Tuesday 1 April 2014


Spent the day at Kelmarsh Hall today. It’s where a large part of what remains of the Croome collection is housed, a good deal of it on display on the first floor. As it is closed to the public at this time of year, we had the house to ourselves, giving us plenty of time and space to have a good look at everything.

On the ground floor of the house there is a room with some fantastic Chinese wallpaper, presumably much like that which 
used to be in the Chinese bedroom at Croome: hand-painted in China, it looked like it had been cut into pieces then reassembled at Kelmarsh. One or two things were evidently painted on in-situ. Jane also mentioned a young designer called Lucy Hutchinson who has produced some Chinese wallpaper, to be shown at the New Art West Midlands 2014 exhibition.

From wallpapers to the large oil paintings of the Coventry family, there is so much to decode – especially with portraits. When confronted with a portrait I always wonder who (if anyone) has the upper hand: the artist or the subject?

A lot of the furniture is exquisite, although there are some larger pieces that I didn’t find terribly exciting. Of course, this style of furniture was very new and unusual when new, 
but Adam’s style has been so much copied and reproduced that in the more ordinary pieces there was little of real interest for me. It was also early in his career when he was designing these pieces.

I enjoyed the recurrence of the claws on the feet of chairs and small tables. I suppose this has allusions to Greek and Roman emperors, and adventure in Africa. And the French furniture and ceramics were rather nice too. All the designs and shapes are organic and pre-industrial in inspiration, as are the materials, of course.
It strikes me how there is a fetishisation (verging on worship) of historical/antique objects and works of art, often with a value (not only monetary) assigned to them that is way beyond what might seem reasonable. 
The same can be seen with contemporary objects, like Apple products, or shoes, and it also applies to any work by an individual designer/artist.
I imagine this has always been the case: since humans first fashioned objects from raw materials – initially for a particular purpose (be it functional and/or decorative) but then affording their owners a status (be it self-reflexive and/or by third-parties) that is purely subjective.
But it was a beautifully sunny day, and I'm sure we'll have plenty more to do with Kelmarsh.

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