Sunday. Emma and I took a day trip down to Hampshire today to Mottisfont so that I could enjoy two of my most favourite things. Snowdrops, and an exhibition of work by my favourite artist, Rex Whistler. For years Rex, has been in the shadow of his more famous namesake, but he finally seems to be getting the recognition that he deserves.
Rex Whistler was an artist, like many others, who’s life and career was cut short by the war. I first encountered his work whilst a teenager on a family outing to Plas Newydd on Anglesey where you can look on Rex Whistler’s largest, most-famous, and probably best mural. I studied him for an A-Level art project, and corresponded his brother to borrow some of the rarer books, and have collected a number of his books and made pilgrimages to see other pictures and murals. Whilst working on my A-Level project, my parent’s drove me down to London one Sunday to see the mural in (what is now) Tate Britain’s restaurant … only to find it closed. We managed to talk our way in though, and I managed to swipe a menu that had a detail from the mural on the cover.
Rex Whistler was a master of trompe l’œil – a visual illusion where the eye is tricked into perceiving a two-dimensial painting as a three-dimensional object. Whilst, at Plas Newydd the trompe l’œil is a pictorial scene to mirror that of the Welsh mountains opposite through the windows, at Mottisfont, his mural is the room itself. With the exception of some plain, curved coving and a few details around the bay windows, the entire room is one huge trompe l’œil of plasterwork effect. It’s a stupendous achievment.
At the moment, the National Trust have an exhibition of his other work, which included portraiture, book illustrations, posters, advertisements, cartoons, doodles on war documents, and stage designs.
It goes to say that the snowdrops in the gardens were wonderful, as was the beautiful setting by the Test river valley, with firecrest dogwoods in the winter garden.