Kelmscott Manor Watercolours (all of these are 14cm x 14 cm)
These small, delicate line and wash watercolours were inspired by some wonderfully inspiring days earlier this year spent sketching and absorbing the blissful atmosphere at Kelmscott Manor in the Cotswolds. Kelmscott is a stunning Tudor manor house and the former country home of William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
The paintings were commissioned as card designs for the shop at Kelmscott after the staff saw my sketches. They feature the beautiful house, the walled gardens, apple blossom, ancient trees, and even the current “resident”, Horatio, the cat.
It’s walled gardens and surrounding farmland breathe the air of an England long past. Re-opened to the public this year after three years of restoration, the beauty and sleepy atmosphere of the place are completely beguiling. Wandering around the gardens, I couldn’t help stopping to sketch in the shade of an ancient mulberry tree, or an old creamy stone wall, to capture the glint of the tiny diamond panes in the glass leaded windows, the shadows of the pollarded willows by the water, or the ravens busy in their nests.
If you’re interested in the history of the English countryside, architecture, or art and design then I can’t recommend it highly enough!
A bit more about William Morris: you might call him a Victorian “influencer”. Founder of the 1800’s Arts & Crafts Movement, and member of the scandalous Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he famously said, 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.'
A fascinating character, he designed textiles, ceramics and stained glass, was a prolific writer and a political thinker. Disillusioned with Victorian politics, he became a famous socialist and campaigned for the improvement of the living and working conditions of the industrial working classes and a return to the value of craft: beautiful and skilled work done by hand in an age of rampant industrialism. The irony was that the working people he wanted to serve were the least able to afford to use or create the beautiful hand-crafted things he encouraged them to make….
He is probably most famous for his textile designs, much beloved by the National Trust, to be found in many town and country houses. The most famous is “The Strawberry Thief”, still being produced in the 21st for both fabric and now wallpaper.
The Strawberry Thief features a swirling design of strawberry leaves, with Song Thrushes hidden amongst them stealing the berries, and is based on the garden at Kelmscott. (It made me smile to see tiny wild strawberries still growing among the paving and edging stones near the kitchen.)
If you’re interested to learn more about Morris, as well as Kelmscott Manor, you can also visit The Red House in Kent, the house he designed for his family, and the V&A Museum holds a vast collection of his work.