Camden Town Group Paintings Come to Messums Wiltshire

A Very British Collection
Until Sunday 7 July

A pop-up exhibition of important paintings by memebers of the Camden Town Group is on show in the Long Gallery until Sunday.

This collection comes directly from one source and represents one man’s lifetime obsession with the Camden Town Group. Christopher Mason-Watts has been collecting since he was four years old. He began with the colourful little picture cards that appeared in the boxes of Brook Bond tea. He bought his first artwork when he was seventeen and his first serious purchase was a pocket sized painting by Walter Sickert, bought when he was twenty three, it cost him almost a third of his annual salary. He has loved the Camden Town Group since he first discovered their work as a teenager and it was this group that he focused much of his collecting efforts towards. Though they held only three exhibitions between 1911 and 1912, the Camden Town Group was one of the most vital, exciting and well-known collectives of the twentieth-Century British artists.

Upon Sickert’s return to London from Venice in 1905, Harold Gilman, Frederick Spencer Gore, Lucien Pissarro (son of French Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro), Augustus John, Henry Lamb, J.B. Manson, Robert Bevan, Walter Bayes, and Charles Ginner, all recent visitors to Paris, assembled unofficially at Sickert’s studio. There they engaged in lively discussions about the developments in contemporary French art. Their meetings brought a sense of French bohemianism into the English art world of the time. When the critic Frank Rutter joined the group in 1908, he proposed that the group organize itself after the French Salon des Indépendants. They thus formed the Allied Artists Association, completely independent of the established art societies such as the Royal Academy. The association held its exhibits of French and English Post-Impressionism at the Royal Albert Hall. In 1911 Sickert’s circle officially became the Camden Town Group. At the three important exhibitions held at the Carfax Gallery and sponsored by the Camden Town Group in the years 1911 and 1912, early French Fauve and Cubist paintings were introduced to the public.

The Camden Town artists knew the Impressionist technique well but were also open to the influence of Post-Impressionists such as Paul Gauguin and Paul Cézanne. Because the group was primarily interested in pictorial structure, it particularly turned to Cézanne for inspiration. Their subject matter was derived from the everyday life of an English industrial town. Despite a somewhat expressive use of colour, their paintings remained representational and realistic, reflecting an interpretation of a modern aesthetic different from the more formally daring developments emerging in Paris at the same time. The Camden Town Group was absorbed in 1913 by the London Group, a combination of several smaller groups of contemporary English artists.

Works in the Long Gallery include those by Walter John Bayes, Harold Gilman, Sir Robin Philipson (pictured above) Wendela Boreel, Percy Wyndham Lewis, James Bolivar Manson, Therese Lessore and Sylvia Gosse.

For more information on the full collection, visit our Messums London website

Observational Drawing Course with Nesta Fitzgerald


Saturday 29 June 2019

‘A drawing is simply a line going for a walk’ said the artist Paul Klee and in our drawing class we spent quite some time walking around too, seeking inspiration for what we wanted to draw. Nesta suggested that we might do some rubbings of the hexafoils etched into the  walls of the barn but in the end, two teenagers on the course  walked down to the river for inspiration while the rest of the group positioned themselves on the lawn in front of the barn to sketch the buttresses and stubby thatch of Messums magnificent medieval building.

It was a beautifully sunny day and Nesta was an inspiring teacher whose infectious enthusiasm emboldened even the most timid of the draughtsmen.

Putty rubbers were used as a tool for drawing through charcoal, HB pencils hatched the most subtle of delicate lines; some used pen and ink. The air was filled with a cacophony of scratchings and murmurings as Nesta hovered between us with a steam of unbroken eulogies.

We stopped for a delicious lunch in the Mess Restaurant before continuing for a further two hours, culminating in a critical assessment by Nesta of all our works.

The variety was remarkable – illustrating the  diversity of observation of the same subject; something worth noting in all aspects of life, not just drawing.

Nesta was a great champion of us all in a way that particularly affected the younger students, who had started the day reluctant to leave their Instagram accounts and mobile phones, but ended it beaming with satisfaction.

Model Audition for ‘Textile in Motion’

Sunday 14 April, 10am – 4pm

The model casting call has now closed for our Fashion Show but we have scheduled an audition for any additional new faces on Sunday 14 April.

We are looking for boys and girls of all ages and ethnicities, to join us as runway models for our Textile in Motion: Fashion Catwalk Show on Friday 26 April, 7-9pm, walking for designers Sadie Williams, Joshua Millard and Henrik Vibskov.

If you are interested in being part of a unique event please come to the audition on Sunday 14 April 10am – 4pm at The Space, Caro, Grove Alley, Bruton, Somerset BA10 0ET.

You will need to be available on Thursday 25 April for fittings at Messums Wiltshire, Tisbury and Friday 26 April for rehearsals and the live shows.

Please email hannah.hooks@messumswiltshire to register your interest and confirm your place at the audition.

Please note:
Minimum height of 5’8 for girls and 5’10 for boys
Minimum age 16
If you are unable to attend but want to apply, please send full length images along with your measurements to hannah.hooks@messumswiltshire

Models Casting Call for our TEXTILE IN MOTION: Fashion Catwalk Show

Do you have a passion for fashion? Would you like to walk for one of our designers?

We are looking for talented people, of all genders, ages and ethnicity, to join us as runway models for our Textile in Motion: Fashion Catwalk Show on Friday 26 April. If you are interested in being part of a unique event here at the gallery contact us with your details and a full-length recent photograph at and we will pass on to fashion designers Henrik Vibskov and Joshua Millard.

The deadline for applications is Sunday 31 March. Successful applicants will be contacted shortly afterwards.

The final act of our eight week long exhibition dedicated to artists working in tapestry and textile Material: Textile will close with a celebration of fashion as art, with the AW19 couture collections by British womenswear designer Joshua Millard and Danish mens and womenswear designer Henrik Vibskov.

Henrik Vibskov is a graduate of Central St Martins back in 2001, Henrik returned to Denmark where he opened a fashion label under his own name. His work has been shown in publications such as The Face, Brutus, Dazed & Confused, i-D and Wallpaper and he regularly shows at Paris Fashion Week.

Joshua Millard established his London-based womenswear brand in 2016. After graduating from London College of Fashion in Bespoke Tailoring, he gained experience at Jonathan Saunders and on Savile Row. He designs a transitional wardrobe of longevity, born from his clients desire to seek tailoring and outerwear that suggest something new, lasting beyond fast trends.

An Evening with Ceramicist Patricia Low

Friday 1 March 2019

Patricia Low creates timeless, archaic pots that, in their clean white simplicity and large bold illustrations, are also very contemporary.
Educated as a painter, first at Swindon art school and then at Chelsea school of art, her love of making pots emerged when she came to live in Wiltshire in the 1980’s and met the distinguished ceramicist, Joanna Still, who taught her to make pots.
Building each pot by hand with white building clay rather than on a wheel, her vessels have a clean creamy finish and are embellished by turtles, rhinoceroses, eagles, moths – a whole range of animals.
In a talk she gave at Messums Wiltshire she explained how each pot takes her between two months and five months to complete, depending on their size. She starts with white builder’s clay rather than red clay as she says she likes “a cleaner finish’ and cradling them in her lap, begins by painting the inside of the pot first – a mesmerising miasma of squiggles and lines that, almost like the ceiling of a Byzantine church invites you into thinking about the Infinite.
‘The insides are the best bit – it all feels rather Zen when I paint it’ she says. ‘I map the design all out on a piece of paper first and try and copy it using a very fine sable brush until I get into a rhythm. Drawing is very cerebral.’
She added; ‘There is not enough room to do complicated animal drawings; when I first started I had to get used to painting to accommodate the swell on the pot.’
Her first sales success came when the textile designer Georgina von Etzdorf and her co-founder, Martin Simcock, asked to use her vessels as containers for their luxurious range of velvet ties and scarves at a trade fair in London.
The show resulted in dozens of orders for Low whose career has since gone from strength to strength and whose pots have got bigger and won ever more acclaim.
‘We had so much fun, with parties and madness and art’ she said.
As Johnny Messum concluded; ‘Patricia has created pots that are fundamentally different. Behind an incredible character is a steely determination bringing ceramics into the mainstream.’
An exhibition of Patricia Low’s pots is at Salisbury Museum in October 2020.

TALK: with Light Artist Michael Hulls

Saturday 8 December 2018

A single golden star winking in the middle of the barn accompanied by quiet tolling of bells launched Michael Hulls‘ Tungsten Requiem last Friday at Messums Wiltshire – an elegy to the humble light bulb now being tossed into the dustbin of history to make way for LEDs.
The single light was soon joined by clusters of others, illuminating the rafters of the barn like nests of fireflies.
Some people lay down on the warm floor of the barn, to fully appreciate the gentle glow of pulsing filaments burning, hissing and crackling within the bulbs.
In a discussion following the performance, Michael Hulls, an associate artist with Sadlers Wells Theatre said the piece reflected his ‘rage against the dying of the light.’
‘We are looking at a species on the point of extinction – tiny pinpricks of light that will soon be no longer’ he said.


Tungsten Requiem

Hulls spent thousands of pounds buying up boxes of the discontinued light bulbs – largely from Germany.
‘I love seeing that burning filament and got my credit card out and started hoovering up all the lights I can find,’ he said.
The bulbs have a life expectancy of 2000 hours, based on burning non stop at 100%. In my pieces we are upto a maximum of 20% and even then only intermittently, so that is into years and years.
Each of the 9 hanging constellations of Tungsten bulbs are named after different stars – Castor Pollux, Polaris and Antares – in a variety of sizes containing between nine and 52 bulbs each.
As well as the beautiful golden light they emit are the shadows and shapes that form on the floor under each light fitting, reminiscent of the crystalline shapes of snowflakes. Contrasting with the warm, solar light of the Tungsten bulbs is the cold blue lunar coloured LED lights at the top of each light Tungsten constellation.

Michael said he ‘wanted the lights to have a relationship with each other at some times but not at others.’
He added, ‘Different points in the soundtrack triggers different sequence of lights. An aspect of a Tungsten bulb is that as they become bright you feel their warmth like our own precious star. The LED lights are cold whereas the burning Tungsten filament makes energy visible, like an open fire that works on all of us at a fundamental level.’
Summing up Johnny Messum described the art work as a ‘dance in light;’ summarising both how elements of Michael Hulls’ light pieces relate to each other and also life itself.

Read more about ‘Tungsten Requiem’ as part of our Material Light exhibition at

Read more about Michael Hulls at:


TALK: ‘Life of Brian’ with Richard Cork & Brian Taylor’s Family

Brian_Taylor_(events page)

Saturday 17 November 2018

Brian Taylor’s son Gabriel with his portrait busts

The picture created of Brian Taylor by his family and friends after being gently probed by the former art critic of the Times, Richard Cork in a discussion at Messums Wiltshire was of a quiet and ‘very difficult man’ but also one passionately devoted to his art.
‘I was told I couldn’t meet Brian because he was in a black depression,’ said the wife of Brian Taylor recalling their first encounter at St Martin’s art school where she was a pupil and he was her teacher. ‘So I went up to him and told him that we had a tutorial booked. I knew I had a lot to learn and he said you need four, one hour drawing classes in the sculpture department.‘
Their son Gabriel described how he sat ‘for hours’ for his father, starting from when he was six years old to create some of the best loved sculptures the artist did.
‘When he was working he wouldn’t be interrupted by anything; he was totally absorbed in what he was doing. He was a man of few words and there weren’t ongoing exchanges. When you sat for him, you felt you had arrived in his territory. We watched old films and DVD’s or listened to cassette tapes as we sat for him for sessions that lasted for up to three hours and sometimes longer.’
‘I did fall asleep when he was sculpting me – which is why my head is down in one of the portraits’
Gabriel added that he continues to see new things in the sculptures made by his father. ‘You can never take enough from these pieces. He was temperamental and could be stubborn but he was a genius with his work.’
Michelle said; ‘He was very temperamental and didn’t talk a lot. He hated small talk – the important things in life were sculpture, gardening and cooking. He was always busy.
Even though I was a painter and he was a sculptor we didn’t clash; he believed the fundamental basis of all our work was drawing ; he was a great lover of painting, in particular Masaccio and Della Francesca.
He understood that painting was all about painting the person from the inside and he applied the same principles to his sculptures.
You really get a sense of the personality of the people he worked on. He told the individual story about them.’

Read more about our exhibition ‘Brian Taylor: A Retrospective’ at

TALK: with Decorative Artist & Gilder Tuesday Riddell

Saturday 1 December 2018

Tuesday Riddell lived up to her surname when she started explaining the arcane practices that go into creating her delicate and intricate lacquer ware paintings during a talk at Messums Wiltshire.
Holding a wooden panel that she had sanded and then painted with a mixture of varnish, powdered iron and volcanic ash she demonstrated how she creates her quietly elegiac works featuring golden insects quietly devouring each other on the forest floor.

Each picture takes three days to prepare and Tuesday usually has six on the go at the same time. Having drawn a beetle in glue onto the board, she then delicately brushed on a fluttering piece of gold leaf with the effect that the image of the beetle materialised, it seemed, out of nowhere.
‘I am very meditative when I am making my lacquer ware pieces – they force me to concentrate. I have to stay very calm when I am painting them as there is no space for error. If I skip a meal my hand will shake and the work will be ruined.’
The hardest and most dangerous part of the process she said was right at the end of creating a piece when she sweeps the whole board with a final coat of shellac that he has to paint quickly and without hesitation. One false move and the images underneath can be destroyed.

The process begins with preparing a board with up to 30 layers of European lacquer which is sanded between layers to create a mirrored black surface to then paint images upon with gold which will afterwards be gilded with 23.5 carat gold and silver leaf before brushing off the excess gold to unveil the image on the surface. She subsequently builds up the shaded background with line, gold powders and metal flakes before being layered with the final coats of varnish.

The pieces are, she revealed, a quiet elegy to the destruction of the planet by mankind.

She mourns the destruction of the forest and its tiny inhabitants in her miniature worlds of golden insects devouring each other on the forest floor.

‘These dark enchanting techniques are especially suited to my voice as an artist,’ she said. ‘The mirrored reflective surface lends an elegance and grace fitting to my images and compositions.’

‘I want to reflect the mass loss of species caused by global warming’ she said. ‘Insects are used as symbols in a political scene in which horror contrast with beauty. Whimsical small animals and insects devour each other and the birds are dying.’

Tuesday has been inspired by amongst others, Otto Marseus van Shriek – a 17th Century Dutch master of vanitas paintings. ‘We have at our disposal technologies that are numbing and unhealthy. This escape from reality created a need in me to return to physical material.’
Artists Grayson Perry and Rakib Shaw as well as stores like Liberties are all exploring art of the past she pointed out; William Morris’ designs are currently being used for a new range of clothes by Gucci.
‘I care about aesthetic legacies and lacquer work is one area which is not yet surpassed by modern ways of doing things. A lot of modern techniques give the art a Disneyland, plasticky feel, and it is important to me to keep the human, manual product’ she said.

When making her works she can get small ones finished in a couple of weeks or six weeks for the biggest works. Now, she wants to go still bigger – making works six-foot high.

‘Lacquer ware is a bridge to our past culture,’ she said, ‘but it must evolve with contemporary art practice – I want to take it to new places.’

Tuesday’s works are on show in the Long Gallery until Sunday 22 December, read more at

Friends Studio Visit: Sculptor Laurence Edwards

Friday 30 November 2018

It is rare to be able to gain access to an artist’s studio, they are places like the recesses of a mind where ideas are borne and considered before they are ever let out into the public eye. They are in every sense private spaces, and yet to be invited into these is to step behind the finished object and to see their inner workings much like taking the back off a clock. They can be extraordinarily beautiful in their execution of process. So it was when we stepped into the first of two studios belonging to sculptor Laurence Edwards. This was his day or ‘Morning Studio’ up on the remote towns of Suffolk. A place that was once a Fire Station and is now a light infused, detritus strewn start point for all of Laurence’s works. In the corner are a set of dented metal tubs holding murky mouldy clay. This sort of embryonic soup is the recycled clay that his destroyed sculptures go into, only to be resurrected again into new forms. ‘My earliest sculpture is probably in there’ muses Laurence as we stare at his latest ongoing work. Handfuls of clay wrestled and pulled over asteel armature that still protrudes through in places, a primordial figure wrestling out of the ground. It is proving impossible to take it all at once so we fire questions at random, why Reindeer horns cast in wax? – Inspiration from a wild trip up onto the Russian Tundra to study the Reindeer herders with one of the countries leading anthropologists. Laurence tells of a Russian approach to travel where breaking down and fixing your means of transport are as much part of the journey as the destination itself. ‘It was a remarkable experience’ he said ‘to journey for days and to meet these people who had probably never had contact with western humans before and to witness their relationship with the land was extraordinary.

There are also a fine set of Antlers on the wall and we alight on them by way of contrast I could not work with those Laurence answers there is too much heraldic significance, feudal weighting, but these (the antlers smuggled back from Russia) these speak of something else ‘They are admittedly much smaller and certainly less grand, more accessible perhaps and we muse on the distinction. Other parts of the building are set aside for working in Wax, this perhaps is the material or moment that really defines Laurence’s work. Having trained at the Royal College of Art and won the Henry Moore Scholarship, it was really the process o f bronze casting that became his fascination with a life aim of mastering both modelling and casting work. In achieving this he is one of the rarer artists working today and certainly process is very much at the forefront of his work. Process is the topic that we turn to as he leads us through a complicated figure in wax, wood and rope that is on a stand in the middle of the room. ‘This figure is out of memories that have been percolating in my mind since coming back from the outback of Australia in Spring 2018. There the landscape makes such extraordinary impact on your mind, I remember desicated foxes hung off trees and wire fencing that has withstood deluges of flood borne detritus that has clung on through months of heat. ‘These thoughts have become in Laurence’s work – a small figure stands with arms outstretched weighted down by organic material. We begin to learn about how decisions are being made here relating to the bronze casting process. Runners and Risers (the tributaries for hot liquid bronze entering the mould and the escape of air). What looked at first to be a piece of rope or twig leading off from the midriff of figure may in fact turn out to be the escape route for air a it is replaced by bronze in the casting process -or i t may be both. The duality of form and purpose here leaves us all wanting to understand more about the bronze casting process itself, so after wandering the various rooms of his studio which seem so laden with idea in a state of flux we went in pursuit of the finished object: an altarpiece at Blythborough church a few miles away.

Read more about sculptor Laurence Edwards at

Dance with Alistair Spalding CBE, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Sadler’s Wells

Wednesday 21 November 2018

With the unlikely tunes of a late soundcheck still playing in the background, the director of Sadler’s Wells, home to some of the most exciting contemporary dance today took to the stage to start a talk only ever heard once before.
Immediately the surprising image of Louis XIV appeared on the screen in a rather fetching period costume. It was the Sun King’s personal interest in dance that led to the codification of the ballet moves that survive today. Ballet we learned provided pleasure and interest in his court and was also in part a reflection of the stylised moves and postures the courtesans themselves adopted as outward signifiers of rank and class. The subsequent rise and rise of ballet in Paris, Russia and Norway broadly followed dynastic lines of marriage amongst Royal families.
Alistair contrasted this with the opening of Dick Sadler’s hall of entertainment in 1683 in Islington. A great many lines of entertainment ensued, reenacting sea battles on a stage full of water, fisticuffs, wrestling with the occasional sing song sent in to test the artistic heights, such it appeared was the status quo for much of entertainment in England . Dance was noticable mostly for its absence with a clear preference at any societal level for the theatrical, the linguistic or the bawdy. A lineage that was suggested aligned to the more Teutonic interests our Royal household and associated countries.
Alistair then outlined the weypoints in dance from that point generally, chiefly the period of 1890- 1895 and two men Ivan Vsevolozhsky and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky who wrote what have been consistently been the three most popular performances ever since: Sleeping Beaty, The Nutcracker and Swanlake.

Moving onwards he highlighted the role of the Choreographer and in particular Diaghilev who had come into Ballet following a passion for collecting Art, that is to say with no specific dance background. His company, the Ballet Russe would go on to change to the course of dance and their performance in 1913 of “The Rite of Spring” is widely considered to be the starting gun for modernism in Ballet and the beginning of contemporary dance as we know it now. A distinction that he drew loosely as an interest and association with the ground and weight as opposed to weightlessness in earlier dance forms.Needless to say the intial performance was reported to have started a small riot of outrage.

Back at Sadler’s Well another towering figure took to centre stage. Lillian Bayliss was the remarkable producer who ran not only Sadler’s Wells but also The Old Vic with a vision to “create art for the artisans of Islington”. Perhaps the clearest testament to her endeavours was the formation of both the English National Opera and the Royal Ballet, both out of Sadler’s Wells. So it was not until 1928 that a Ballet Company formally existed in the UK!

The development of Modern Dance gathered pace quickly from this point, with notable influences in forms of expression coming from the dance hall and show business, notably Fred Astaire whose untrained and natural movement would influence and inspire George Balanchine at the New York Ballet. American influence at Sadler’s extended to the drive of Robin Howard, an ex Fighter pilot who had lost his legs but brought Martha Graham and the Graham technique to London. Later in the 80s the impact of Hip hop and the Rock Steady Crew, would be followed by the burst of creativity in Music Video, Michael Jackson and Bruce Lee. Remarkable pools of inspiration at first sight but formative on some of the current greats such as Wayne MacGregor and Hofesh Shekter.

Meanwhile in Europe and particularly Germany a more extreme minimalism had taken root. Some people are just simply ahead of the thought processes others and so it was with Pina Bausch and her work in the industrial town of Wuppertal in Germany. Her studied works have become canons of modernism and play to packed audiences whenever they travel.

Sadler’s position in this, as the showcase for dance really clarified in 2000 with Alistair taking the helm in 2005 and made commitment to just present dance. Sadler’s does not support a dance troupe, positioning instead with selected Choreographers who in term have their own crews. The divisions between Ballet and contemporary dance have narrowed and there has also been a willingness to take on and introduce inspiration from different fields such as contemporary art.

The future looks as exciting with the announcement of a development into the East of London as part of the Olympic legacy and a commitment to promote and present more female choreographers

In 2016 Sadler’s Wells Associate Choreographer Russell Maliphant was the first to set a performance in the barn
In 2017 New Wave Choreographer Alexander Whitley presented the second piece.

A number of dance Students attended and supper was served in the Mess Restaurant

Read more about Alistair and his work at Sadler’s Wells at
Read more about the dance performances we have shown at Messums Wiltshire in collaboration with Sadler’s Wells by choreographers Russell Maliphant and Alexander Whitley

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