Friday, April 13, 2007

Petworth House



The National Trust in the UK is a curious, yet wonderful, creation. Curious in that this government-chartered organization assumes the trustee status of private property, wonderful in that they then use this power for the public welfare. An excellent example of this, the Petworth House (located about 60 miles south of London) is a glorious paean to British eccentricity. The building itself is imposing but architecturally not extraordinary- a large manor house, in the French style. The marvelous Victorian kitchen has been restored- in the tourist season a full staff prepares delicacies for the visitors to sample- a delight for those with culinary interests. The extensive grounds were done by the pioneering landscape designer Capability Brown, retaining its function as a deer park to this day.

But the real interest here is art. The house features a room full of excellent wood-carvings (condensed from various rooms) by Grinling Gibbons and an enormous staircase with the walls covered in murals depicting various nobility in allegorical scenes (no shortage of ego here) that must be seen to be believed. The 18th and 19th century saw a tremendous growth in the estates' art collection; under the patronage of the 3rd Earl of Egremont, J. M. W. Turner found a second home at Petworth, painting dozens of works there over the years. That art collection is still intact, and is breath-taking. Turner, considered a fore-runner of Impressionism, is featured with numerous paintings. Turner was concerned with light, indeed, some of his work is almost abstract in its use of color and lighting effects. That Turner worked in the late 1700's and the first half of the 1800's makes the modern appearance his art all the more enchanting. There are many other works as well: Antiquities, sculpture, Titian, William Blake, Van Dyck, Reynolds- even a tiny Hieronymus Bosch makes an appearance. Best of all, the gallery has minimal curation. It's just the art, wall to wall and floor to ceiling, in a wild display- all competing for your attention.

Turner bequeathed his own collection to the British Government and established a fund for "decaying artists". His major works are highly prized- selling well into eight figures- when they occasionally come up for auction.

By Professor Batty



4 Comments:

Blogger sharon spotbottom said...

yay for turner.


Blogger Professor Batty said...

...I'll second that motion...


Blogger Matt said...

The National Trust is a non-governmental organisation.


Blogger Professor Batty said...

...You're quite right, although it was incorporated, and has powers conferred upon it, by the various National Trust Acts from 1907 to 1971 (Wikipedia)