish landscape. He was also an avid collector of modern art, including the post-Impressionists. He was a friend of Maud Russell the last owner of Mottisfont, and bequeathed a portion of his collection there. These are always worth seeing, including many of his own works, time and again.

For me, however, the gem is still the Whistler room. Here we see Rex Whistler’s unfinished murals. Unfinished because he was killed in Normandy in 1944. His trompe l’oeil paint pot and brush high up on the coving below the ceiling, still makes me feel that I want to get a ladder and climb up and get it. I believe several have in the past


Frank Auerbach at Tate Britain and the Third Curse Of Euston

Head of William Feaver 2003

Head of William Feaver 2003 by Frank Auerbach

We went to the Frank Auerbach exhibition at Tate Britain today, which is on until mid March. I am not at my best with modern painting, perhaps because I lack perception, or that third eye which may be needed to understand non-representational painting. But nevertheless I like to go to exhibitions like these if only to broaden my outlook

Auerbach is reputedly the nation’s greatest living painter. The exhibition has borrowed his paintings from across the continents, many from private collections, and is the first time they have been shown together. He paints in oils and acrylics, and puts the paint on very thickly. Some of his strokes are in fact furrows in the base paint, so thick is it. I found that I needed a very long view, about five or six metres before the image came together.

His work looks spontaneous, yet we are told that he would sand back 30, 50 or even 200 times before he achieved the image he wanted. Nightmare for portrait sitters who had to keep coming back

His studio is in Mornington Crescent in Camden, that area of London associated with other famous painters from Camden, like Walter Sickert and Spencer Gore. Plenty of paintings by Auerbach of this area of London, but I particularly like this misty one by Spencer Gore

Mornington Crescent by Spencer Gore

John Sutherland writing in the February issue of The Oldie Magazine informs us that this area is under threat from HS2, the proposed high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham. Half an hour will be clipped from the journey time, and in return we lose part of London’s art heritage.

As well as losing Mornington Crescent, the construction of HS2 will have dire consequences for Camden Lock and Camden Market, which is sought out by thousands of tourists each year, not only local but from overseas as well, so famous is it.

He describes this as the Third Curse of Euston. The first was the destruction of Euston in 1837, then the destruction of the Great Doric Arch, over which Betjeman and Pevsner wept in 1962 and now HS2, in return for which we lose an important chunk of London’s art and architectural heritage

It just doesn’t seem right, does it?


Istanbul: Finished Drawing transferred to Watercolour Paper

Not very often that I am moved to include a quotation, but this one in last week’s Painter magazine, seemed very appropriate for artists, no matter what standard they have reached.

” Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art”       Andy Warhol

The drawing has now been transferred onto watercolour paper, seemingly without mishap


I have left the shading out, and just left the line work for guidance. The image has unfortunately cropped some of the drawing out to the left and right hand sides. I did actually achieve the length of 43 centimetres that I wanted.

I didn’t do very much masking out, just a few gulls hovering over the surface and two tiny windows on the Galata Tower which appear to be reflecting sunlight. The boats, I know are brilliant white, but I have chosen to go with the old adage” the darker the darks, the brighter the lights”. In other words if I can make the shaded sides of the boats dark enough, then the rest will appear white. That is the theory. I have done it before, but watch this one go wrong.

I have chosen the following palette, which if I include the mixes as one colour, then I will have a palette of six, which would be quite effective if I can stick to it

Base colour: Raw Sienna/ Naples Yellow blend which is my favourite hot colour for buildings

Shadows : Ultramarine Violet/ Transparent Brown blend

Burnt Sienna

French Ultramarine

Sap Green/Raw Sienna blend for trees

Cadmium Red for those foreground red spots like flags, life belts etc

Not that I am above changing my mind as I go along but that is the palette that I want to stick to. I shall get some detail done before posting again

Just changing the subject, the Frank Auerbach exhibition at Tate Britain finishes the end of this month, so I am hoping to go on Saturday, unless I get an urgent call from someone, wanting me to do something else

I don’t know anything much about him, other than he is Britain’s most celebrated living artist. He appears to paint unrecognisable portraits which seems to be a contradiction in terms. However, I am speaking without firsthand knowledge, so will go with an open mind and reserve judgement until after I have seen the exhibition. I am not very good at appreciating images that are not recognisable, which could be an indictment of me, of course. It will be interesting, whatever happens