It was the most beautiful Autumn morning and with a day to myself and the Stanley Spencer exhibition coming to a close at Compton Verney, off I went.
Needless to say everyone else had the same idea and when I arrived, shortly after opening time, there was the longest queue I’ve ever seen to get in. Not only that, I’d just watched two coaches pull up and keeping an eye on the large groups descending, decided to consider my plan carefully to keep one step ahead. My first stop was to go and book a table for lunch!
I loved the exhibition, found I was able to stand and gaze at each painting without hindrance or obstruction and scribbling away in my little notebook, I very much enjoyed the privilege of seeing some of his most lovely work – because this was an exhibition of gardens and the subject matter was rather less troubling than some of the more obsessive religious and sexual subjects. Most of the time, I was intrigued by the proportions, the unusual perspectives and in the case of the painting entitled Bellrope Meadow, the placement of the michaelmas daisies bang slap in the middle with the two village buildings merely playing a cameo role in the top corners. Lovely – and way better than that picture the link takes you to!
My favourite is probably The Hoe Garden, commissioned by Plymouth who I read were surprised to get this rather “warts and all” impression of a garden. Far from pretty, the old duckboards and doors with peeling paint create what I think is a rather lovely background to the plants themselves, set out in pots in lines in more of a nursery setting than a garden.
Having paid homage to the Gloucestershire link – the Cottage Garden at Leonard Stanley and the painting of Village Life, Gloucestershire 1940, I was ready to move on, to visit my favourite Compton Verney piece, there in the Chinese Gallery.
As I stood looking at this lovely Shang Dynasty vessel, marvelling for the umpteenth time at the wealth of pattern and texture there on the surface, one of the CV guides came over and gave me the very welcome news that last week, the decision was taken to allow photography in this part of the gallery. How timely was that?
Better still, Peter had a few minutes to spare, to tell me more about this incredible piece and I was only too happy to listen and learn more.
Yes, it’s an owl and it’s 3000 years old. It was bought by CV three and a half years ago from a gallery/museum in Buffalo, New York for a considerable sum of money.
£4.1 million. A bargain in my opinion (and if someone else is paying!)
No wonder I like it ;-)
He pointed out that it has a handle, but no spout. Probably used for millet wine, that must have been ladled out rather than poured. I love it and every visit I spot a new little design which I then draw into my small notebook – I don’t think I’ll ever run out of patterns to spot!
In the same gallery were two rocking horses, one of which had been placed there by Sir Peter Blake as part of the “Folk Art Interventions” exhibition. In my haste to see the Stanley Spencer, I’d overlooked this other interesting arrangement, so picked up a leaflet and enjoyed looking around a few less familiar objects in surprising settings. A clever idea to draw attention to items which benefit greatly from a little (metaphorical) spotlighting. There in the corner too, was a spookily familiar face – that of Daniel Lambert. Now this man has been the subject of several discussions around here recently, initially in a conversation with two friends who visited Leicester Museum, thereby provoking a conversation about memories of our time in that neck of the woods. I recalled taking classes of children to the museum and their great interest in the picture of this enormous Leicester character (claimed by the Leicester Mercury as “an icon”, no less). Since then, dear old Daniel Lambert has popped into further conversations, so much so that when I was able to recall his name and further details about his life at a lunch party the other day, I felt I needed to explain the source of such arcane knowledge. After all, who carries such stuff around in their heads? (not me, usually) So, imagine my surprise when I entered the gallery and was confronted by a painting of the man himself! I brought home a postcard and hope that now this particular ghost can be laid to rest. Enough already!
After lunch there was time for a quick look around the Capability Brown exhibition which was, for me, rather less interesting than the other parts of the gallery. Looking out over that landscape, designed by the man himself, I did wonder what he might have made of the huge rocking horse which now sits there, centre stage? Just one of the quirks which for me, makes this place special!
As I left, I remarked to the volunteer by the door how busy the place was today. “The busiest day since March” she said. Interesting!