Two historically important watercolours of Lydiard House which present an unusual snapshot of the stately home are to go on display to the public.
The two paintings, by the Canadian war artist George Campbell Tinning, have been bought by Swindon Borough Council from a private owner in Canada thanks to grants from The Art Fund and the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum Purchase Grant Fund. It is believed that the paintings will be the first time that the artist will be permanently exhibited outside Canada.
The watercolours were produced to accompany a newspaper article by the acclaimed English writer, Aldous Huxley, best known for his novel depicting a fantasy of the future, Brave New World.
The article, entitled A Tour Through Time, was published in the Lincoln Mercury Times in 1951 and recorded Huxley’s visit to Lydiard House and nearby St Mary’s Church, while researching the place of the country house in 1950s Britain.
Campbell Tinning was commissioned to produce the watercolours to support the article and the scenes record a significant moment in Lydiard House’s recent history. They depict the house shortly after its purchase by the Swindon Corporation when the house’s future was uncertain and the building was in disrepair.
Huxley wrote in the 1951 article: “The roof leaks. The ceilings, with their delicate Italian plaster-work, have begun to disintegrate. The paint is peeling, the watercolours are blotched and leprous with damp. In the library, in the great drawing rooms, in her lady’s boudoir there is a sepulchral smell of mildew and dry rot. Ichabod, Ichabod – the glory is departed.”
Sophie Cummings, Collections Manager at Lydiard House, pictured with the paintings, said: “We were very excited to learn that these watercolours of Lydiard House painted by George Campbell Tinning were up for sale as our priority is to collect material relating to Lydiard House and Park after its purchase by the Swindon Corporation in 1943.
“We successfully made grant applications to the Art Fund and V&A Purchase Grant Fund to raise the money needed to secure these important paintings.
“The paintings depict interiors of the house, showing a view from the hall of the elegant main entrance and an empty dining room. They both will need to be framed before they can hang in the Rear Hall and Morning Room of Lydiard House, where they will be visible to all visitors and will support the story of the house and estate in the 20th Century.”
Cllr Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration & Culture said: “We would like to thank the Art Fund and V&A Purchase Grant Fund for helping us secure these artworks, which are of significant historical interest to Lydiard House & Park.
“Without this grant support, the Council wouldn’t have been able to secure the future public display of these works at Lydiard House. The pictures are a great example of how Lydiard House has been brought back to its former glory and I’m pleased that once the paintings are framed, they will be displayed where all our visitors can enjoy them.”
Lydiard Park received £700 from the Art Fund and £700 from the V&A / ACE Purchase Grant towards the purchase of the two watercolours. The grants covered 70% of the cost of the pictures with the remainder being paid from visitors’ donations to Lydiard House. The Friends of Lydiard Park are considering whether to meet the cost of framing the pictures.
Dr Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund said: “We are thrilled to be helping Lydiard House add these paintings, which depict a fascinating slice of its history, to the permanent collection.”
Photos: Richard Wintle ©Calyx Multimedia, 41, Churchward Avenue, Rodbourne Cheney, Swindon SN2 1NJ • 01793 520131 MOB: 07836 205196 www.calyxpix.com