We returned to Essex in 2013, and now live near to where my grandfather lived. Whilst my wife Sybilla grew up in Gloucestershire her family lived just outside Chelmsford until about 1759 so this marked a return of sorts for her too!
We both have some fairly obsessive collectors in our families. Modern British on my side, Old Masters on hers. It perhaps isn’t surprising that even when we were stuck in London we spent what spare money we had on paintings, mostly East Anglian ones.
On arrival in Essex we started building a new garden over about five acres which quickly became an obsession. I wrote a book about the early days "Skymeadow: Notes from an English Gardener" and was delighted to be asked to write a second "No Fear Gardening: How to Think Like a Gardener".
In this part of the world there is a long tradition of “painter gardeners”, most notably Sir Cedric Morris, but John Nash would be another among many. Painting and gardening have always seemed two ends of the same thing to us. The collectors instinct is triggered as you amass plants, but it is more than that. The best gardens and the best paintings both celebrate “place”.
About a year ago we had the idea to turn a small cottage at the top of the garden into a gallery. This act was intrinsically linked to the garden itself. We have been selling more paintings than we thought we would, but when I buy something I still buy it "for myself" I just have to go through a period of internal wrangling in order to then let the piece “go”. There is no point having a gallery if there is nothing for sale within it!
We are especially interested in East Anglian paintings from Constable through to the many less well known local artists who have nevertheless made significant contributions to the regions cultural fabric over the last few hundred years. We do stray further afield but there is usually some sort of link if you scratch hard enough.
We now offer an art advisory service too, specialising in East Anglian paintings. The work is fun, especially when the garden itself is less demanding. Sybilla writes a piece each month on historic houses for Essex Life magazine and I write a gardening column in the Catholic Herald. We are usually scribbling, looking after children or ferreting out pieces of art. We have new stock coming in every week.
Rare & Beautiful Art.
© Skymeadow Gallery