Last Wednesday I had the delightful excuse to head out of London with a colleague, leaving trails of traffic in the wake of the tube strike, to deliver 10 watercolours of roses by Graham Stuart Thomas (1909-2003) for inclusion in the current exhibition ‘Gardens of Delight’ at Mottisfont, Hampshire.
This is a particularly special loan, as not only is it the first time these paintings have been loaned out for display, and the first time we have had the pleasure of working with Mottisfont, but these pictures are in some sense re-visiting an old home.
Thomas was Gardens Advisor to the National Trust for many years and a professional nurseryman, but his over-riding passion was for roses. He collected and cultivated old garden varieties, publishing his highly regarded book The Old Shrub Roses in 1955. His collection of old roses forms the centrepiece for the beautiful walled rose garden he was asked to design at Mottisfont Abbey in 1971. These illustrations are all drawn from life, from the roses that grow there. Thomas said he considered the rose garden his ‘design masterpiece.’ It is therefore really quite special for visitors to have the opportunity to see the paintings in the exhibition, and then to see the rose ‘sitters’ out in the garden. It is supposed to be heavenly in June when they all come into bloom.
I hope you will have the opportunity to visit this fascinating National Trust property and immerse yourself in ‘Gardens of Delight’…
Exhibition runs from 3 May - 6 July at Mottisfont
Above: Rosa ‘Violette’, Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’, Rosa ‘Rose-Marie Viaud’, Rosa ‘Bleu Magenta’, Rosa ‘Goldfinch’.
Right: Three Old Rambling Roses: ‘Adélaide d’Orléans’, ‘Félicité Perpétue’ and ‘Spectabilis’.
Picture credits: RHS, Lindley Library