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Exploring Cornwall’s Seacoast, in Summertime. Part One

The Sheltered Harbor at Mousehole
(pronounced “MOW-zul.”) opens onto Mount’s Bay, and is just three miles south of Penzance. Mousehole, which Dylan Thomas described as “the loveliest village in England,” has existed since at least 1266 (when it was listed as a major fishing port). Two granite quays—the North Quay, dating from the 17th century, and the South Quay, from the 19th—protect the working harbor, where boats unload their catches of fish and shellfish. In this photo, the
opening in the Harbor Wall reveals St. Michael’s Mount, in the distance.

Autumn 2018

Journeys towards Cornwall are not usually entertaining.
When traveling by car from almost anywhere else in England, the drive will likely be tedious, and delay-prone: Britain’s motorways are becoming overwhelmed by ever-increasing volumes of passenger cars, white van men, lorries, coaches, and caravans. Or, assuming that England’s various rail operators aren’t indulging in yet another of their service slowdowns or stoppages, when setting out from London via train, one must expect the ride to be slow, and apt to run behind schedule. The remoteness of Cornwall demands patience of the traveler; but Cornwall then rewards such patience with experiences and sights so varied and so beautiful that even the most optimistic traveler’s expectations will be exceeded.

Cornwall — outlined in Red — in relation to Europe.

The County of Cornwall is outlined in Red. The River Tamar separates Cornwall from Devon, which is directly to the east. The English Channel is south of Cornwall, and the Celtic Sea is west and north of Cornwall.

Satellite View of Cornwall. Penzance, Cornwall’s western-most town, is 250 miles from central London.

I globe-trot: nimbly, and alertly. In crowded places, I fasten my purse strap across my body, and keep my single piece of luggage close … and I never fixate upon a computer screen or an iPhone when surrounded by humanity. Instead, if I must cool my heels as I endure long hours en route, I clear my brain, and settle into quiet observation of my surroundings. Time after time, when I’ve created this serene-eye-of-hurricane-space for myself, interesting people then cross my path.

Saint Piran’s Flag is the flag of Cornwall. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

My most recent visit to England’s southwestern peninsula began in the most propitious way. On a Friday, in late-morning, in mid-June, I’d arrived at London’s Paddington Station ( early, of course, as is my habit ) where I planned to board the Great Western Railway’s Noontime train, bound for Cornwall’s end-of-the-line town of Penzance ( on a good day, this journey, without glitches, will consume more than 5 hours).

Coat-of-arms of the Great Western Railway

As seems always to be the case at the start of a summer weekend, much of London—residents and tourists alike—had felt compelled to flee the city, and Paddington was a madhouse. I found myself a seat, and settled in for an hour-long wait. A bench-spot next to mine opened up, and a handsome, silver-haired man — who was wearing a rumpled-linen suit of an improbable turquoise hue, and a crisply-starched blue and white striped shirt — plopped down next to me.

On a leash: his gorgeous golden retriever.

Without preamble, the man turned to me and asked: “Do you mind if my dog sits her bum on your feet? It makes her feel more secure to do that.” Since the dog was very well-behaved, I hesitated for only a split second: “OK.” Understanding me, Fido immediately settled her warm hindquarters down onto my boots (which actually made ME feel more secure, too), as she gazed up into her master’s eyes. The man explained further: “If she can see my face, everything will be fine.” Turned out the gentleman’s an architect, and so we had plenty of design-world-fads-and-follies to discuss as we killed time, before we boarded the same train, to Penzance. But the architect and his retriever were only the first of my several travel-entertainments, that day.

The Friday-train to Penzance was overflowing: standing room only.
Happily, I’d made a seat reservation, months beforehand (always secure your seat in advance, if you’re planning long-distance rail travel, in England). Because I like to avoid being held hostage
by a chatty seat-mate, I’d booked a free-standing seat, in the First Class carriage. From this private perch I could tune out—or eavesdrop upon—the conversations of those around me. The murmurings of overlapping voices, combined with the clacking of train wheels over metal rails became white-noise, and soothing, and I relaxed into something close to sleep.

A couple of hours into the journey, fatigue had been repaired, and my awareness of my fellow travelers sharpened. Opposite me, a couple from London were quietly reviewing their agenda for the next week, their sentences morphing seamlessly from English into German and back again into English: they were on their way to the Isles of Scilly, where they’d scuba dive and do underwater photography. Behind me, a young man with the refined erudition of an Oxfordian was expounding at length to an elegant lady about his thankless job as a tutor to the “brat son” of a Russian oligarch. Ahead of me, a gentleman farmer began to lecture everyone within earshot about the finer points of dog-breeding. The train’s sole conductor, passing by to do a much-delayed ticket-scan, stopped, enthusiastically whipped out an iPhone, and showed multiple pictures of the litter that HIS prize female had just birthed. Diagonally across the aisle, an exuberant American couple from Florida who were speculating about their soon-to-be-first-time stay in a Cornish village, paused, and, with double yelps presented THEIR phones to the conductor and the farmer: all of these folks owned the same breed of dog. Much hilarious (to dog owners) canine talk ensued. By this time, the train was crossing the River Tamar, and passing from Devon into Cornwall.

Image & Caption courtesy of Tom Jolliffe

Several miles down the track, the train lurched to a stop: the conductor forgot all about dogs, and then rushed forward, to consult with his engineer. Our train idled, and then idled some more: we had reached Cornwall, but were only in its Eastern-most parts. Penzance was still nearly 2 hours away.
A crackly-announcement came over the train’s speakers: Ahead of us, a car had driven into one of the supports of a train bridge…we’d have to remain where we were, until Great Western personnel
could be certain of the bridge’s structural integrity. People grumbled a bit, and then a sour silence descended.

His iPad muted, the posh Oxfordian had been watching the 2018 World Cup Playoffs. Either dispirited or bored by the soccer, he began humming, and then to sing, but very quietly. The German-English Londoner swallowed a mouthful of sushi that his wife had been feeding him, and, looking across at the Oxfordian, also began to sing, making a harmony with the young man. These strangers
( who I later learned partake regularly in the Cornish tradition of spontaneous pub-singing ) — both of them having been blessed with beautiful vocal chords — then sang, in the most offhand but accomplished way, a ditty which has become a Cornish anthem (lyrics follow) :

A seagull and a chough play tug-of-war with a Cornish Pasty. Image courtesy of Stamp-and-Go

CORNWALL MY HOME

I’ve stood on Cape Cornwall in the sun’s evening glow,
On Chywoone Hill at Newlyn to watch the fishing fleets go,
Watched the sheave wheels at Geevor as they spun around
And heard the men singing as they go underground.

And no one will ever move me from this land
Until the Lord calls me to sit at his hand.
For this is my Eden, and I’m not alone.
For this is my Cornwall and this is my home.

I’ve left childish footsteps in the soft Sennen sand,
I’ve chased the maids there, all giggly and tanned.
I’ve stood on the cliff top in a westerly blow
And heard the wave thunder on the rocks far below.

First thing in the morning, on Chapel Carn Brea
And gaze at the Scillies in the blue far away.
For this is my Cornwall, and I’ll tell you why
Because I was born here and here I shall die.

By Harry Glasson (singer/songwriter: born in Cornwall, in 1951)

Songwriter Harry Glasson, with
Singer Will Keating. Image courtesy of Will Keating

Their duet finished, each man nodded at the other, and, respectively, soccer-watching and sushi-eating were resumed.This song had charmed me, and everyone in our carriage; our delay
was forgotten. Then, with nearly poetically-perfect timing, the train soon grunted, and came back to life, and began to move in its proper direction; no serious damage had been done to the railway’s bridge, and so we could proceed, on towards Penzance.

More and more, as I toddle around in the World, I’m convinced that Serendipity is Real, and that Truth is Stranger Than Fiction. Cornwall has always considered itself a Place Apart from
England, and the oddities of my journey that day—as I left London and headed toward Cornwall —had made it very clear to me that I was transitioning from one World into Another.

And so now I begin for you a multi-chapter, region-by-region guide to those places along the Cornish coastline which have most enchanted me.

The Destinations in Part One of our Tour

PENZANCE

The Mayoral Seal of Penzance

Until the 1930s, the severed head of St. John the Baptist was the chosen symbol of Penzance. Not at all macabre, or even particularly religious, this Symbol reflects typically Cornish wit. Over 1000 years ago, a chapel was said to have stood on the hill which overlooks Penzance Harbor. In the Cornish language, “Pennsans,” means “Holy Headland.” And thus the holiest head of them all, belonging to the unfortunate St.John, became the Town’s emblem.
What’s not to love? Cornwall wears its peculiarities proudly.

At Penzance my recent train journey ended, and therefore this is where our Cornwall explorations must begin.

This is my train, just arrived in Penzance, where my dear friends Anne & David Guy awaited me. Over the course of two extended, summertime stays, the Guys led me to all of the places which we’ll discover, in my Cornwall Diaries; were it not for their natives’ knowledge of the area, I would have missed many Cornish Treasures. I take full blame, however, for ALL observations, opinions, and syntheses, contained herein.
Photo courtesy of Anne Guy

Apart from the rolling stock and conductors’ uniforms, not much at the Train Station (which was built in 1879) has changed since this photo was taken in 1915.

During the 1930s, in what has since been declared to be the Golden Age of British Railway Posters, each of England’s four largest regional rail companies developed a distinct, graphic style for their advertisements. The work of the Great Western Railway’s artists, who publicized destinations in Cornwall and Devon, was refined and seductive: what holiday-maker would NOT wish to be spirited away to places such as those illustrated on GWR’s Posters … into (as Hopkins & Cole have described, in their History of the Railway Poster in Britain) “a world of sunshine, sandy beaches, and endless fun!”

But long before the advertising department of the Great Western Railway had begun to paint their rosy pictures of the Cornish coast, the notion of Penzance as a merry place had already become well-established in the popular imagination. In 1879, when W.S.Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan — those Mad-Geniuses of Operetta — first presented “The Pirates of Penzance,” the name of this remote town in Cornwall instantly became well-known, across the World. It’s no stretch to say that, in the 139 years since the debut of this musical confection, during every single month, on yet another stage, somewhere upon Earth, a baritone has belted out “I am the very model of a modern Major-General.” “Pirates” has always been one of G&S’s most crowd-pleasing creations, and, so, in our familiarity with the name “Penzance,” it has been easy for us to imagine that the fantasyland concocted by Gilbert & Sullivan bears some resemblance to the actual Town.

Penzance, as envisioned by Gilbert & Sullivan

I’ll get right to it. Accurate reporting demands this caution: of all the places you’ll visit in my multi-part survey of Cornwall, Penzance will be far and away the least charming, at least upon first glance.

Much like Hastings or Brighton — other end-of-the-train-line seaside towns in England — Penzance, with its melange of fine but often ill-tended Regency and Victorian era buildings, and unfortunate 20th century “improvements,” has the forlorn air of past prosperity and faded glory. The Town is much in need of some sensitive, 21st century rejuvenation.

As described in Historic Cornwall’s survey:

“Penzance lies in the Penwith District, in the extreme west of Cornwall, 10 miles from Land’s End. It is the most south-westerly town not only of Cornwall, but of Britain as a whole. It sits on the north-west shore of the spectacular sweep of Mount’s Bay. With the most temperate climate in Britain, the town is particularly noted for its sub-tropical trees and plants. Penzance is a port, rail and coach route terminus. Sea links with the Isles Of Scilly operate from Penzance harbor and air routes from the nearby Land’s End airport.” [Note: A new Heliport is currently being built, near to the Penzance Train Station.] “The harbor is the most westerly major port in the English Channel, the first reached from the Atlantic, and the principal commercial port west of Falmouth. These connections give Penzance a strategic importance that outweighs its remote location.”

My favorite Postcard Map of South-West Cornwall

And so, although Penzance does not possess the same loveliness as that which draws visitors to her sister towns of Mousehole and Marazion, Penzance is nevertheless an historically significant and worthwhile and USEFUL place: its population of over 21,000 souls allows the businesses ( the likes of which are often harder to find in Cornwall’s less populated and more picturesque regions ) which provide Life’s Necessities, to prosper.

Aerial view of Penzance

We can stock up on the essentials at Sainsbury’s, an enormous and first-rate grocery store; they’ve also got a terrace Café, serving up coffee AND beautiful views of the English Channel (which is just beyond the not-so-lovely A30 road).

Sainsbury’s, in Penzance. Image courtesy of Norclad.

From the 2nd floor Café at Sainsburys: our view across the lanes of the A30, toward St.Michael’s Mount, in Mount’s Bay.
Image courtesy of Anne Guy.

We can shop for high-quality, made-in-Cornwall clothing and soft goods, which are sold at Seasalt’s flagship store, at 1-3 Adelaide Street.

Seasalt was established in 1981 by Don Chadwick, whose studio designs all of their products. I’m addicted to their blouses: each season, unique new prints are introduced to adorn the 100% cotton fabric, which is meant to be twisted and dried after washing…perfect clothing for a Traveling Lady. These are just some of the blouses I’ve collected:

We can browse Barton Books’ impeccably-curated shelves,at 45 Causewayhead.

And in just a few hours of wandering through the Town Centre, we can view a bricks-and-mortar stylebook of architectural fashions from the past 200 years. Unlike many other regions in England, where centuries-old structures are commonplace, most of the buildings we now see in Penzance are relatively new, and date from the early 1800s, and onward into the present day.

Although archaeologists know that humans have been knocking about in Penzance since the Bronze Age, the first documented mention of “Pennsans” is dated 1284. By the early 1300s, market days were being held in the area, and tax collection records indicate that by 1322 Penzance was considered to be a Town. With the granting of its Royal Market status in 1404, Penzance began an extended period of relative prosperity, which continued for five centuries, despite the area being regularly sacked by various, seafaring aggressors. During the Middle Ages, Barbary Pirates made frequent raids. In 1595, four Spanish galleons landed, sacked Penzance and the surrounding villages (including Mousehole), and then set fires, which reduced nearly all of the area’s structures to ash. Such are the perils of being situated upon England’s southwestern-most peninsula…the first port of call, for belligerent and avaricious sailors.

A Spanish Galleon. Or, as Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote, in his tale of the ship REVENGE: better to
“Fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of Spain.”

We’ll take a fast stroll now, along some of the Town Centre’s more interesting streets ( most of which are within the earliest-settled areas of Penzance, indicated by the Purple zone, on the following map).

Map of the Historic Development of Penzance. Image courtesy of Historic Cornwall

Market Jew Street, during Golowan (the Feast of St.John and a Pagan celebration of midsummer). We’re half way up the Street, which rises with the hill. We pause, turn around, and then look back, in the direction of the Harbor. Image courtesy of Anne Guy

On Market Jew Street we find what has always been Penzance’s main shopping district. Wikipedia’s summary of this thoroughfare explains its name:

“The name ‘Market Jew’ comes from the Cornish language’s
‘Marghas Yow,’ meaning ‘Thursday Market,’ the name of a nearby village now absorbed into Marazion,” towards which Market Jew Street points.
[Note: In Part Two of my Cornwall guide we’ll visit Marazion, the location of St.Michael’s Mount.]
These days, Market Jew Street isn’t particularly distinguished by its vendors. Rather, The Terrace — with its flights of stairs, and dual-level granite walkways which run along the entire length of the steeply-sloping northwestern side of the Street — is the Street’s defining feature. The Victorians built this odd but functional streetscape—which is essentially an extended Stage–when they transformed what had been a narrow, muddy and sewage-tainted lane into a hygienic place for the townsfolk to do some serious promenading.

Market Jew Street in 1953. Image courtesy of Francis Firth.

Market Jew Street in 1990. Courtesy of Historic Cornwall.

At the top of Market Jew Street is the Market House: Penzance’s little temple of Commerce, which was built in 1838. Until the early 1600s, twice-weekly market days in Penzance had been open-air events. In 1614, James I made Penzance a charter town, and the town fathers, proud of this improved status, saw fit to design a permanent structure to accommodate the Tuesday and Thursday Markets. Considering what additional uses might be made of their new building, the town fathers also added prison cells (which soon became notorious) to the design programme. That building lasted for over two centuries, until it was replaced by the current edifice (which is now a branch of Lloyds Bank).

The West side of the Market House, on Market Place. Image courtesy of Historic Cornwall.

Behind Market Place, we turn left, and connect with Chapel Street ( Penzance Centre’s other, major roadway ) : we’ll follow this route as we continue our gradual ascent through the hilly Town, toward St.Mary’s Church, which is at the top-most point on Chapel Street. Along Chapel Street we’ll pass many of the Town’s most significant buildings, which were constructed between 1750 and 1850. During this 100-year stretch, Chapel Street became the focus of what the folks at Historic Cornwall have described as “Penzance’s First Age of Elegance, when the cultural, leisure and religious life of the Town….of polite society and the luxury trades,” began to flourish. Historic Cornwall further explains: “Penzance was an important naval, postal and victualling station during the long French wars of 1793-1815. As with many other south coast ports, the effective closure of Europe to travellers during this period also stimulated a nascent tourist industry. The mildness of the air, the agreeableness of its inhabitants rendered Penzance particularly inviting to residence.”

Penzance Streetscapes. Image courtesy of Historic Cornwall

My view up Chapel Street, toward the tower of St.Mary’s Chuch

The most eye-catching sight on Chapel Street is The Egyptian House.

The Egyptian House, on Chapel Street

The Landmark Trust acquired The Egyptian House in 1973 and they describe this treasure as “a rare and noble survivor of a style that enjoyed a vogue after Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt in 1798.”

But the exotic appeal of the Egyptian House is only skin deep. In 1800 the building was an unremarkable town house. In 1835, the antiquarian John Lavin purchased the property, and instructed his architect to renovate the façade in an ersatz-Egyptian style, by applying Coade stone, which was then painted in vivid colors. Local reactions to Lavin’s newly-gussied-up street-face weren’t positive: “astonishingly gaudy” seems to have been the most positive verdict.

Rooms (which — Alas — look perfectly ordinary) in Penzance’s Egyptian House are available as self-catering, holiday rentals, through the Landmark Trust.
http://www.landmarktrust.org.uk

Interior of the 1st floor, of The Egyptian House. Image courtesy of The Landmark Trust

The Egyptian House. Detail of the Fabulous Chapel Street Facade

The Egyptian House. Detail of Coade stone façade. The recipe for Coade stone was developed in the late 18th century. This artificial stone is easily moulded into intricate shapes, is thus particularly suited for making sculptural pieces and architectural decorations, and is tough and nearly impervious to weather.

And still further up Chapel Street we find the Admiral Benbow Pub and Inn, which dates from the 17th century.

The Admiral Benbow, on Chapel Street

In TREASURE ISLAND, Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale of “buccaneers and buried gold,” the author used the Admiral Benbow as the fictional home of his hero, Jim Hawkins. On the roof, the present owners of the Pub have mounted a figure of smuggler Octavius Lanyon, the ringleader of the Benbow Brandy Men. During the “Golden Age of Smuggling,“ from 1750 until 1830, Cornwall’s impoverished fishermen and laborers turned to smuggling to survive, when the tax burden upon ordinary citizens—levied on a vast range of everyday goods and imposed by a far-away central government to fund foreign wars—became enormous and untenable.

As we draw closer to the end of Chapel Street, we pass Abbey Street, which is worth a little detour. This area, on a bluff overlooking what was Penzance’s original Harbor, is the most long-established section of Town.

Abbey House, on Abbey Street, overlooking Penzance’s Quay. Until 2016, this was Jean Shrimpton’s Abbey Hotel.

For more than 30 years, Jean Shrimpton, the world’s first supermodel, owned and operated The Abbey Hotel with her husband, Michael Cox. In 2016 they retired, and their son now manages the site as a self-catering holiday rental, which is suitable for groups of up to 14 guests.

Jean Shrimpton in the 1960s, before she turned her back upon Fame.

In her early 30s, Shrimpton, weary after many years of being one of the World’s most photographed models, first moved from London to southwest Cornwall…to nearby Marazion, where she ran an antiques shop. Soon thereafter, she bought Abbey House, which she completely renovated and then glammed-up into an award-winning Hotel.

My glimpse of the private garden, behind the former Abbey Hotel. The foundations and cellars of the main building date from 1660. In the 1820s the original house was remodeled in the Georgian/Gothic style, which has survived to the present day.

Interior décor at The Abbey was done
by Jean Shrimpton. The Abbey, Self-Catering Holiday Mansion.
7 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms. Property # 918888, available through
http://www.sykescottages.co.uk

View from New Street (which is just below the former Abbey Hotel) of the Quay.

Chapel Street ends, appropriately, at St.Mary’s: the Mother Church of Penzance. St.Mary’s is situated atop a hill; upon the same “Holy Headland,” with its commanding views across the Bay, where the ancient chapel which inspired the naming of the Town originally stood. The tower of St.Mary’s is Penzance’s dominant landmark, both for townspeople, and for sailors on Mount’s Bay.

St.Mary’s Church. Image courtesy of Historic Cornwall

Our final waterside destination in Central Penzance is the Art-Deco era, Jubilee Pool, at the Battery Rocks. If you refer to the second Great Western Railway Poster which appears earlier in this Diary, you’ll see that it features an enormous, glisteningly-white, triangular pool, which extends into Mount’s Bay. GWR’s artists didn’t have to idealize the View: in its heyday, the Jubilee Pool, an open-to-the-elements Lido, was an artistic and engineering Marvel, and a Great Crowd-Puller.

Aerial view of Jubilee Pool, with St.Mary’s Church in the upper left hand portion of the photo. Image courtesy of the Jubilee Pool.

A closer look at the Jubilee Pool.
Image courtesy of Historic Cornwall

Perched between land and sea, the Lido has inevitably been battered by Winter storms, the worst of which came in 2014, when the very underpinnings of the structure were nearly destroyed.

Here’s another illustration of just how vulnerable Penzance’s waterfront is to Mother Nature’s Fury. An Autumn Storm batters the Promenade (which is adjacent to the Lido) in Penzance,
on 13 October 2018.
Photo courtesy of the GUARDIAN.

A nationally-funded campaign allowed for total restoration of 2014’s storm damage, and currently the managers of the Lido report that:

“ work is underway to drill a geothermal well which will provide enough renewable energy to heat a section of the water to 35 degrees C. This will mean that, for the first time, the Pool will
have heated water, transforming it into an all-year-round attraction, which we hope to open in May of 2019.”

The Future, at the Jubilee Pool. Image courtesy of the Jubilee Pool.

As we wrap up our Penzance-stroll, we’ll head inland, toward Penlee Park. In the early years of the Victorian Age, the fields that lay to the west of Chapel Street provided much-needed expansion space for the Town. Terrace housing to accommodate the growing population of middle-class workers sprang up, and, today, most of those buildings are still residences.

Stuccoed Terraces, and Front Gardens Aplenty, in the Morrab Gardens neighborhood

The Morrab Gardens neighborhood: Pedestrian Friendly, but Parking Hell.

Approaching Penlee Park along a pedestrian lane, with lush greenery cascading over boundary walls.

Greg’s Cottage, with a Bird of Paradise: blooming, for the pleasure of all who pass by.

Date palms flourish, in Penlee Park’s semi-tropical gardens. Image courtesy of Anne Guy

During our day-long walks, Anne and David and I stop frequently for coffee, and food. Our destination: The Orangery Café, at the Penlee House Gallery & Museum. Penlee House was built in 1860 by the Branwells, who were wealthy cousins of the Bronte sisters. In 1946, when the Branwell family line had finally fizzled out, the property was offered to Penzance’s Town Council, who promptly repurposed the estate into a park and a museum. In the Museum you’ll find displays by the Penwith Natural History Society, as well as a selection of the work by painters of the Newlyn School (which I’ll mention, in just a bit).

Penlee House Gallery & Museum.
The Orangery Café. I recommend having lunch on the Cafe’s tented terrace. Be advised, however, that diabolically clever seagulls lurk there, and will swoop through the tent to snatch any unattended food. http://www.penleehouse.org.uk

Adjacent to the Orangey Café is a recently-installed bronze sculpture, titled “The Broccoli Juggler.” Look closely, and you’ll see that this faceless man is in fact juggling cauliflowers…..yet another instance of a Cornish word meaning something Different from what that word means, Elsewhere.

THE BROCCOLI JUGGLER, by Kurt Jackson.
Image courtesy of Anne Guy.

I’ll quote the Artist, Kurt Jackson, in his Statement:

“I live and work within an agricultural community here in the far west of Cornwall; many of my friends and neighbors are farmers. The landscape has been shaped by their activities and by their ancestors before them. In the last few decades their livelihoods have become more tenuous, less certain with market prices falling; labour, transport and production costs rising, and the disruption from extreme weather events more frequent. ‘The Broccoli Juggler’
juggles precariously, throwing up cauliflowers (broccoli in the local dialect), a small tractor and a home whilst perched, balanced on the remains of a cast iron ancient carcass of the ancestors’ farm machinery.”

Kurt Jackson’s sculpture will be a permanent presence on Penlee’s Terrace. That the Town Council chose to acquire this particular work of art — where the sculptor’s serious intent and love for this region is illustrated with a disturbing yet endearingly daft image — seems to sum up the enduring complexities, and humor, of the Cornish people.

In Cornwall, Cauliflower is called Broccoli

NEWLYN

Having cleared up some questions about the cruciferous vegetables in Penlee Park, we now turn our attention to Fish, and thus to the Harbor at nearby Newlyn.

Newlyn’s 40 acre Harbor is home to one of the largest fishing fleets in the United Kingdom. Image courtesy of
Town of Newlyn.

Newlyn has been a fishing settlement since at least the 13th century, and the vessels which frequent the Harbor now contribute many tens of millions of British Pounds to the Cornish economy, each and every year. But unless you hanker for just-caught-fish, you’ll find few other reasons to visit Newlyn; this is a working-town, and not a place which lends itself to hours of sightseeing. Because the port was sacked and burned by the Spanish in 1595, no vestiges of the medieval town survived. By the late 19th century, Newlyn’s built environment consisted largely of granite or white-painted cottages, and those affordable accommodations attracted a cluster of plein air painters, who called themselves The Newlyn School, an art colony which flourished from the 1880s until the early 20th century. However, a good portion of the remaining charm of the Town was erased by the “slum” clearance which occurred in the 1930s.

THE RAIN IT RAINETH EVERY DAY, by Norman Garstin, shows the Promenade, in Penzance. Garstin (b.1847, d.1926) was one of the earliest members of the Newlyn art colony. Image courtesy of the Penlee House Museum.

SELF PORTRAIT WITH NUDE–1913, by Dame Laura Knight, is an extraordinarily bold (for its time) and well-done composition. Dame Knight (b.1877, d.1970) was part of the second wave of artists who settled in Newlyn. Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

But, back to freshly-caught Fish, and THE reason to make a detour to Newlyn. During my sojourns in Western Cornwall with Anne and David Guy, we have rented a house with first-rate kitchen facilities, and so have regularly bought fish for ourselves at Stevenson Newlyn: these folks are the BEST fishmongers in Town (or perhaps in all of the UK).

Stevenson Newlyn,
The Strand, Newlyn, Cornwall
TR18 5HA
Image courtesy of
Anne Guy

Feel like frying up some fish? Go to Stevenson’s!
http://www.newlynfreshfish.co.uk
Image courtesy of
Anne Guy

For my Final Newlyn Tip: I’ll let the website of the United Kingdom’s National Tide Gauge Network speak for itself about the importance of the Newlyn Tidal Observatory:

Image courtesy of the Newlyn Tidal Observatory

Anne Guy wisely suggested that I include mention of Newlyn’s critically important Tidal Observatory. She took this photo of the plaque, on the Quayside, several years ago.

MOUSEHOLE

Remember, it’s pronounced MOW-zul

Two and a half miles south of Penzance, on the western shore of Mount’s Bay, is the tiny village and man-made harbor of Mousehole. At the 2011 census, 697 year-round residents were recorded, but on a fine summer’s day—or during the village’s annual festival of Christmas lights— the nose-count in Mousehole is always considerably larger. This community, which until 100 years ago was a bustling fishing port but is now dependent upon day-tripper visitors for its financial survival, has somehow retained an authenticity which is absent in most tourist-magnets.

Aerial View of Mousehole, Cornwall

For your visit, don’t even think about driving anywhere near to Mousehole’s Harbor. Instead, as Anne and David and I did, park your car in the municipal lot on the northern edge of the village. A five minute stroll, downhill toward the Bay,
will transport you onto lanes and past cottages which date from the 17th century.

Unsurprisingly, Mousehole’s seaside setting and well-preserved architecture have beguiled some of England’s most discerning honeymooners. As mentioned in my caption which accompanies this Diary’s lead photo, Dylan Thomas, who in 1937 spent his wedding night with Caitlin Macnamara at the now-defunct Lobster Pot guest house, declared Mousehole to be England’s loveliest village. And Winston Graham has written that, in 1939, he and his new wife Jean Williamson “spent the few days of our honeymoon at Mousehole.”

Prolific British Author, Winston Graham
(born-1908 Manchester; died-2003 Sussex)

At this mention of Winston Graham in Mousehole, the whiskers of some of my more alert Readers may have begun to twitch. Graham churned out books about a wide range of subjects, but is today most acclaimed as the author of the Poldark series of 12 historical novels. Graham moved to Cornwall when he was 17, and lived there for the next 34 years of his very long life. He adored Cornwall, and knew it intimately, and his Poldark stories draw upon that emotion and knowledge. As Graham explained: ”Anyway, for better or worse, the Poldark world is one I have myself inhabited over long periods of my life.”

Cornwall’s culture and landscapes have been woven into the novels of many other British authors. Cornwall-loving writers include Daphne du Maurier, Virginia Woolf, John le Carre, Rosamunde Pilcher, and Anyone who has written about the Arthurian Legends.

Many of my Readers, when learning about my plans to write a multi-part Cornwall Diary, have inquired if I’ll be showing sites where the recent BBC adaptations of the Poldark books have been filmed. Yes: in my forthcoming Cornwall Parts 3, 4 and 5, ravishing places — tin mines, rock cliffs, windblown bluffs, churches, hidden coves, and beaches — on Cornwall’s northern, western, and southern coastlines which have served as filming locations will indeed be featured. For those Poldark Fans who’d prefer to forego my broadly-based commentaries about Cornwall, and who’d like, instead, to drill directly down to Poldark-as-seen-on-TV, in future Diaries I’ll bookmark the Poldark sections with the
following thumbnail :

Aidan Turner as Poldark.
Image courtesy of the BBC

But now — back to Mousehole — as I retrace the steps that Anne and David I took, during a balmy afternoon in June.

We approach the Harbor. To our left: the North Quay of the Harbor, constructed with granite from nearby quarries in Lamorna, dates from the 17th century.

Mousehole’s manmade Harbor, and its little sandy beach. Straight ahead, out past the Harbor, is
the English Channel.

Just beyond the North Quay, a small cluster of rocks in Mount’s Bay—called St.Clement’s Isle—is said to have been the (very uncomfortable) home of an ancient hermit.

What ELSE could they have named this strategically-located Gift Shop, which is on North Cliff (Mousehole’s Main street)? And just TRY to leave the Village
without a Mousehole mug, tea towel, and postcard!

From North Cliff: our view of the boat ramp and beach

The Essentials:
Town Clock. Post Box.
Phone Booth.

Now on South Cliff, we have a view of both Harbor Quays. The southern Quay (to the right), which is wider and taller than the northern Quay, dates from the 19th century.
St.Clement’s Isle is the mid-distance, and far, far away we can
see just a low sliver of the eastern-most shores of Mount’s Bay

A view of the North Quay, with the mainland in the distance.

The Fitzroy Barometer

EVERY village ought to have its own Barometer….

A typical lane in Mousehole

A fine fish, for a door knocker

Site of the home of Dolly Pentreath, who was one of the last speakers of the Cornish language.

Dolly Pentreath. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Anne and David (both sensibly be-hatted, on that hot, sunny day) lead me down into the Harbor.

From the beach, we’re able to peer through the central opening in the Quay.

We’ve reached the southernmost end of the Harbor, and are on Gurnick Street. A little boat with a beautiful,
terra-cotta colored sail, is in the distance. Look carefully, past the upper left of the sailboat, and, above the horizon, you’ll see the peaked roofs of St.Michael’s Mount (which we’ll visit in Part Two).

Another view of St.Clement’s Isle. The
red ship is one of the many seagoing vessels which were anchored that day, in the Bay.

On Gurnick Street: I passed these two animal-doors, and was reminded by Anne that, a couple of years ago, she’d sent me an email reporting HER discovery of these same doors.

As Anne had written to me, in 2016:
“We saw a beautifully tended tiny garden overlooking Mount’s Bay. We met a man coming out of his house to let his pet duck into the garden! His duck was of course called Donald but was lovely even though he thought I had food and pecked my hand! Apparently the man takes Donald to the pub on Tuesdays and Thursdays where the duck eats pork crisps and drinks Guinness! Donald also has his own duck flap as he couldn’t get in the one the man had made for his previous pet rabbit!”

Unfortunately, during MY visit to Mousehole, neither man nor duck appeared. But, without Anne and David — wonderful travel companions, who share my fascination for Distinctly Odd Places — my Cornish explorations would clearly have been far less entertaining.

A stretch of Harborside gardens run alongside Gurnick Street. Per Anne Guy (who is also my Horticulture Guru), the rather Dr.Seuss-ish tree to the left is Cordyline australis (or Cabbage Tree, or Cornish Palm). This tree is native to New Zealand.

My view down Gurnick Street, back into Town

Another Bay View, from Gurnick Street. The flowers cascading over the edge of the seawall are Erigeron glaucus (or beach asters). These flowers are native to the coastlines of Oregon and California.

Per Anne: “The orange flowers on the stone wall are Gazanias, and the pink ones Lampranthus.” Both types of flowers are native to South Africa.

As is obvious: British Gardeners are horticultural magpies. They collect odds and ends of plants, from around the entire Planet, and they’re not afraid to then try to get those plants to flourish, on their own northern-hemisphere Island.

A last look at the garden on Gurnick Street

The clear waters of Mount’s Bay

The breakwater, at the base of the Harbor Wall

Another reminder that Cornwall is also the Land of Merlin & King Arthur

Per Wikipedia: “Mousehole, like Penzance, Newlyn and Paul, was destroyed in the 1595 raid on Mount’s Bay by Spaniard
Carlos de Amesquita. “ This building, which is called the “Keigwin Arms,” is the only building that survived, when the Spaniards set
fire to the Village. The structure is now a private residence.

A closer look at the imposing portico of Keigwin Arms

Tragically, although this building survived, the Master of the House did not.

Flowers WILL grow where they want to be. Here, a clump of Centranthus (or Red Valerian) has taken root, high up in the wall of a stone house.

T’was time for Tea, and Anne and David began to search for a watering hole.

We ended our afternoon in Mousehole with a Proper Tea, at Jessie’s Dairy (11 Fore Street). Image courtesy of David Guy

TREMENHEERE SCULPTURE GARDENS
near Gulval, Penzance, Cornwall TR20 8YL

http://www.tremenheere.co.uk

Aerial view of Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens

Plan of the Sculpture Garden

In the general context of British gardens, Tremenheere Sculpture Garden, which is being established upon land which its owner acquired in 1997, is still in its infancy. In England, even large-scale gardens which have been continuously developed for 40 years are still considered to be merely adolescent, and so garden-snobs will just have to be patient, while the physical reality of Tremenheere catches up to what it must already be, in the imagination of its creator,
Dr. Neil Armstrong.

That said, when visiting southwestern Cornwall, these 22 acres of parklands and semi-tropical gardens are NOT to be missed. Sprawling across a steep hillside which is split by a valley, the gardens offer spectacular views of St.Michael’s Mount and of Mount’s Bay. Tremenheere is embellished by cutting-edge architectural follies, decorated with large-scale sculptures, enlivened by a first-class plant nursery, and enriched by an art gallery. And the presence of its excellent Café makes a day-trip to the gardens very satisfying, in every respect.

Since I don’t rephrase what others have already stated quite well, I’ll quote from Tremenheere’s Visitors’ Brochure, which explains the History:

“Prior to 1294 the land at Tremenheere was owned by the monks of St.Michael’s Mount. Michael De Tremenheere bought the land at that time…and thus began an unbroken lineage of 600 years where the owner of the land carried the name Tremenheere. This persisted until 1890 with the last Tremenheere being Seymour.
The gardens are greatly indebted to this man as it was he who planted the beech, the oak, the sweet chestnut and holly throughout the woods in or around 1830.”

“The land at Tremenheere was said to be the vineyard for the Mount in the 15th Century. Much later in the 1800s it was a noted strawberry growing area with products being exported to Newfoundland.”

“The land is south facing with good soil. It is early favoured land, largely sheltered from prevailing winds by the mature woodland and the particular valley landscape. A free flowing stream runs through the bottom of the valley and several substantial ponds are aligned nearby. The total area amounts to 22 acres and is situated a mile east of Penzance along a stretch of land known as the Golden Mile.”

“After the Tremenheere lineage fell away the Pearce family farmed the land for 4 generations until 1997, when Dr. Neil Armstrong acquired the core valley to which other fields were added in the interim. Neil acquainted himself with the land in tackling heavily overgrown scrubby woodland with 10 foot high brambles, wild rhododendron and impenetrable swamp.”

“The land however immediately announced itself as having tremendous potential with its natural assets – the habitats were varied from pond to dry, arid slopes. A planting scheme and landscape design was largely dictated by these natural features.”

“There was no big house or driveway, which allowed him to create paths to follow the natural camber of the hillsides using directional prompts and framing vistas as appropriate. The steep terrain dictated the need for access tracks and these conveniently compartmentalized the garden, creating slightly different moods in different areas.”

“The guiding principle has been to evolve a naturalistic, arcadian space blending the elements of landscape, planting and art to create a place for contemplation and wonder.”

Dr. Neil Armstrong (NOT the astronaut!)

Is this an Ambitious Enterprise? Yes Indeed. As he creates his garden, Dr. Armstrong is doing what fewer and fewer people in England—or anyplace else—have the will or the means to accomplish. Dr. Armstrong is part of a select group of people, who—instead of lavishing their time and money upon yachts or sports teams—are continuing the grand, deeply civilized tradition of creating World-Class Gardens, from scratch. Such endeavors, even if they might be perceived by some as vanity projects, ultimately benefit all of us who cherish gardens.

Now, a slight Detour, with a Note: During my annual visits to England, I’ve found four other relatively-NEW, expansive, and uniquely-styled gardens, which have already achieved world-class significance. In future Armchair Diaries, which will cover more regions in England, I’ll take you on tours of the following extraordinary places:

#1: Broughton-Grange Garden, in Oxfordshire.
Land acquired in 1992, and a massive garden expansion begun in 2001.
Designer: Tom Stuart-Smith.

The Parterre, at Broughton Grange

#2: Upton Wold Garden, in Gloucestershire.
Land acquired in 1973. Initial garden plan
by designer Hal Moggridge, with continual
additions by the owners, Caroline & Ian Bond,
as well as by other designers.

Upton Wold’s Labyrinth (designed by Hall Moggridge)

#3: Wollerton Old Hall Garden, in Shropshire.
Since 1984, designed and developed by the owners,
Leslie and John Jenkins.

Wollerton Old Hall,
The Upper Rill

#4: East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden, in Norfolk.
Land acquired 40 years ago, with gardens designed
entirely by the owners, Alan Gray and Graham Robeson.

East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden, The Desert Wash

Let’s return to Tremenheere, where we’ll begin our Tour of the Site.

[Note: the Gardens are closed, from late October through mid-February.
The Kitchen Restaurant is open, year-round. Daily: 10AM—4PM;
and on Friday & Saturday, from 6PM until “late.”]

In the Car Park, a Rusty Reclining Man

The Plant Nursery

The Nursery’s Living Roof

Anne & David bought this Air Plant, which they then carried for the next 2 weeks of our travels….this is when a car’s front-seat cup-holders come in handy! The unfussy plant took well to tourism, and very soon produced this blossom. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy

A beautifully-composed display of succulent plants, at the Nursery

Succulents

Pots and Pots of Plants, for sale at the Nursery

Succulents

Yes! They ship….to anywhere in the World.

A Not-So-Comfy-Chair, near the Plant Nursery.
Photo courtesy of David Guy.

Adjacent to the Kitchen Restaurant, a Radiating Assemblage of Cornish Slate Tiles

Tremenheere’s Kitchen Restaurant has both indoor and outdoor tables. I highly recommend their Tempura of Seasonal Vegetables, with sweet chili dip.

The view from our outdoor table, at the Kitchen Restaurant. St. Michael’s Mount—a tidal island in Mount’s Bay—is in the distance.

At the Gift Shop: Just-picked Posies, grown on-site. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

More Nosegays, in the Gift Shop. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

We begin to hike uphill, towards the Gardens, but are immediately distracted and then utterly waylaid by a Marvelous Contraption. A wooden temple is balanced upon an iron platform, whose black legs seem spiderish. The Temple’s dilapidated columns are quivering, or sometimes swaying every which way…their unpredictable movements prompted by the merest whispers of the ocean breezes which blow, up from Mount’s Bay. Beneath the platform, multiple pendulums are swinging slowly and purposefully. Although clearly an Architectural Thing, this Looming and Wondrous Construction feels Alive, and is the brainchild of Penny Saunders, who unveiled her RESTLESS TEMPLE at Tremenheere in 2015.

RESTLESS TEMPLE, by Penny Saunders

The Artist’s Statement, about RESTLESS TEMPLE

Penny Saunders. The artist worked for 35 years making mechanized sets and props with Folkbeard Fantasy, the theatre and animation company. She says that she’s now “moved outdoors into natural light and the realities of nature.”

RESTLESS TEMPLE. My frozen-moment-in-time photo cannot show how this machine of wood and metal and concrete NEVER stays still. The TEMPLE actually seems to fidget; its columns seem undecided, and do not necessarily all tilt in the same direction when the wind blows.
Below-decks, the heavy pendulums, which also continually move,
seem deliberate, and almost calm.

RESTLESS TEMPLE: detail of columns, which are clad with thin pieces of cedar

RESTLESS TEMPLE: detail of base, from which hang circular concrete pendulum-weights

RESTLESS TEMPLE, with a distant view of St.Michael’s Mount, in Mount’s Bay. The close-by teepees are
fixtures of Tremenheere’s Marquee Site.

As the RESTLESS TEMPLE shifts, it is simultaneously familiar, unnerving, funny, thought-provoking, delightful, and hypnotic.

As seen from the RESTLESS TEMPLE site: Tremenheere’s Gallery building is in the foreground. In the distance, St.Michael’s Mount is in the Bay. When I took this photo, the tide was IN, and the causeway which connects The Mount to Marazion, on the mainland, was totally submerged.

We enter the Gardens. David leads the way, up a long path which bisects the Palm Garden.

Over 50 distinct garden areas have been established at Tremenheere. Grouped within each area are perennials and trees which have been chosen to flourish in each, specific micro-climate. Tremenheere’s website includes exhaustive lists of every plant
which the gardeners have added to the site. I include the following map of the garden areas, simply to illustrate the complexity of this ambitious horticultural enterprise.

Locations of the various garden areas, at Tremenheere. [Note: for complete lists of plant species in each area, consult the Tremenheere website.] Image courtesy of Tremenheere.

Lush, semi-tropical plantings. Yes, those are banana trees, flourishing in Cornwall. None of the thousands of non-native plants and trees which are planted the
Gardens require coddling, in Wintertime.

The banana plant, originating in Southeast Asia, is the World’s largest herbaceous flowering plant. This close look at a banana flower, courtesy of Anne Guy.

Alongside the path, more exotic gardens, with plant IDs kindly supplied by Anne Guy. Front: pink flowers are Lampranthus (from Southern Africa). Center left: Agave (from Mexico). Center: Cactus (South and Central Americas). Rear: orange flowers on tree are Isoplexis (Canary Islands).

A beautifully-balanced composition of plants. Per Anne:
Spiky tree at far left is Xanthorrhoea Grass Tree (from Australia).
Yellowish plants in foreground, middle and left are all Cycads (which have been on Earth since the Jurassic age).
Fan shaped plant is Trachycarpus Palm (from the Himalayas).

Per Anne: At the front, Protea (South Africa), with its vivid orange blossoms. A Banana is at the rear.

Protea blossom, close up. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

Contrasts of texture, form, and color. As identified by Anne: Yellow pyramid flowers are Tree Aeoniums (Canary Islands), with Restio grass (South Africa) behind them. Orange flower is Isoplexis. Front shrub is a variety of South African pine.

More plant IDs, courtesy of Anne: Banana at back. Bottlebrush callistemon (Australia) below. Front right Cycad. Behind that, is a tatty date palm– Phoenix species. Behind that, the wavy grass is Restio.


Now above the Palm Garden, we approach a Pavilion, which has a rooftop Observation Deck. What we haven’t yet discovered is that, through the Pavilion, we’ll soon enter an underground corridor which leads to a mysterious, elliptical Domed Chamber. In the distance, the top-most towers of
St.Michael’s Mount are JUST visible.

This Domed Chamber, which is buried under the hillside, was designed by the American artist James Turrell (born 1943, in LA, CA). On Turrell’s website he describes his medium as “pure light.”
He explains: “My work has no object, no image, and no focus….what is important to me is to create an experience of wordless thought.”

We pass between the columns of the Pavilion which is
below the Observation Deck. Looking back, I appreciate the
exquisitely-done stonework, and the lush vegetation beyond.

Leading us away from the entry Pavilion, along a subterranean corridor, Anne is silhouetted against the bright, white light which emanates from the Domed Chamber that’s
ahead of us.

Turrell describes this construction, which is called TEWLWOLOW KERNOW (Cornish for “Twilight in Cornwall”) as
“A temple, at the prominent site at the high point in the valley, entered from the base of the hill through an underground corridor. One is led along a rising passageway to an interior space, an elliptical chamber whose ceiling frames the sky. Discreet background illumination under-lights the ceiling of the space, and provides a telling contrast with the sky. The shifting balance between the interior and exterior light provides a hypnotic transition.”

Once inside the elliptical Domed Chamber, it takes my eyes a while to adjust to the contrasts between the bright sky, and the dark access corridor, and the dim natural light that washes across the walls.

At the top of the domed Chamber: an
Oculus frames the sky

The Guys Sky-Bathe, inside the Chamber. During our summers of traveling together, I’ve taken many photos of
David and Anne. This is one of my favorite portraits of my treasured friends.

From within the Chamber: our view of the dark corridor which will lead us back outside.

Complex forms and shadows, in the Chamber.

We’re back outside, and have climbed to the
observation deck, above the columned entry pavilion

Nan and Anne, taking in the View. And NO, we don’t intentionally coordinate our outfits….it just happens, more often than not. Photo courtesy of David Guy.

My zoom-lens view of St.Michael’s Mount,
seen from the Observation deck

Uphill from the Domed Chamber, aligned exactly north-south, Richard Long has planted a simple line of ornamental grasses, which he calls TREMENHEERE LINE. I consider this the most UNDERwhelming art in the Gardens.

We follow a path that runs along the upper edge of the Palm Gardens. Image courtesy of Tremenheere.

On a wooded hillside, we encounter THE MINOTAUR, by Tim Shaw

An untitled work by Kishio Suga: a large scaffolding cage encloses bamboo poles.

SLIP OF THE LIP, by Peter Randall-Page. An interlocking
work, in Hassan Marble.

Detail: SLIP OF THE LIP. Peter Randall-Page developed
this piece from drawings of Eucalyptus seed pods.

Detail: SLIP OF THE LIP. In the words of the sculptor: “The male and female forms are ambiguous and somewhat
hermaphrodite.”

Nearby: stone shards, arranged with Intention (Arranger unknown)

SKHIMZA, by Ken Gill: described by the artist as “an installation using glass to honor an ancient fissure in a rock face.”

BLACK MOUND, by David Nash, who says this
“Powerful collection of charred oak shapes in a sculptured huddle is sited to resonate with the mature oak woodland and bluebells in season.”

In a field, at the highest point of the Gardens, a changing collection of brightly colored kinetic artwork. On display now: PERSPEX WIND SCULPTURE, by Michaels Chaikin.

A former Chelsea Show Garden, by Darren Hawkes.

At the lowest point in the Gardens, adjacent to a pair of ponds, we find a cascade of steps and terraces—all made of Cornish slate. The original version of this Garden was designed by Darren Hawkes, for display at the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show, in London. At Chelsea, Hawkes’ entry was awarded a Gold medal by the Royal Horticultural Society. Every year, after the week-long Chelsea Flower Show, most of the massively expensive Show Gardens are then dismantled…a VERY wasteful habit indeed. Instead, in a laudable demonstration of Show-Garden-Recycling,the Designer’s Chelsea garden was moved to Tremenheeree, and reconfigured
to create this restful vantage point, near water.

A floating sculpture, near to the Cornish slate terrace.

Detail of exquisite Cornish slate stepping stones.

Afloat: a lacquered red vessel

Nearby, Cornish stone mason Richard Marsh’s
UNTITLED X3

Another look at how the Chelsea Flower Show Recycled Hardscape, along with masses of newly-added plant material, have been seamlessly integrated into the natural landscape, in the Darren Hawkes garden at Tremenheere.

Our garden rambles at Tremenheere had come to an end, but, as we headed downhill, and back towards the car park, ‘twas impossible not to stop for a little bit longer, to once again admire the RESTLESS TEMPLE.

The Restless Temple, by Penny Saunders, at night. Image courtesy of Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens

As I wrap up Part One of our Cornwall explorations, consider that the wonderful places in and around Penzance which I’ve shown you here are contained within about a dozen square miles. Such abundance—of history, of culture, and, most importantly, of glorious stretches of land and of sea—and all conveniently compressed (which of course will spare a Visitor many wasted hours of driving), is typical of all of the Cornish coastal regions which we’ll visit in my forthcoming Diaries.

Here’s what I’ll be working on, so that we can continue to celebrate Cornwall’s endlessly interesting and varied seacoast:

PART TWO. Mount’s Bay, and Environs: Praa Sands, Godolphin House, Marazion, St.Michael’s Mount

PART THREE. Western-most Cornwall: Merry Maidens Stone Circle, Boscawen-un Stone Circle, Porthcurno Bay and the Telegraph Cable, Minack Theatre (& YES: there will be a Poldark-Alert, in this Diary)

PART FOUR. North-western-most Cornwall: Sennen Cove, Levant Mine & Beam Engine, St. Ives, Gwennap Pit ( with yet another Poldark-alert)

PART FIVE. England’s southern-most spit of land: Lizard Point; along with Porthleven (This part will contain the final Poldark-alert)

PART SIX. The central, southern coast, near to Helford River and Frenchman’s Creek: Trebah Garden, and Glendurgan Garden (with this Chapter we’ll begin some Daphne duMaruier-alerts)

PART SEVEN. The Roseland Peninsula: Trelissick Garden, King Harry Ferry, St.Mawes, Lamorran House Gardens, St.Just in Roseland

PART EIGHT. The eastern, southern coast, with a pinch of Bodmin Moor added to what has been a largely watery mix of locations:
Fowey, a cautionary tale about the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pinsla Garden,Jamaica Inn, Altarnun (for our 2nd duMaurier alert)

Copyright 2018. Nan Quick—Nan Quick’s Diaries for Armchair Travelers. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express & written permission from Nan Quick is strictly prohibited.

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An Idiosyncratic Survey of Sculpture, in Gardens of the Western World

Kiftsgate Court's Water Garden Fountain

Kiftsgate Court’s Water Garden Fountain

APRIL, 2015

As we create our gardens, we often find that the presence of plant material alone cannot satisfy our aesthetic sensibilities, and so we begin the often perplexing quest for objects to use as decoration for our little Edens. Sometimes, our beds of well-tended plants seem incomplete and in need of punctuation. The dedicated gardener then seeks art…objects with which to literally gild the lilies that she grows.

Flower13

Whether or not we’re aware of it, our collective notions about what the roles of sculptural adornments in gardens should be harken back to concepts that were reborn during the Italian Renaissance.
For 1000 years prior to the late 1400s, formal gardens in Europe had been primarily utilitarian places where food, roses, and medicinal herbs were grown. Certainly, in the Medieval cloister garden, some thought was also given to creating a beautiful and peaceful ambience, but apart from decoration applied to central well-heads, those spaces were largely unembellished. A Medieval garden was, above all, a place to bow down to the greater glory of God and his Creations. The uniformity of such gardens—which were all laid out on a square, with paths that crossed at a central point to honor Christ’s death—was a given.

PlanOfCloisterGarden

During the Italian Renaissance, the rise of Humanism encouraged rulers and the intelligentsia to consider that, while they could continue to live as Christians who piously humbled themselves before God, they could also begin to joyously cultivate all of the temporal pleasures which were due to humankind, and, particularly, to themselves. In this new environment of thought, society’s dominant castes recognized that, much as the ancient Romans had once done, the most effective way for the powerful to demonstrate their might would be to create rituals, and spectacles, and palaces that were expressly meant to capture the public eye. Italy’s ruling families utilized every aspect of their lives, both public and private, to symbolically announce their might and influence. They built themselves grand villas, and around them they planted the first extravagant gardens that had been fashioned, since the glory days of the Roman Empire.

Using a stock repertoire of mythical symbols and allegories resurrected from Roman antiquity, the nobility made gardens that, apart from providing their households with food and flowers, performed two essential tasks. Task one was to symbolically demonstrate man’s control over the natural world; and this was accomplished through geometry, as garden beds were planted to conform to precisely-ruled shapes. Task two was to introduce concepts and themes into the minds of those who visited the nobles’ gardens: this was achieved by using sculptures as the vehicles by which those ideas would be delivered. Strategically-chosen statues were mounted with serious intention. Each statue was meant to attest to the virtues and aspirations of the garden-makers themselves.

The Rometta, in the gardens of Villa d'Este. Tivoli, Italy.

The Rometta, in the gardens of Villa d’Este. Tivoli, Italy.

In the Renaissance, the widely-understood iconography of ancient myth enabled statuary to function as message-bearer. If a nobleman wished to proclaim that his strength rivaled that of Hercules, or his wisdom equaled that of Athena, no words were needed. Instead, statues referring to classical mythology were mounted prominently in the nobleman’s garden. With sculpture, ideas were silently but clearly stated. “As is the gardener, so is the garden.” This notion became central to garden design. No longer was a garden made in deference to a Medieval God. Instead, a garden became a paradise which mirrored the magnificence of its human creator, and its decorations were used as the embodiment of ideas, and for the definition of self.

Flower11

While I’d love to give you a comprehensive look at how the use of sculpture in the gardens of the Western World has developed over the past 500 years, practicality requires that I begin in a recent era, and so the in-depth portion of our photo tour will start at the beginning of the 20th century … when sea-changes in the established patterns of living were underway and when no aspect of life would go untransformed. In 1900, European monarchies and Imperial Powers still dominated. But global conflict, along with technological, scientific, and medical advances, would soon turn the world on its collective ear. Small wonder that, even in the realm of garden design, traditional styles of decoration began to give way to abstract or idiosyncratic pieces of art. And now, in the early decades of the 21st century, garden art has come to symbolize entirely new sets of concepts; concepts which would have been meaningless to the Ancients.

At a recent Chelsea Flower Show

At a recent Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

We’ll see how, in the early 20th century, conventions in English and American garden décor began to break free from the historical models which had persisted in the Western World since the early 1500s, when the Medici had established the paradigms for garden decoration. We’ll visit a handful of English homes where contemporary sculpture has been used to usher antique gardens into the 21st century. We’ll also see how recently-made pieces have enlivened a variety of gardens …gardens which range from the humble to the grand.

At a recent Chelsea Flower Show

At a recent Chelsea Flower Show

Each of these gardens that I’ve chosen to illustrate would be certainly LESS, if deprived of their various, sculptural additions. Every picture you’ll see here will be of a place that I’ve actually visited…this is because I’m unable to properly understand garden art unless I’ve walked ‘round it, in its actual setting. I hope this whirlwind tour will stimulate your imaginations, help you to refocus your vision, and inspire you to consider making modest sculptural additions to your own gardens.

Even though we’re avoiding full immersion in garden design history, as a jumping-off point, we must briefly acknowledge the garden at Villa di Castello, on the outskirts of Florence, which was designed in 1537.

Villa di Castello, Florence, Italy

Villa di Castello, Florence, Italy

This estate established a standard for the use of garden sculpture which then persisted through many centuries. Castello is the first real example in Renaissance Italy of a garden created to celebrate the glory and influence of its owner: Cosimo de Medici, the 1st Grand Duke of Tuscany. In this garden, as well as at the nearby Boboli Gardens, (which were part of yet another of the great, Medici residences), statuary was a dual-purpose tool: arrayed as much to entice the eye as it was deployed to tickle the mind.

At Villa di Castello, this large fountain symbolizes one of Florence's nearby mountains.

At Villa di Castello, this large fountain symbolizes one of Florence’s nearby mountains.

Villa di Castello

Villa di Castello

Villa di Castello

Villa di Castello

The Winter Fopuntain, at Villa di Castello

The Winter Fountain, at Villa di Castello

The Boboli Gardens, adjacent to the Pitti Palace, in Florence

The Boboli Gardens, adjacent to the Pitti Palace, in Florence

Boboli Gardens

Boboli Gardens

The Neptune Fountain, in the Boboli Gardens

The Neptune Fountain, in the Boboli Gardens

Pegasus, in the Boboli Gardens

Pegasus, in the Boboli Gardens

Behind locked gates in the Boboli Gardens, the massive Oceanus Fountain looms.

Behind locked gates in the Boboli Gardens, the
massive Oceanus Fountain
looms.

Another peek at the Boboli Garden's Oceanus Fountain, which is in the background

Another peek at the Boboli Garden’s Oceanus Fountain, which is in the background

We’ll travel forward now, across 4000 miles and 350 years, from Renaissance Italy to Sleepy Hollow, New York…to arrive at a garden begun at the zenith of America’s Country Place Era.

Kykuit. Image courtesy of the Historic Hudson Valley Press

Kykuit. Image courtesy of the Historic Hudson Valley Press

And what had changed, at least when it came to the gardens of the Western world’s wealthiest and most powerful? Very little, it seems. Just as the Medici had erected a fountain by which they claimed kinship with the god Oceanus—who ruled the seas, and from whom all rivers sprang—in 1914, at Kykuit, John D. Rockefeller commissioned his very own Oceanus fountain…

My rainy-day-in-June view of Kykuit's Oceanus Fountain, as seen from the front portico of the Main House.

My rainy-day-in-June view of Kykuit’s Oceanus Fountain, as seen from the front portico of the Main House.

… by which he suggested HIS similarities to past rulers, both human and mythical.

A closer view of the Oceanus Fountain, which was added to Kykuit's Forecourt in 1914.

A closer view of the Oceanus Fountain, which was added to Kykuit’s Forecourt in 1914.

As I look at the Kykuit Oceanus, what I mostly see is an unimaginative and bombastic imposition upon the Hudson Valley landscape. For Rockefeller, the principal of GENIUS LOCI — the idea that garden designs should always be adapted to the contexts in which they’re located — was clearly not an operational concern.

And in his Rose Garden, Rockefeller placed this much more charming but still referential decoration…another copy of a Boboli Garden fountain.

Kykuit's Rose Garden Fountain

Kykuit’s Rose Garden Fountain

But eventually, when John D. Rockefeller’s grandson Nelson turned his youthful energies to decorating the terraces and meadows around the family home, Kykuit’s art began to reflect the modern world, and so became America’s first, and most significant private garden to be adorned with contemporary sculpture. From 1935 until his death in 1979, Nelson Rockefeller’s tastes evolved, and he acquired sculpture in a wide range of styles. We who today visit Kykuit can never hope to acquire equivalent pieces for our own gardens. However, Kykuit’s opulent grounds are relevant to even the most humble gardener for a single, powerful reason: Nelson’s careful siting of each piece of sculpture provides us with a master class in how to sensitively integrate art into a garden.

Here now, a tour of Kykuit’s gardens:

Terraces of the West Garden, overlooking the Pool Garden

Terraces of the West Garden, overlooking the Pool Garden

One of a pair of Giant Etruscan Urns, at the top of the West Garden

One of a pair of Giant Etruscan Urns, at the top of the West Garden

Halfway down the Rill that bisects the Inner Garden, stands Maillol's BATHER PUTTING UP HER HAIR.

Halfway down the Rill that bisects the Inner Garden, stands Maillol’s BATHER PUTTING UP HER HAIR.

A collection of bronzes: lined up along the wall of the Inner Garden....rather too crowded for comfort.

A collection of bronzes: lined up along the wall of the Inner Garden….rather too crowded for comfort.

A Fountainhead in the Tea House Pool

A Fountainhead in the Tea House Pool

Sculpture from 1953 in the Inner Garden. This piece is mounted with breathing room around it, and the effect is splendid.

Sculpture from 1953 in the Inner Garden. This piece is mounted with breathing room around it, and the effect is splendid.

A bronze, by the wall that separates the Inner Garden from the Brook Garden

A bronze, by the wall that separates the Inner Garden from the Brook Garden

The Japanese-styled Brook Garden

The Japanese-styled Brook Garden

Sculpture from 1960, in the Brook Garden

Sculpture from 1960, in the Brook Garden

Sculptures from 1956, near the Brook Garden

Sculptures from 1956, near the Brook Garden

A piece from 1971 in the Children's Garden

A piece from 1971 in the Children’s Garden

In 1968 this abstract winged figure was mounted above the Pool Terrace

In 1968 this abstract winged figure was mounted above the Pool Terrace

In 1962 a Henry Moore was mounted, downhill from the Rose Garden

In 1962 a Henry Moore was mounted, downhill from the Rose Garden

In 1965, this large piece appeared, along the Maple Walk

In 1965, this large piece appeared, along the Maple Walk

And in 1966, the most artfully-sited piece of all was placed below the Maple Walk. I took this picture in early June of 2013, during a violent rainstorm, and the silhouettes of the wet tree trunks combined with the Calder sculpture were wonderful.

And in 1966, the most artfully-sited piece of all was placed below the Maple Walk. I took this picture in early June of 2013, during a violent rainstorm, and the silhouettes of the wet tree trunks combined with the Calder sculpture were wonderful.

We’ll leave America now, and cross the Atlantic to look at a modest English garden that was begun by an artists’ collective during the same period as when John D. Rockefeller was imitating Florentine nobility on the grounds of his New York estate.

Charleston, East Sussex, England. A small pool at the center of the Walled Garden's lawn is edged with tiles that are reproductions of the original tiles, which were painted by Vanessa Bell in 1930.

Charleston, East Sussex, England. A small pool at the center of the Walled Garden’s lawn is edged with tiles that are reproductions of the original tiles, which were painted by Vanessa Bell in 1930.

In 1916, the artist Vanessa Bell, with her two young sons by her husband Clive Bell, along with Vanessa’s sometime-lover Duncan Grant, as well as Duncan’s sometime-lover David Garnett, set up house in a rambling, former inn, that was nestled in a boggy valley, below the South Downs of East Sussex.

Charleston--Front Entry Court

Charleston–Front Entry Court

After this group settled, they were often joined by Vanessa’s estranged husband Clive, who was given his own bedroom there, and by another of Vanessa’s former flames, the art critic Roger Fry, who was also the founder of the Omega Workshop. Somehow, living in this hothouse of shifting emotional alliances stimulated the ideas and talents of these people—who were all accomplished painters and sculptors—and together they generated an enormous output of art….a bit of which found its way into the gardens outside the house, which they had named Charleston.

In 1919 Vanessa’s sister, the writer Virginia Woolf, moved to Monk’s House, a farmhouse that was part of an abandoned pig farm, in a nearby village.

Monk's House--Rear Garden

Monk’s House–Rear Garden

Statue, overlooking a pond, in the garden at Monk's House

Statue, overlooking a pond, in the garden at Monk’s House

The ashes of both Virginia and Leonard Woolf are buried in the garden, at Monk's House

The ashes of both Virginia and Leonard Woolf are buried in the garden, at Monk’s House

[Note: in a future Armchair Traveler’s Diary, I’ll show you much more of Monk’s House—inside and out–along with the interiors at Charleston.]

The sisters came from the Stephen family— a highly-cultured, and overwhelmingly traditional London clan—and both women felt suffocated by the curtailed options which society offered to ladies of their class. Both sisters married young, as they were expected to do, but thereafter each began to live according to her own terms. The sisters’ rejections of their respectable upbringing had the inevitable consequence of intermittent poverty, but with ingenuity, and incessant labor , Vanessa—with her various colleagues—and Virginia—with her husband Leonard, who was the most talented plantsman of the bunch— made lovely little gardens, which reflected departures from the elaborate and stiff style that had been the norm, during their Edwardian childhoods.

We’re going to visit Vanessa Bell’s Charleston now, which is to this day still at the center of a working dairy farm.

Charleston's Cows, during my visit last May

Charleston’s Cows, last May, when Anne and David Guy and I visited Vanessa Bell’s home in East Sussex.

As during Vanessa’s time, the bracing odor of manure fills the air. When Vanessa began gardening, her first concern was to provide food for her children. She grew fruit and vegetables, kept rabbits, chickens, a pig, and bees. But Vanessa’s bone-deep need to enhance her environments soon extended outside the house, which she’d already embellished with patterns and color.

Fountainhead, in the Walled Garden

Fountainhead, in the Walled Garden

Charleston’s gardens are small and planted in painterly swathes of color. The specific identities of the artists who produced the sculptures and decorative brick that adorn Charleston’s gardens are sometimes unknowable because the members of the Omega Workshop produced their art anonymously. Most of the identifiable work was added by Quentin Bell, the son of Vanessa and Clive. But, regardless of origin, the sculptural elements in Charleston’s gardens, which were made over many decades, from 1916 until 1973, all exhibit humor, and a rustic, hand-crafted power. I’d be happy to include any of these features in MY garden.

Two Urns, made in 1956 by Quentin Bell, mark the entry to Charleston's front courtyard. The on-site shop sells reproductions of these, but they're enormously heavy. And so, although I longed to acquire an Urn, I didn't have one shipped back to my garden, in New Hampshire.

Two Urns, made in 1956 by Quentin Bell, mark the entry to Charleston’s front courtyard. The on-site shop sells reproductions of these, but they’re enormously heavy. And so, although I longed to acquire an Urn, I didn’t have one shipped back to my garden, in New Hampshire.

Quentin Bell's tall FEMALE FIGURE, on the far side of the pond, was made in 1954.

Quentin Bell’s tall FEMALE FIGURE, on the far side of the pond, was made in 1954.

And Quentin Bell's statue of POMONA, also made in 1954, guards a path to the Orchard. Pomona is a Roman goddess, and the keeper of fruit trees.

And Quentin Bell’s statue of POMONA, also made in 1954, guards a path to the Orchard. Pomona is a Roman goddess, and the keeper of fruit trees.

We enter the Walled Garden, which is behind the House

We enter the Walled Garden, which is behind the House

A Bust is mounted, just inside the entry to the Walled Garden. This wall is built with typical Southeastern England's combination of brick and broken flint stones.

A Bust is mounted, just inside the entry to the Walled Garden. This wall is built with typical Southeastern England’s combination of brick and broken flint stones.

Detail of shell sculptures, near the pool in the Walled Garden

Detail of shell sculptures, near the pool in the Walled Garden

A section of the Walled Garden. Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell chose all of the plants for the garden, and today's beds have been filled with those same flowers. Along the top of the brick wall in the background are the numerous busts of Ancient Greeks, which Duncan lifted from art schools.

A section of the Walled Garden. Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell chose all of the plants for the garden, and today’s beds have been filled with those same flowers. Along the top of the brick wall in the background are the numerous busts of Ancient Greeks, which Duncan lifted from art schools.

The Lady is tucked into the Drunken Hedge, which extends across the width of the Walled Garden. Drunken Hedges are in themselves a form of living sculpture. ( In a future Diary I'll show you more examples of Drunken Hedges. )

The Lady is tucked into the Drunken Hedge, which extends across the width of the Walled Garden. Drunken Hedges are in themselves a form of living sculpture. ( In a future Diary I’ll show you more examples of Drunken Hedges. )

Here's a replica of a ( VERY PRACTICAL ) Wheeled Bench, designed by the Omega Workshop

Here’s a replica of a ( VERY PRACTICAL ) Wheeled Bench, designed by the Omega Workshop

And Charleston's very best planter of them all....which I'd love to have a copy of.

And Charleston’s very best planter of them all….which I’d love to have a copy of.

When I compare the sleek gardens at Kykuit with those made by Vanessa Bell and her elastic household, the appeal of owning trophy art lessens. I compare the Rockefellers’ insatiable collecting of name-brand artists with the Charleston occupants’ production of decorative pieces and I realize that Charleston’s greatest gift is the example set by its home-made garden ornaments, all of which suggest that anyone of us with imagination and time to spare could at least make a stab at devising some sculptural pieces of our own.

But remember, even the free-thinkers at Charleston saw fit to add a garden deity—Pomona—the goddess who protected their orchard. A garden…whether ancient or modern…often seems to want a symbol of its guardian spirit.

Which brings me to the inevitable issue of Garden Gnomes.

I mean REALLY! Let's not pretend these don't exist...

I mean REALLY! Let’s not pretend these don’t exist…

In the 19th century, in Germany, garden gnomes began to appear in great numbers. Having a gnome in one’s garden was considered prudent: the presence of a gnome was thought to bring good fortune. But, if we look harder at gnome-history, we see that, once again, we can blame the Italians, who, during the Mannerist era—in the mid 1500s—began to place statues of dwarves and hunchbacks in their gardens. Scholars have speculated that these Italian dwarves were versions of the Greco-Roman fertility god Priapus, whose statue was often found in ancient gardens. And so, although the Chelsea Flower Show has banned garden gnomes from their exhibit grounds for 100 out of the past 101 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Royal Horticultural Society is being arbitrary and capricious when they say that gnomes detract from a garden’s design. As someone who has been both a Chelsea exhibitor and a spectator I’m lodging a tiny protest, and so this Spring I’ve just placed a single gnome into a corner of my shady, Hosta bed.

Here's my Hermes...enduring New Hampshire's endless Winter, without complaint.

Here’s my Hermes…enduring New Hampshire’s endless Winter, without complaint.

I already have an antique bust of the messenger god mounted in my garden….and it’s about time for my Hermes to have a little fertility god nearby, just to keep things from getting too serious.

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Now, since the Chelsea Flower Show has entered the conversation, here’s a selection of garden sculpture exhibits, from the past several Shows. Some of these pieces are obviously, massively expensive, while others are not. But every display offers food for thought.

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

This final, Chelsea image is the most intriguing. It consists of nothing more than painted lengths of rough wood that are stuck into the ground. If you’re looking for a template for an interesting do-it-yourself garden decoration project, this might be it.

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Among historians of late 20th century garden design, the next garden that I’ll show you is the most famous do-it-yourself project of them all, as well as the most controversial.

The View of Prospect Cottage, from the shingle beach. All of the photos you next see of Derek Jarman's gardens at Prospect Cottage were taken by the English garden designer Anne Guy.

The View of Prospect Cottage, from the shingle beach. All of the photos you next see of Derek Jarman’s gardens at Prospect Cottage were taken by the English garden designer Anne Guy.

In 1986, as he was dying of AIDS, the British film director Derek Jarman retreated to a cottage in Dungeness, on England’s southern coast. When I went there in August of 2013, it seemed as if I’d left England behind. With one of the largest expanses of shingle in Europe, the Dungeness peninsula is classified as Britain’s only desert, and the military has long used the beach and marshes for training exercises. And within sight of Jarman’s house, which he named Prospect Cottage, the gray towers of the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station loom.

Telephoto view of the Nuclear Power Station at Dungeness, as seen from the gardens at Prospect Cottage.

Telephoto view of the Nuclear Power Station at Dungeness, as seen from the gardens at Prospect Cottage.

But, despite the apparent bleakness there by the English Channel, Dungeness is actually full of life. Multitudes of birds and insects flourish, along with more than 600 types of native plants; the entire area is designated a Nature Reserve.

Jarman’s daily walks along the rocky beach yielded materials that appealed to his artist’s eye. Piles of polished stone, bundles of bleached driftwood, and twisted lengths of rebar began to accumulate outside his front door. Almost without thought, Jarman began to arrange his stones in patterns on the ground…

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

… and to stake newly-planted beach roses with the driftwood…

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

…and to barricade tender plants behind curlicues of rusted metal.

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

When all was said and done, Jarman had created a post-modern and highly context-sensitive garden, one which was a complete rejection of what he saw as the sterility of modernism. He loved allusion and stories…

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

… and had the words of his favorite poem by John Donne affixed to the side of his house. Many cannot appreciate the artistry of Jarman’s garden at Prospect Cottage; I’ve had people tell me his sculptures are nothing but piles of junk. Jarman’s garden looks like it’s on another planet, instead of near Kent, which is known as the Garden of England. But Jarman made a garden that honored the genius of a very particular location, and that integrity is what gives the place its magic.

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage

Prospect Cottage

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As I’ve made my annual journeys to England, I’ve discovered dozens of gardens that use contemporary sculpture to distinguish themselves. In just these past two summers, I’ve added the following 5 gardens to my Favorites List. At each estate, recently-made pieces of art blend gracefully with superb demonstrations of horticulture. I’ll show you the gardens chronologically….organized by the date when the House on each property was built. And remember, even though all of these gardens are open to the public… some on a very limited basis…these places, though magnificent, still have a primary function as HOMES, where gardens are influenced by the tastes and personalities of the homeowners.

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First, to Arundel Castle, in West Sussex.

I approached Arundel Castle, on a stormy day in May of 2014.

Accompanied by Anne and David Guy, I approached Arundel Castle, on a stormy day in May of 2014.

The Castle was begun on Christmas Day, in 1067.

Thirty acres of gardens and parkland surround the Castle, but what most interested me was the Collector Earl’s Garden, which was opened in 2008.

The Water Garden, with a grass Labyrinth ( and Arundel Cathedral, in the background)

The Water Garden, with a grass Labyrinth ( and Arundel Cathedral, in the background)

We owe the existence of this garden to the current Duchess of Norfolk, Georgina Fitzalan-Howard, who named the garden in honor of her husband Henry, the Earl of Arundel and Duke of Norfolk.

All of the sections of the New Collector Earl's Garden were designed by Isabel and Julian Bannerman. The Bannermans' gardens include ornamental features inspired by the classical garden vocabulary, which are modernized by carvings made of green oak, used in place of stone. When the green oak ages, the wood becomes as unbreakable as rock.

All of the sections of the New Collector Earl’s Garden were designed by Isabel and Julian Bannerman. The Bannermans’ gardens include ornamental features inspired by the classical garden vocabulary, which are modernized by carvings made of green oak, used in place of stone. When the green oak ages, the wood becomes as unbreakable as rock.

Here we have a fabulous example of a Borrowed View! Although the Cathedral isn't part of the Castle grounds, the New Garden cleverly uses the forms of the Cathedral as a backdrop for the forms in the Garden, which echo the Cathedral's spires and windows.

Here we have a fabulous example of a Borrowed View! Although the Cathedral isn’t part of the Castle grounds, the New Garden cleverly uses the forms of the Cathedral as a backdrop for the forms in the Garden, which echo the Cathedral’s spires and windows.

But what really got my attention was the huge expanse of the STUMPERY, where massive tree roots are upended and used as visual anchors for wild and wooly garden beds. These towering plants are commonly called Tree Echium, or Pride of Madiera, and are native to the Canary Islands.

But what really got my attention was the huge expanse of the STUMPERY, where massive tree roots are upended and used as visual anchors for wild and wooly garden beds. These towering plants are commonly called Tree Echium, or Pride of Madiera, and are native to the Canary Islands.

Just to drive home to you the enormity of Tree Echium, which are used for sculptural effect, here I am, to provide human scale.

Just to drive home to you the enormity of Tree Echium, which are used for sculptural effect, here I am, to provide human scale.

Another section of the Stumpery.

Another section of the Stumpery.

A final look at the Stumpery...and see how the blossoms of the Lupine mimic the shapes and tracery of the Cathedral windows! This is gardening, being practiced at the highest levels.

A final look at the Stumpery…and see how the blossoms of the Lupine mimic the shapes and tracery of the Cathedral windows! This is gardening, being practiced at the highest levels.

So, this oldest Home of our tour, which happens to have the newest garden, forced me to reassess my hatred for the uprooted tree stumps in my own yard. Next summer, instead of automatically chipping them, I’ll be evaluating each stump for its potential as garden sculpture.

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Next, to Pashley Manor, in East Sussex.

Pashley Manor

Pashley Manor

This house was built in 1550. But earlier, the site had a hunting lodge that was owned by the family of Anne Boleyn. The gardens at Pashley were established in 1981, and in year 2000 were voted the best Garden in the United Kingdom, by the Historic Houses Association. The sculptural additions here are romantic and largely narrative, and reinforce the fairy-tale atmosphere of the East Sussex hills and sheep-filled meadows.

Sculpture on a grass path welcomes us. (Note: Pashley Manor is another of the many gardens that Blue Badge Guide Amanda Hutchinson and Chariot-Driver Steve Parry have taken me to. And in July of 2015,  Amanda and Steve and I will resume our touring; this time concentrating upon Surrey, and East Sussex...and with a bit more of Kent, thrown in for good measure). Amanda's contact info can be found in the Borde Hill section of this Diary.)

Sculpture on a grass path welcomes us. (Note: Pashley Manor is another of the many gardens that Blue Badge Guide Amanda Hutchinson and Chariot-Driver Steve Parry have taken me to. And in July of 2015, Amanda and Steve and I will resume our touring; this time concentrating upon Surrey, and East Sussex…and with a bit more of Kent, thrown in for good measure).
Amanda’s contact info can be found in the Borde Hill section of this Diary.)

At the edge of the Ha-Ha that separates the gardens from sheep meadows, this 8 foot tall lady exposes her shapely leg.

At the edge of the Ha-Ha that separates the gardens from sheep meadows, this 8 foot tall lady exposes her shapely leg.

I waited for the clouds to pass, and was rewarded with this lovely shadow...which brings up the point that the shadows cast by garden ornaments can be as important as the objects themselves.

I waited for the clouds to pass, and was rewarded with this lovely shadow…which brings up the point that the shadows cast by garden ornaments can be as important as the objects themselves.

A double border of hot-colored perennials leads us toward the Walled Garden

A double border of hot-colored perennials leads us toward the Walled Garden

A marble dove perches above the gates

A marble dove perches above the gates

Here's Bronze Door to Nowhere, on a wall in the Rose Garden

Here’s a Bronze Door to Nowhere, on a wall in the Rose Garden

Another statuesque Lady, on a terrace by the house

Another statuesque Lady, on a terrace by the house

Living Sculpture: a black swan on the lakeside lawn.

Living Sculpture: a black swan on the lakeside lawn.

Hydrangeas flank the bridge to a wooded island.

Hydrangeas flank the bridge to a wooded island.

The island has a temple, and a statue of Pashley Manor's most unfortunate visitor. The Boleyn family's hunting lodge once stood on this island.

The island has a temple, and a statue of Pashley Manor’s most unfortunate visitor. The Boleyn family’s hunting lodge once stood on this island.

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn

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We continue, to Borde Hill, in West Sussex, which is yet another of the exquisite English gardens that Blue Badge Guide Amanda Hutchinson has led me to.

Amanda’s contact info: http://www.southeasttourguides.co.uk

The Main House, and South Lawn. I took this photo on June 5, 2014.

The Main House, and South Lawn. I took this photo on June 5, 2014.

The House was built in 1598. An Arboretum was planted in 1893, and 17 acres of formal gardens began to be established in 1965. Borde Hill is famous throughout England for its Rose Garden, and was recently named by the Historic Houses Association as English Garden of the Year. The collection of sculpture is eclectic, but each
piece is perfectly chosen to complement the lush plantings …. once again, a reminder that, regardless of sculptural style, careful siting of garden art is everything.

We enter the Rose Garden

We enter the Rose Garden

A fountain is at the center of the Rose Garden

A fountain is at the center of the Rose Garden

A Sprite, in the Rose Garden

A Sprite, in the Rose Garden

Sculpture in the White Garden

Sculpture in the White Garden

The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden

The South Lawn rises above a landscape of lakes and meadows.

The South Lawn rises above a landscape of lakes and meadows.

A grouping of figures, in the Arboretum

A grouping of figures, in the Arboretum

A Rill feeds the Pool, in the Italian Garden

A Rill feeds the Pool, in the Italian Garden

The Italian Garden, with a typical English sky...where two different weather systems collide !!!

The Italian Garden, with a typical English sky…where two different weather systems collide !!!

A contemporary interpretation of Chimney Pots

A contemporary interpretation of Chimney Pots

In a garden that overlooks the Lakes

In a garden that overlooks the Lakes

The Round Dell Garden

The Round Dell Garden

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Onward, to Godinton House, in Kent (to which Amanda and Steve and I traveled in August of 2013).

Godinton House

Godinton House

The house was remodeled in 1628, when a Jacobean exterior was added. During that renovation, which enclosed a medieval structure, Roman bricks were found in the building’s foundation. The gardens we see today were begun in 1879. Traditional and contemporary pieces of art are widely-spaced, and coexist nicely in the tranquil, parkland setting.

Artwork on the Entry Court

Artwork on the Entry Court

General View, near House

General View, near House

Pan's Garden, is the oldest surviving portion of the gardens.

Pan’s Garden, is the oldest surviving portion of the gardens.

Lily Pond

Lily Pond

A statue anchors the far end of the Lily Pond

A statue anchors the far end of the Lily Pond

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A Contraption, on the Tennis Lawn

The Tennis Lawn's Rhino

The Tennis Lawn’s Rhino

The Walled, Italian Garden

The Walled, Italian Garden

Pert Buttocks, sunning in the Italian Garden

Pert Buttocks, sunning in the Italian Garden

And Gorgeous Gams, on the Loggia of the Italian Garden

And Gorgeous Gams, on the Loggia of the Italian Garden

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Continuing, to Kiftsgate Court, in Gloucestershire.

On June 7, 2014, I traveled  to Kiftsgate Court with Anne and David Guy,  Janet Hardwick, and Barry West. 'Twas an Excellent Outing: good company, tasty food (in the Kiftsgate Cafe), and a jaw-droppingly beautiful garden to discover. This is a garden to revisit, time and time again.

On June 7, 2014, I traveled to Kiftsgate Court with
Anne and David Guy,
Janet Hardwick, and Barry West. ‘Twas an Excellent Outing: good company, tasty food (in the Kiftsgate Cafe), and a jaw-droppingly beautiful garden to discover. This is a garden to revisit, time and time again.

These gardens are directly across the road from the World-Famous gardens of Hidcote, but, strangely, Kiftsgate remains little known. The House was built in 1887, and gardens have been continually added, since 1918. The water features at Kiftsgate, which are essentially sculptural, direct one’s views–both close and distant–and anchor one of the most beautiful little gardens you’ll ever see.

The entry to the gardens gives NO clues about the surprises within...

The entry to the gardens gives NO clues about the surprises within…

Approaching the Four Squares Garden, and Terrace

Approaching the Four Squares Garden, and Terrace

BOWL OF BEAUTY peonies were in full flower, last June, in the Four Squares Garden

BOWL OF BEAUTY peonies were in full flower, last June, in the Four Squares Garden

WOW !!!!  At the edge of the Terrace, this view reveals itself. I'm looking down toward the swimming pool, which was installed in 1960. In the distance are the Malvern Hills. Wales is on the far side of those Hills. No photo can describe the surprise I felt, when this vista unfolded below me.

WOW !!!! At the edge of the Terrace, this view reveals itself. I’m looking down toward the swimming pool, which was installed in 1960. In the distance are the Malvern Hills. Wales is on the far side of those Hills.
No photo can describe the surprise I felt, when this vista unfolded below me.

Part-way down the steep path which leads to the pool, in a grove of Scotch Firs, is this stone carving called MOTHER AND CHILD, which was added during the 1980s.

Part-way down the steep path which leads to the pool, in a grove of Scotch Firs, is this stone carving called MOTHER AND CHILD, which was added during the 1980s.

The Half-Crescent Pool...sublime.

The Half-Crescent Pool…sublime.

View from the Half-Crescent Pool, up to the Summerhouse, and then to the Main House. The Gardeners who maintain the plantings on this steep slope must wear safety cables when they're working.

View from the Half-Crescent Pool, up to the Summerhouse, and then to the Main House. The Gardeners who maintain the plantings on this steep slope must wear safety cables when they’re working.

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The Sunken Garden, which was built next to the Main House in 1972, is centered upon an ancient fountain that was brought to England from the Pyrenees Mountains.

Near the Yellow Border, an old stone gatepost rescued from a nearby field has become a piece of sculpture.

Near the Yellow Border, an old stone gatepost rescued from a nearby field has become a piece of sculpture.

This Stone Lady serves as a chair, in a secret garden that's adjacent to the new, Water Garden.

This Stone Lady serves as a chair, in a secret garden that’s adjacent to the new, Water Garden.

Another WOW moment, as I passed through an opening in a high, yew hedge and saw this. The Water Garden, added in 1998, replaces an old tennis court. The pool is surrounded by narrow, white paving stones which contrast with the black water. Stepping stones lead to a grassy island.

Another WOW moment, as I passed through an opening in a high, yew hedge and saw this. The Water Garden, added in 1998, replaces an old tennis court. The pool is surrounded by narrow, white paving stones which contrast with the black water. Stepping stones lead to a grassy island.

Another view of the Water Garden

Another view of the Water Garden

Sculptor Simon Allison designed 24 stainless steel stems that are topped with gilded bronze leaves molded from a philodendron. The stems sway gently in the wind and reflect well in the dark water. Every 5 minutes, water begins to stream from the tips of the leaves.

Sculptor Simon Allison designed 24 stainless steel stems that are topped with gilded bronze leaves molded from a philodendron. The stems sway gently in the wind and reflect well in the dark water. Every 5 minutes, water begins to stream from the tips of the leaves.

Anne and David Guy stand on the Water Garden's island, to provide human scale. And, in the background, Janet Hardwick and Barry West wait very patiently for me to finish my picture-taking.

Anne and David Guy stand on the Water Garden’s island, to provide human scale. And, in the background, Janet Hardwick and Barry West wait very patiently for me to finish my picture-taking.

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Before I take us back to America, to look at two Massachusetts gardens, I’d like to show a charming, little English garden… located in the West Midlands.

In designer Anne Guy’s Worcestershire back yard, natural materials and discarded metal that she and her husband David have gathered during their frequent visits to Lyme Regis on England’s Jurassic Sea Coast have been transformed into sculptures. Elements of classically-styled decoration have been strategically used. And small works by local Glass artisans have been tucked into beds of perennials.

Anne Guy’s contact info: http://www.anneguygardendesigns.co.uk

David maintains the precisely-clipped boxwood. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

David maintains the precisely-clipped boxwood.
Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

Anne makes sculptures from driftwood

Anne makes sculptures from driftwood

Beach rock joined with twisted metal.

Beach rock joined with twisted metal

Anne has combined eroded rock with rusted rebar.

Anne has combined eroded rock with rusted rebar.

They also have kinetic sculpture...known as JAKEY.

They also have kinetic sculpture…known as JAKEY.

A concrete sphere punctuates a path

A concrete sphere punctuates a path

A classical lead fountain

A classical lead fountain

Hand-blown glass globes, on garden stakes

Hand-blown glass globes, on garden stakes

One of my Lorenzo Love Seats is placed at the back edge of Anne and David's garden. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

One of my Lorenzo Love Seats is placed at the back edge of Anne and David’s garden. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

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It’s time for us to return to the New World, and specifically to the Berkshires, in Western Massachusetts. I’ve chosen to highlight these final gardens for two reasons.

Firstly: they’re full of excellent art. Secondly: both demonstrate how the use of garden sculpture has evolved, over the past 100 years.

We’ll begin with The Mount…

The Formal Gardens at The Mount

The Formal Gardens at The Mount

…in Lenox, Massachusetts, which Edith Wharton built to be what she called her “first real home.” She began at the conclusion of the Gilded Age, in 1901, when she was 40 years old, and for the next 10 years worked tirelessly to perfect every detail. Edith was responsible for the layout of the formal gardens.

She partnered with Ogden Codman Junior on the House Plan. Her niece, the landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, designed the maple-lined front drive, as well as the quarter-mile-long carriage road that winds through a forest, and connects the Stables …

The Stables

The Stables

….with the Main House.

The Entry Forecourt, and the Main House

The Entry Forecourt, and the Main House

A Statue, circa 1901, in the walled Forecourt of the Main House

A Statue, circa 1901, in the walled Forecourt of the Main House

Beatrix Farrand also laid out paths through the forest. Once the courses of those paths had been set, Wharton spent considerable time planting woodland gardens, full of ferns and drifts of shade-tolerant ground covers.

NOT drawn-to-scale map of the grounds at The Mount

NOT drawn-to-scale map of the grounds at The Mount

But, when staying married to her mentally-ill husband Teddy finally became impossible, Edith had to leave The Mount behind.

The back of the Main House, as seen from the formal Flower Garden

The back of the Main House, as seen from the formal Flower Garden

She moved to France, where she remained for the rest of her life. For the next 70 years, Wharton’s creation deteriorated, as it was occupied by a constantly-rotating roster of tenants. In 1980, the property was saved from certain ruin, when it was bought by the Edith Wharton Restoration Group, a non-profit organization.

Each summer now, the Trustees at The Mount install a well-curated display of contemporary sculpture in Wharton’s gardens.

Sculpture, near the Main House

Sculpture, near the Main House

The presence of this newly-made work sets just the right tone for a visit to the house, which is once again being used as a setting for the celebration of ALL of the arts, just as it was, when it was Edith’s home.

As I’ve surveyed sculpture in 20th century gardens, I’ve studiously avoided mentioning the phenomenon of America’s Sculpture Parks. These days–and happily—placing large-scaled sculpture in parks, at corporate headquarters, and in botanic gardens, has become a foregone conclusion. But my main interest has always been to see how sculptural art can be integrated into private and domestic settings…settings where the tone is personal, and the scale is smaller.

Here are some of the sculptures I discovered, as I strolled at The Mount. I first circled the Stables, and then continued through the woodland gardens, toward the Main House.

Sculpture, near the Stables

Sculpture, near the Stables

Detail of previous sculpture

Detail of previous sculpture

ARCH II, by Ann Jon...with a seat inside. Another masterful exercise of sculptural shadow-play, which can be yours for only $36,000.00 (I confess that I WANT this lovely creation, but...... ) .

ARCH II, by Ann Jon…with a seat inside. Another masterful exercise of sculptural shadow-play, which can be yours for only $36,000.00 (I confess that I WANT this lovely creation, but…… ) .

A rock assemblage, in the Woodland Garden

A rock assemblage, in the Woodland Garden

A spooky piece, in the Woodland Garden

A spooky piece, in the Woodland Garden

A composition of charred wood, amid mounds of Vinca

A composition of charred wood, amid mounds of Vinca

MRS.WHARTON. Which shows what can be done with 2 sheets of plywood, a jigsaw, and a quart of paint !!!

MRS.WHARTON. Which shows what can be done with 2 sheets of plywood, a jigsaw, and a quart of paint !!!

Sculpture, near the carriage road by the Main House

Sculpture, near the carriage road by the Main House

This curving path, which connects the carriage drive and the formal flower garden, was laid out by Edith Wharton. It looks utterly contemporary.

This curving path, which connects the carriage drive and the formal flower garden, was laid out by Edith Wharton. It looks utterly contemporary.

Here's a nice transition, from new to old. In the background: a contemporary, green and white archway. In the foreground: the Flower Garden's original Trellis Niche (designed by Ogden Codman Jr., when the house was built).

Here’s a nice transition, from new to old. In the background: a contemporary, green and white archway. In the foreground: the Flower Garden’s original Trellis Niche (designed by Ogden Codman Jr., when the house was built).

Wharton designed these essentially sculptural Grass Steps, which lead from her Flower Garden, up to the back terrace of the House.

Wharton designed these essentially sculptural Grass Steps, which lead from her Flower Garden, up to the back terrace of the House.

Detail of Fountain in Flower Garden

Detail of Fountain in Flower Garden

View from the Flower Garden, down the Lime Walk, toward the sunken Walled Garden

View from the Flower Garden, down the Lime Walk, toward the sunken Walled Garden

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We’ll finish our touring today in the village of Stockbridge, Massachusetts…

Map of the Gardens at Naumkeag

Map of the Gardens at Naumkeag

…which is a 15 minute drive south of The Mount. Our destination is Naumkeag, landscape architect Fletcher Steele’s most important creation, and the sole, intact example of the more than 700 gardens that he designed over his 60 year long career.

A multi-million dollar restoration of the gardens at Naumkeag is underway. Over the past two years I’ve watched the progress of reconstruction.

In June of 2013, the Blue Steps were being totally rebuilt, while an entirely new grove of birch trees was being planted.

In June of 2013, the Blue Steps were being totally rebuilt, while an entirely new grove of birch trees was being planted.

And seeing separate areas of Naumkeag as they’ve been torn apart and then remade has helped me to understand that Fletcher Steele was not just a garden designer. Instead, in his best and most mature work, he became a sculptor, whose materials were dirt and stone and metal and trees.

The Blue Steps, as of October 2014

The Blue Steps, as of October 2014

From 1928, when Steele began The Afternoon Garden, his first commission at Naumkeag…

Naumkeag's Afternoon Garden, built in 1928

Naumkeag’s Afternoon Garden, built in 1928

…until 1955, when the gardens for his client Mabel Choate were finished, his design philosophies evolved. In fact, when considering Art Deco and Modernism in American gardens, Fletcher Steele is the key figure. For 1928’s Afternoon Garden, Steele enclosed the terrace with incongruous but delightful interpretations of Venetian mooring poles, and he anchored the space with a traditional statue.

Afternoon Garden Statue

Afternoon Garden Statue

But just seven years later, his design for the nearby Oak Lawn reflected a pared-down modernism.

Sinuous edging of the Oak Lawn

Sinuous edging of the Oak Lawn

The Oak Lawn, and its view of the distant Berkshire Hills

The Oak Lawn, and its view of the distant Berkshire Hills

Detail of the Cedar Post edging of the Oak Lawn

Detail of the Cedar Post edging of the Oak Lawn

The garden areas at Naumkeag don’t all meld together to make a coherent whole. Rather, Steele’s disparate creations are mounted upon the land, almost as if they’re enormous sculptures. And each of those uniquely-styled constructions represents a different point along a timeline, as Steele’s thoughts about decorating the landscape developed.

The Blue Steps, as I saw them in October of 2014.

The Blue Steps, as I saw them in October of 2014.

The Blue Steps, Steele’s most acclaimed design…which he built in 1938… are usually photographed up close. Viewed without reference to Mabel Choate’s home and the other garden areas, the Blue Steps seem like a gateway into a magical world. A wider view, however, reveals the Steps to be the giant sculpture that it truly is…a sculpture that has no real stylistic affinity for its surroundings, but which, instead, drapes itself glamorously and seductively down through the center of a grove of imported birch trees.

My wider view of the Blue Steps, and Mabel Choate's home (photo taken in October of 2014).

My wider view of the Blue Steps, and Mabel Choate’s home (photo taken in
October of 2014).

The Steps were built because Mabel Choate wanted a direct but safe pathway down the steep hill that separated her house from her vegetable garden. As was always the case when Miss Choate posed a landscaping challenge to Mister Steele, the resulting design was far larger, and vastly more expensive than what she’d asked for. But Mabel had deep pockets, and an open mind, and so she allowed Fletcher to stretch his imagination—and her bank account—to the limits. Few garden designers have ever had such generous patrons as Mabel Choate. When we visit the gardens that Fletcher Steele made for her at Naumkeag, we should think of her often, and gratefully.

Detail of the Blue Steps

Detail of the Blue Steps

In late afternoon, the shadow-play on the Western-facing Blue Steps adds an extra dimension to the design. In each of Steele's garden areas at Naumkeag, he paid close attention to the casting of shadows.

In late afternoon, the shadow-play on the Western-facing Blue Steps adds an extra dimension to the design. In each of Steele’s garden areas at Naumkeag, he paid close attention to the casting of shadows.

In 1953, Steele’s Rose Garden — his final commission at Naumkeag — was begun. We Gardeners know that rose bushes, past their blooming-prime, always manage to look scabrous.

Rose Garden

Rose Garden

But Steele’s clever Rose Garden design distracts us from dwelling upon bloom-free bushes, and with just a few wavy lines of pink gravel, he created a garden that looks good in all seasons. The Rose Garden design seems utterly modern, but is based upon ancient Portuguese patterns of laying paving stones.

Portuguese Paving Stones

Portuguese Paving Stones

The Rose Garden is below the House, and was designed to be viewed from above.

The Rose Garden is below the House, and was designed to be viewed from above.

Along with making a nod to an Old World decorative tradition, Fletcher Steele’s primary intention was for the curves of the Rose Garden beds to echo the rhythms of the Berkshire Hills.

View from the Rose Garden toward the Berkshire Hills

View from the Rose Garden toward the Berkshire Hills

Just as he had done with the edging on the Oak Lawn, Steele etched the contours of the horizon itself into the soil of Mabel Choate’s garden. This is earth-shaping in its most refined form. Where the conceptual and the sculptural are perfectly joined. Where Idea and Physicality are united.
And so, instead of using classical sculpture to declare that he and Miss Choate were as strong as Hercules and as wise as Athena, Fletcher Steele’s most abstract constructions, which mimic the profiles of the nearby Berkshire Hills, quietly announce that the makers of the gardens at Naumkeag were at one with the land itself.

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And now, a Prosaic Post Script, for today’s final design-thought:

This past June, in England, Amanda Hutchinson led me to the spectacular gardens at Nymans [Note: I’ll write at length about Nymans, in a future Armchair Traveler’s Diary.] …

The Gardens at Nymans, with a view of the remains of the house.

The Gardens at Nymans, with a view of the remains of the house.

…in West Sussex, which surround the shell of a burnt-out manor house. The charred ruins weren’t demolished, and instead were recycled to become giant garden ornaments. I was entranced by the romantic landscapes, and by the superb displays of plantsmanship. But as I prepared to leave, I came upon this Insect Hotel, which was tucked into a back alley, next to a huge pile of cooking compost.

The Insect Hotel, at Nymans

The Insect Hotel, at Nymans

In nearly every garden I’ve visited in England over the past several years, I’ve found an Insect Hotel. Each of these constructions looks different, and reflects the hand of its creator. Some Hotels are designed as nesting sites for insects, while others provide space for hibernation. Some target a specific tenant, like lady bugs, or butterflies. The Hotels can house predatory, as well as pollinating insects. In every instance, Insect Hotels are functional, inexpensive to make, and represent a charming synthesis of art and ecology. I’d like to propose that we all begin building little temples like these, for our parks, and for our own gardens.

A very simple Insect Hotel, in the Veggie Garden of Packwood House, in Warkwickshire, England

A very simple Insect Hotel, in the Veggie Garden of Packwood House, in Warkwickshire, England

Another Insect Hotel, at Packwood House (I'll write about the formal gardens at Packwood, in a future Diary).

Another Insect Hotel, at Packwood House (I’ll write about the formal gardens at Packwood, in a future Diary).

Ideally, any decoration which we add to our landscapes should be more than just a generic object that’s been acquired from an art gallery or a garden supply center. And we don’t necessarily need to perpetuate antique notions about garden statuary…not unless those classical images carry messages which resonate personally. ( Witness my garden’s Hermes: the deity who protects travelers and writers…I think of Hermes as my Travel Insurance. ) But each of our garden embellishments should be chosen to serve more than a single purpose. Comfortable furniture can also be sculptural.

My Tiara Chair, amidst blooming lavender, in my Oregon gardens.

My Tiara Chair, amidst blooming lavender, in my Oregon gardens.

Statuary, whether representational or abstract, can suggest a narrative while it’s also configuring a space. Home-made ornaments can be forays into self-expression, even if the end-results are less than stellar. And the horizontal sculpture in our gardens — the paths we plot, the planting beds we delineate, and the pools we dig — can always be designed to be far more than just simple infrastructure. The key is that we must first know ourselves. Then we must carefully observe the lay of the land, and what’s growing and living, all around us. Not until we’ve done these things can we create gardens where art merges harmoniously with the outdoors. When well chosen, art communes with the pervading spirit of a specific bit of land, while it simultaneously speaks — silently and eloquently — of the character of the particular Human who tends that land.

A spider's web and my Lorenzo Arm Chair harmonize, on my front porch in New Hampshire.

A spider’s web and my Lorenzo Arm Chair harmonize, on my front porch in New Hampshire.

Copyright 2015. Nan Quick—Nan Quick’s Diaries for Armchair Travelers. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express & written permission from Nan Quick is strictly prohibited.

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Peabody Essex Museum–The Jewel in Salem’s Crown

Detail of Manjit Bawa's painting DHARMA & THE GOD, part of the Peabody Essex Museum's new show of modern Indian art: MIDNIGHT TO THE BOOM--PAINTING IN INDIA AFTER INDEPENDENCE.

Detail of Manjit Bawa’s painting DHARMA & THE GOD, part of the Peabody Essex Museum’s new show of modern Indian art: MIDNIGHT TO THE BOOM–PAINTING IN INDIA AFTER INDEPENDENCE.

February 2013. Salem, Massachusetts.
As promised in my previous Armchair Traveler Diary, I’m lingering a bit longer in Salem, Massachusetts…this time for an extended look at the considerable wonders of the Peabody Essex Museum.

Raven's-eye View of the Peabody Essex Museum, at twilight.

Raven’s-eye View of the Peabody Essex Museum, at twilight.

If we’re lazy, we’re content to regard a museum as a series of rooms into which thousands upon thousands of bits of cultural booty have been stuffed. That booty then rests passively and quietly; its only job is to catch our attention, should we happen to find ourselves wanting a taste of art. Rarely during our gallery-wanderings do we contemplate how, or why, the gallery-sausage gets made. But it behooves us to understand that the Peabody Essex Museum (hereafter called PEM, to save us many mouthfuls of words) exists because of the persistent (over 200 years of persistence!), mule-stubborn efforts of its multiple founders–and their descendants– to acquire and display treasures from Salem’s Golden Age, and from the Far Corners of the World; to coordinate and consolidate; to fund and build (and then to consolidate some more, and to build some more, and to fund some more…ad infinitum). In 1799 the East India Marine Society was founded by Salem sea captains who’d sailed beyond either Cape Horn, or the Cape of Good Hope. Those mariners yearned to display the “natural and artificial curiosities” from Asia and Africa and India that they’d brought back to America.

East India Marine Hall, now part of the Peabody Essex Museum

East India Marine Hall, now part of the Peabody Essex Museum

Although the Salem of today can seem a sleepy and somewhat battered-looking provincial city of 41,000 souls, just a bit of careful inspection of the holdings of the PEM is all it takes to be reminded of the greatness that Salem achieved as the home port of some of the most adventuresome and successful ocean traders the Earth has ever known. The exotic cargoes which those sailors brought back ensured that Salem’s Atlantic air would be forever tinged with the essences of the wider world, and especially the essences of the Far East.

The PEM’s website nicely summarizes how partnerships between the East India Marine Society and Salem’s other scholarly institutions evolved into today’s Museum:

“Salem was also home to the Essex Historical Society (founded in 1821), which celebrated the area’s rich history, and the Essex County Natural History Society (founded in 1833), which focused on the county’s natural wonders. In 1848 these two organizations merged to form the Essex Institute. In the late 1860s, the Essex Institute refined its mission to the collection of regional art, history and architecture. In so doing, it transferred its natural history and archaeology collections to the East India Marine Society’s descendent organization, the Peabody Academy of Science. In turn, the Peabody, renamed for its great benefactor, the philanthropist George Peabody, transferred its historical collections to the Essex. In the early 20th century the Peabody Academy of Science changed its name to the Peabody Museum of Salem, and continued to focus on collecting international art and culture. Capitalizing on growing interest in early American architecture and historic preservation, the Essex Institute acquired many important historic houses. With their physical proximity, closely connected boards and overlapping collections, the Essex and the Peabody merged, and the consolidation of these two organizations was effected in July 1992.”

The PEM’s collections reflect Salem’s deeply muscular ties to foreign lands: in past days, and on into the present. And the Museum’s expertise at melding history and culture in a manner that keeps our vision fresh is also equaled by their architects’ finesse: the galleries’ contents are housed in rooms which present the PEM’s collections in sensitive and surprising and beautiful ways. Museum-fatigue, which afflicts even seasoned art-lookers like myself, rarely occurs at the PEM.

So now… my modest offering: a mini-Baedeker to the Peabody Essex Museum!

Entry to the Peabody Essex Museum

Entry to the Peabody Essex Museum

Even on overcast days,  and without artificial illumination, the Front Entry Hall is filled with light.

Even on overcast days, and without artificial illumination, the Front Entry Hall is filled with light.

Further along into the Entry Hall

Further along into the Entry Hall

Ground Floor Plan of the Peabody Essex Museum. Courtesy of Moshe Safdie, Architect.

Ground Floor Plan of the Peabody Essex Museum.
Courtesy of Moshe Safdie, Architect.

Section. Architect Moshe Safdie's New Wing, with Maritime Art & American Art

Section. Architect Moshe Safdie’s New Wing, with Maritime Art & American Art

Architect Moshe Safdie's sketch of New Gallery Wing

Architect Moshe Safdie’s sketch of New Gallery Wing

The Atrium Cafe, before opening hours

The Atrium Cafe, before the lunchtime rush.

Early morning in the Atrium

Early morning in the Atrium

View down Entry Hall from 3rd floor catwalk.

View down Entry Hall from 3rd floor catwalk.

Atrium--Roof Detail

Atrium–Roof Detail

A glimpse of Salem, from 3rd floor Special Exhibition Gallery

A glimpse of Salem, from 3rd floor Special Exhibition Gallery

There could be no better emblem of Salem’s cosmopolitan and profoundly international roots than the PEM. The museum’s holdings—collections of American art; Asian, Oceanic and African art; Asian export art; Maritime art; libraries with over 400,000 books, manuscripts and documents; and 22 buildings built by generations of Salem’s most successful, seafaring merchants….along with Yin Yu Tang, an entire, late 18th century Chinese house that’s been transplanted from Anhui province to the Museum’s campus—represent long fingers of history, which are now gracefully intertwined to hold the PEM’s treasures.

Entry Courtyard to Yin Yu Tang House, as seen from 3rd level of Main Museum.

Entry Courtyard to Yin Yu Tang House, as seen from 3rd level of Main Museum.

Inner Courtyard of Yin Yu Tang House

Inner Courtyard of Yin Yu Tang House

And unless she’d done her travel-homework, a Salem-visitor might well have strolled along Essex Street toward the PEM’s main galleries, unaware that many of the fine buildings she’d passed were also part of the Museum’s campus. But since it’s my job to have half a clue about where I’m going…at least some of the time…I’ll pass along these architectural crib-notes about a few of the Museum’s city-center holdings. But remember, if you hanker to get inside of these houses, it’s best to visit Salem during the warmer months… in wintertime, many of the historic buildings are buttoned-shut.

Gardner-Pingree House. 128 Essex St. One of the most outstanding Adamesque Federal town houses in America. Built in 1804...perfectly proportioned...the best of the best. Design attributed to Samuel McIntire.

Gardner-Pingree House. 128 Essex St. One of the most outstanding Adamesque Federal town
houses in America. Built in 1804…perfectly proportioned…the best of the best. Design attributed to Samuel McIntire.

Crowninshield-Bentley House. 126 Essex St. The epitome of a Georgian Colonial house..presenting a chaste and timeless face to the world. Built in 1727.

Crowninshield-Bentley House. 126 Essex St. The epitome of a Georgian Colonial house..presenting a chaste and timeless face to the world. Built in 1727.

In my previous Salem-article, I ran this view of the Andrew-Safford House and Federal Garden, as seen from my lovely 5th floor room at the Hawthorne Hotel.

In my previous Salem-article, I ran this view of the Andrew-Safford House and Federal Garden, as seen from my lovely 5th floor room at the Hawthorne Hotel.

Andrew-Safford House. 13 Washington Square West at Brown St. This is considered one of the most important late Federal-era houses in New England, but the more I consider its hodge-podge-ish excess of architectural elements, the more chaotic and ungainly and nouveau riche this house seems. Built in 1819.

Andrew-Safford House. 13 Washington Square West at Brown St. This is considered one of the most important late Federal-era houses in New England, but the more I consider its hodge-podge-ish excess of architectural elements, the more chaotic and ungainly and nouveau riche this house seems. Built in 1819.

Main Salon. Andrew-Safford House...as over-decorated within, as without.

Main Salon. Andrew-Safford House…as over-decorated within, as without.

Federal Garden--View through arbor of Andrew-Safford House

Federal Garden–View through arbor of Andrew-Safford House

A chilly winter's day in the Federal Garden. Derby-Beebe Summer House, with John Ward House in background.

A chilly winter’s day in the Federal Garden. Derby-Beebe Summer House, with John Ward House in background.

Derby-Beebe Summer House in more agreeable weather.

Derby-Beebe Summer House in more agreeable weather.

John Ward House. Built in 1668. At Brown Street opposite Howard, in the Federal Gardens. One of New England's best examples of a wood-frame-and-clapboard 17th century dwelling...but not nearly as grand as the similarly-formed Turner Mansion (aka The House of the 7 Gables, which was built in 1668).

John Ward House. Built in 1684. At Brown Street opposite Howard, in the Federal Gardens. One of New England’s best examples of a wood-frame-and-clapboard 17th century dwelling…but not nearly as grand as the similarly-formed Turner Mansion (aka The House of the 7 Gables, which was built in 1668).

Interior--John Ward House

Interior–John Ward House

Peabody Essex Museum--Federal Garden Master Plan.

Peabody Essex Museum–Federal Garden Master Plan.

On January 15th, I made my first visit to the PEM, drawn there by HATS, an exhibition curated by the milliner Stephen Jones, in cooperation with London’s Victoria & Albert Museum (which—with apologies to the PEM—is my Very Favorite Museum in the World…the treasure-trove inside of which I dream of being locked, alone…and overnight.).

London's Victoria & Albert Museum (my favorite Museum on the Planet): Partner with the Peabody Essex Museum, in their exhibition HATS.

London’s Victoria & Albert Museum (my favorite Museum on the Planet): Partner with the Peabody Essex Museum, in their
exhibition HATS.

Victoria & Albert catalog for the HAT show

Victoria & Albert catalog for the HAT show

The now-closed HATS show banner at the Peabody Essex Museum.

The now-closed HATS show banner at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Britain’s Mad Hatters have no proper equivalent in America. If one wishes to obtain a truly FINE crown, it’s to England that one must go, and so I did…which leads me to this brief digression regarding Serious Hats:

In May of 2009 the Royal Horticultural Society invited me to exhibit my garden furniture at the Chelsea Flower Show. On the afternoon of Press Day, the Queen and her gang privately inspect the displays. Each exhibitor is allowed to have a single person on site for that inspection. I’d assumed that, as the designer, I’d be that person, but my sister Pam Quick, who’d kindly come along to help me in my tent, shyly let me know that it would be nice if she could tell her children that she’d seen the Queen. Realizing that spying royalty meant little to me, I consented, and while Pam stood guard for the Visitation, I went to Philip Treacy’s Elizabeth Street shop in Belgravia….

Inside Philip Treacy's London shop, with a be-pearled me captured in the mirror.

Inside Philip Treacy’s London shop, with a be-pearled me captured in the mirror.

…where I bought a thousand dollar hat (pure, once-in-my-lifetime lunacy!). Two days later, when I returned to Treacy’s to pick up my chapeau (each hat is individually fitted), he happened to be there, and said to me “I hear you’re the American who’d rather buy my hat than meet the Queen!” But, since Treacy is Irish, I suspected he didn’t disapprove of my choice. These days, the only problem with my hat is that I have so few occasions upon which to wear Treacy’s fabulous and surprisingly comfortable creation.

Nan, in her Philip Treacy creation, at the Chelsea Flower Show. May 2009.

Nan, in her Philip Treacy creation, at the Chelsea Flower Show. May 2009.

Here are some of the hundreds of mostly-European-made hats that were on display at the PEM (the Show closed in early February, but can still be enjoyed if one buys the exhibition catalogue: HATS AN ANTHOLOGY BY STEPHEN JONES, by Oribe Cullen. From V&A Publishing).

A pink, goose feather creation, by Philip Treacy. 1995.

A pink, goose feather creation, by Philip Treacy. 1995.

WASH & GO hat by Stephen Jones, in molded acrylic. 1999.

WASH & GO hat by Stephen Jones, in molded acrylic. 1999.

Fantastic, feathered bonnet...the scariest hat in the Show!

Fantastic, feathered bonnet…the scariest hat in the Show!

Flowered Hat

Flowered Hat

On left: Green Silk Headscarf with applied gray roses. Mitza Bricard for Christian Dior. 1969.  On right: Shoe Hat, by Schiaparelli.

On left: Green Silk Headscarf with applied gray roses. Mitza Bricard for Christian Dior. 1969.
On right: Shoe Hat, by Schiaparelli.

Velvet Bonnet.

Velvet Bonnet.

Balenciaga hat.

Balenciaga hat.

A teaser for the HATS show, in the 1st floor American Art Gallery

A teaser for the HATS show, in the 1st floor American Art Gallery

More hats, in the 1st floor American Art Gallery (across from the famous painting of Nathaniel Hawthorne...I wonder what he thought about all that finery....).

More hats, in the 1st floor American Art Gallery (across from the famous painting of Nathaniel Hawthorne…I wonder what he thought about all that finery….).

After a rather giddy-making hour with the HATS, I sobered up in some of the Museum’s more grown-up, permanent collection spaces….

2nd floor American Art Gallery

2nd floor American Art Gallery

ISLAND BRIDE, by Brian White. Dress made largely of seashells. 2002.

ISLAND BRIDE, by Brian White. Dress made largely of seashells. 2002.

East India Marine Hall. To this Hall, members of the East India Marine Society brought the art and cultural objects they'd collected as they circled the globe in their ships.

East India Marine Hall. To this Hall, members of the East India Marine Society brought the art and cultural objects they’d collected as they circled the globe in their ships.

Figurehead in East India Marine Hall

Figurehead in East India Marine Hall

East India Marine Hall figureheads

East India Marine Hall figureheads

In the East India Marine Hall

In the East India Marine Hall

In the East India Marine Hall

In the East India Marine Hall

The austere charm of the East India Marine Hall

The austere charm of the East India Marine Hall

…but I didn’t get TOO sober, thanks to Michael Lin’s exuberantly-painted walls and floors in the H.A. Crosby Forbes Galleries!

Michael Lin decorates floors and walls with vast enlargements of ornamental porcelain and fabric designs. His transformed spaces are wonderful.

Michael Lin decorates floors and walls with vast enlargements of ornamental porcelain and fabric designs. His transformed spaces are wonderful.

Michael Lin's painted stairwell

Michael Lin’s painted stairwell

Another view of Michael Lin's painted stairwell

Another view of Michael Lin’s painted stairwell

Floating Teapots, with reflection of Michael Lin's painted floor

Floating Teapots, with reflection of Michael Lin’s painted floor

Leaving that phantasmagoric-tea-party, I proceeded into the 2nd floor gallery of Asian Export Art from China…

Asian Export art from China

Asian Export art from China

Well-traveled wallpaper

Well-traveled wallpaper

Strathallan Castle Wallpaper

Strathallan Castle Wallpaper

…and then wandered across to the 2nd floor Japanese Art Gallery…

Vase. Copper & Enamel. 1892

Vase. Copper & Enamel. 1892

Elephant. Porcelain, copper & gold. Late 17th century.

Elephant. Porcelain, copper & gold. Late 17th century.

Japanese Palanquin. Photo courtesy of Richard Stein.

Japanese Palanquin. Photo courtesy of Richard Stein.

…and then to the adjoining gallery of Chinese Art:

Chinese Moon Bed. 1876. Satinwood, other woods & ivory. Held together with wooden pegs & 4 butterfly-shaped wedges. There are no screws or nails, and Bed breaks down into 53 major parts.

Chinese Moon Bed. 1876. Satinwood, other woods & ivory. Held together with wooden pegs & 4 butterfly-shaped wedges. There are no screws or nails, and Bed breaks down into 53 major parts.

Accepting that I’d have to come back on another day to properly appreciate the bounty of the Chinese and Japanese Galleries, I tripped downstairs, and passed these splendid twins, who guard the entry to the Garden Restaurant, which is open during clement weather, in the Asian Garden & Terrace.

The FOO DOGS...who guard the food.

The FOO DOGS…who guard the food.

Asian Garden & Terrace, in warmer weather. Photo courtesy of Richard Stein.

Asian Garden & Terrace, in warmer weather. Photo courtesy of Richard Stein.

Continuing my fast survey of the galleries, I ended that day’s PEM-tour in the 1st floor Galleries of American Art, Cleopatra’s Barge (no…not THAT Cleopatra!), and Maritime Art.

Mantel from the Nathan Reed House. Designed & carved by none other than our favorite all-round-genius-and-builder-of-beautiful-houses, Samuel McIntire.
Circa 1800.

Reed House fire screen

Reed House fire screen

Cheek to jowl with McIntire's circa 1800 mantel are two tables, both built in 2006. On the left: an Altar Table. On the right: An Inception Stand.

Cheek to jowl with McIntire’s circa 1800 mantel are two tables, both built in 2006. On the left: an Altar Table. On the right: An Inception Stand.

To explain the Barge

To explain the Barge

The Lavish Interior of Cleopatra's Barge

The Lavish Interior of Cleopatra’s Barge

Maritime Art Gallery

Maritime Art Gallery

Explaining the massive ship model

Explaining the massive ship model

Model of RMS Queen Elizabeth

Model of RMS Queen Elizabeth

the Loooooonnnnngggg Side

the Loooooonnnnngggg
Side

FURNESS BERMUDA. Poster by Adolph Treidler. Mid 1900s.

FURNESS BERMUDA. Poster by Adolph Treidler. Mid 1900s.

On the snowy morning of January 29th, after a very good night’s sleep at Salem’s Hawthorne Hotel (which I recommend), I was back at PEM’s doorstep, this time to attend a Press Preview Opening Reception for the Museum’s pivotal show of Modern Indian Art. The title of the Show is exhaustingly but necessarily long:

MIDNIGHT TO THE BOOM: PAINTING IN INDIA AFTER INDEPENDENCE, FROM THE PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM’S HERWITZ COLLECTION.
ON VIEW FEBRUARY 2 THROUGH APRIL 21, 2013.

Despite my training in art, and a lifetime of museum-going, I confess that, prior to receiving PEM’s invitation to their Press Preview, I hadn’t given a thought to contemporary Indian art. To me, one could want nothing more than to ogle India’s early frescoes, or temple carvings, or their warrior-Goddesses, or the sublime Mughal miniature paintings.

Indian Fresco

Indian Fresco

Indian Temple Carvings

Indian Temple Carvings

Durga Slaying the Buffalo Demon!

Durga Slaying the Buffalo Demon!

Mughal Painting

Mughal Painting

The concept of vital, modern art being done—of a Positive-Painting-Scene on the Indian Subcontinent—simply hadn’t entered my brain. This is proof, once again, that the happiest state of being is near-ignorance, because such ignorance ensures that one need never be bored…there’s always LOTS more to learn! And so, with the help of the Show’s guest curator Susan Bean (and former PEM curator of South Asian and Korean art), who kicked the morning off with an extemporaneous talk that was the model for how all such introductory talks should be, I took baby-steps into the world of art that’s appeared since India’s declaration of independence from Britain (at mid-night, on 15 August 1947….which explains the “Midnight” part of the Show’s title. The “Boom” part refers to the country’s economic expansion during the 1990s.).

Guest Curator Susan Bean introduces the Show

Guest Curator Susan Bean introduces the Show

The first thing I noticed is that Bean has mounted the Show to give context:to educate her viewers that India’s painters have been well-aware of the work of their global colleagues. Instead of merely posting an exhibition-card explanation about a particular Indian artist’s affection for the paintings a specific Western artist, Bean has hung paintings by Andrew Wyeth, or Paul Cezanne, or Marc Chagall next to those of their Indian counterparts. These groupings illustrate the ways in which painters respond to the work of other painters. Most of the Show’s paintings are concerned with the idiosyncrasies of modern Indian life, but they’ve also been created as part of ongoing dialogues with the art of Western Europe, and of America. And Indian artists are, of course, still engaged in negotiations with their own, splendid visual history. This stew of the culturally-specific, and of the artistically-universal, provides much food for the brain, and for the eye.

These two, large paintings flank the entrance to the Show:

M.F.Husain. MAN. 1951

M.F.Husain. MAN. 1951

Atul Dodiya. THE BOMBAY BUNCCANEER. 1994 (note the reflection of the British painter David Hockney in the eyeglass lens)

Atul Dodiya. THE BOMBAY BUNCCANEER. 1994 (note the reflection of the British painter David Hockney in the eyeglass lens)

As our Press Kit summarized: “Nearly 70 works by 23 leading artists were selected from PEM’s Chester & Davida Herwitz Collection—internationally recognized as one of the largest and most important assemblages of modern Indian art outside of India. During a time of enormous political and cultural upheaval, artists working in post-independence India were able to express their individual artistic visions, transcending the limits of the region’s traditional art forms.”

Here are the works that especially caught my eye:

M.F.Husain. CAGE V. 1974

M.F.Husain. CAGE V. 1974

S.H.Raza. BINDU LA TERRE. 1983

S.H.Raza. BINDU LA TERRE. 1983

Tyeb Mehta. UNTITLED. 1973

Tyeb Mehta. UNTITLED. 1973

S.H.Raza. UDHO, HEART IS NOT TEN OR TWENTY. 1964

S.H.Raza. UDHO, HEART IS NOT TEN OR TWENTY. 1964

K.G.Subramanyan. On left: GIRL EATING RASAGULLA. 1980.
On right: POTS OF FLOWERS & PINK COW. 1980.

Bhupen Khakhar. MAN EMBRACING. 1980s.

Bhupen Khakhar. MAN EMBRACING. 1980s.

Gieve Patel. GATEWAY. 1981.

Gieve Patel. GATEWAY. 1981.

Gieve Patel. TWO MEN WITH HANDCART. 1979.

Gieve Patel. TWO MEN WITH HANDCART. 1979.

Gulammohammed Sheikh. IN & OUT OF STORY. 1984-85.

Gulammohammed Sheikh. IN & OUT OF STORY. 1984-85.

Manjit Bawa. DHARMA & THE GOD. 1984.

Manjit Bawa. DHARMA & THE GOD. 1984.

Exhibition notes for DHARMA & THE GOD

Exhibition notes for DHARMA & THE GOD

Mangit Bawa. UNTITLED. 1987.

Mangit Bawa. UNTITLED. 1987.

Rameshwar Broota. THROUGH TIME & SPACE  (VANISHING FIGURE). 1991.

Rameshwar Broota. THROUGH TIME & SPACE
(VANISHING FIGURE). 1991.

Bikas Bhattacharjee. DURGA. 1985.

Bikas Bhattacharjee. DURGA. 1985.

Detail of DURGA

Detail of DURGA

Atul Dodiya. 2ND OCTOBER. 1993.

Atul Dodiya. 2ND OCTOBER. 1993.

Atul Dodiya. THE FLOOD IN DHAKA. 2002.

Atul Dodiya. THE FLOOD IN DHAKA. 2002.

Banner in PEM Atrium for MIDNIGHT TO THE BOOM, featuring painting by Ranbir Singh Kaleka. FAMILY--1.  1983.

Banner in PEM Atrium for MIDNIGHT TO THE BOOM, featuring painting by
Ranbir Singh Kaleka. FAMILY–1. 1983.

In square-footage terms— compared to the gallery-acreage of the World’s major repositories of art—the Peabody Essex Museum is a humble player in the museum firmament. But because from its earliest, fractured incarnations the PEM has turned its eyes outward—across oceans, toward the hardest-to-reach lands—the PEM’s perspective has always been as bold and broad and inclusive and mind-stretching as that of any of its much-older, much-larger Cousins-in-Curation. Whether borrowing displays of frivolous finery from Europe’s milliners, or introducing India’s modern painters to America’s museum-goers, the PEM reminds us that creative actions never exist in a vacuum and that the human urge to make beautiful and meaningful objects is universal. A well-carved Salem mantel, a carefully-feathered English hat, a masterfully-painted Indian canvas, or an intricately-constructed Chinese bed all spring from an instinct to make a mark with a physical object…an object that will still exist to speak for us after we’re gone…an object whose continued existence carries a message to all the people we’ll never meet about the ideas and things and values we held most dear. Museums are the repositories of these messages, and the Peabody Essex Museum does a particularly fine job of keeping the voices of artists—those whose names we still know, and many more whose names are long-forgotten—ALIVE.

May this Foo Dog guard you from all harm. PEACE.

May this Foo Dog guard you from all harm. PEACE.

Copyright 2013. Nan Quick—Nan Quick’s Diaries for Armchair Travelers.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express &
written permission from Nan Quick is strictly prohibited.

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The Great Canopy of London’s Skies;Getting Older in Greenwich;& Garden-Strolling at Hampton Court Palace

Twliight view of the southern sky from my top-floor room at London's Sloane Square Hotel

Twliight view of the southern sky from my top-floor room at London’s Sloane Square Hotel

September 25th, 2012. London, England.

Over the course of my six recent Diaries for Armchair Travelers, I’ve paid much attention to the landscapes I explored during my month-long journey. But now, as I complete this series of articles, I find myself remembering the skies of London even more vividly than I can recall the admittedly magnificent sights that lie beneath them.

The more I linger in London—a place that I love for its cornucopia of cultural riches, its parks, its food (London’s restaurants are varied, and fabulous, and not necessarily expensive) and its addictive buzz of energy—the more I suspect that London’s most immaterial aspect is in fact its greatest treasure. As a New Englander I’m accustomed to Blink-and-the-Weather’s-Different, but London’s mercurial skies redefine Meteorological-Quick-Change. Nowhere else have I been where such false twilights can creep so quickly into bright days…and then so abruptly depart. The incessant winds which attack the city from all points of the compass catch clouds, spread them over the city, and then blow mightily to hurry them away. My disorientation during these suddenly-dark moments is similar to the confusion I once felt during a High Noon solar eclipse: when the light unexpectedly fails, the mammal in me objects, and squirms. But London’s ever-changing illumination jolts us away from complacency. The sky–which in a single day can progress from clear sunrise, to high overcast, to coal-dark torrent, to pearly fog, to Cobalt blue and finally to salmon sunset (and with temperatures and levels of moisture which are correspondingly varied) –forces us to continually view the city’s built treasures with fresh eyes. Under each different light, the sights we thought we fully understood are made new, and must thus be reconsidered.

Clearing skies over the Queen's House at Greenwich. AG

Clearing skies over the Queen’s House at Greenwich. AG

Such were the weather conditions on this Tuesday, an occasion which was privately momentous, as it marked the day upon which I passed (without enthusiasm) from one decade into the next. To ease this transition, my dear friends Anne and David Guy, and Janet Hardwick, from whom I’d taken leave on the previous Saturday, suggested that we meet on London’s South Bank, and then embark on a river trip down to Greenwich, where it was David’s inspired idea that I should straddle the Prime Meridian while observing my milestone birthday.

[Note: As in my previous 2 articles, Anne’s photographic contributions will be identified with “AG.”]

My friends’ passage from the Midlands down to London was a three-hour-ordeal: a triad of separate accidents along the various M-Highways had delayed them, and so I had plenty of time for a long morning amble from Sloane Square, through Eaton Square, along Victoria Street, past Parliament Square and Westminster Abbey. I realized as I passed the Abbey that exactly 4 years before, on Sept. 25, 2008, my sister Pam Quick and I had been at this very spot. Yes…if one must march into one’s dotage, London’s the place to do the marching.

Pam in the College Garden at Westminster Abbey, in 2008

Pam in the College Garden at Westminster Abbey, in 2008

Westminster Abbey's College Garden, which is still used to grow medicinal herbs

Westminster Abbey’s College Garden, which is still used to grow medicinal herbs

I crossed Westminster Bridge, and, as always, admired the engineering of the London Eye…

London Eye, & Houses of Parliament

London Eye, & Houses of Parliament

London Eye

London Eye

An Eye Pod

An Eye Pod

….upon which, during another visit in 2009, when I exhibited my garden furniture at the Chelsea Flower Show, Pam had wisely insisted we ride. Only from the heights of the Eye can these views of London be had.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

HIgher up in the Eye in 2009

HIgher up in the Eye in 2009

Our Chelsea Flower Show tent, on the grounds of Christopher Wren's Royal Hospital

Our Chelsea Flower Show tent, on the grounds of Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital

Lorenzo Chairs in our Chelsea Flower Show Exhibit. AG

Lorenzo Chairs in our Chelsea Flower Show Exhibit. AG

Tiara Table & Chairs in our Exhibit. AG

Tiara Table & Chairs in our Exhibit. AG

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lorenzo Chair & Chalice Planter in our Exhibit, with Garden Banners by
Holly Alderman

Even at sidewalk-level, the views of the Thames are nothing to sniff at:

View from the South Bank, across the Thames, toward St.Paul's Cathedral

View from the South Bank, across the Thames, toward St.Paul’s Cathedral

The Thames

The Thames

Finally, at half past Noon, my friends appeared, smiling but bemused by the comedy of errors of their morning’s commute. We embarked on one of the Thames Clippers–the fastest fleet on the River–which delivered us to Greenwich in 37 minutes.

A Thames Clipper

A Thames Clipper

The sights alongside the Thames are so numerous and varied, however, that I would have been perfectly happy if our trip had taken twice the time. Our vessel sped smoothly past Southwark, and The City; past Wapping, and Limehouse; past Canary Wharf, the Isle of Dogs and the Docklands.