West Surrey Area
Museums & Art Galleries
Artist, Architect and
of the lecture
given by Caroline Knight BA MA
on May 22nd 2013
Our Chairman was not alone, when, introducing the
subject for the lecture by Caroline Knight, he confessed to a certain
lack of knowledge about William Kent. We were also unaware of his
but were soon to become well acquainted with the diverse talents and
accomplishments of this Artist, Architect and Garden Designer and
wonder, previously, how we could have been so unaware of his
contributions to so many of our “National Treasures”.
Caroline initially took us through many examples of Kent’s work from
the improvements to the Towers and Wings at Badminton House to a
wonderful table designed for Sir Robert Walpole at Houghton Hall
featuring Cornucopia and a Bacchus Mask, via a chandelier created for
King George II, book illustrations for James Thompson’s poem “Spring”
and a sarcophagus which had been bought by a patron on a Grand Tour and
for which Kent had created a clever design resulting in it being
mounted on black balls and placed on a marble plinth.
As Caroline shared with us examples of his work we soon began to
realise that Kent had possessed an ability to turn his hand to fulfil
almost any artistic challenge. His early employer had encouraged
study art, design and architecture and in 1709 he was sent to Rome for
a period of study. He had a genius for getting on with people,
relaxed and easy going and in Italy his charming ways endeared him to
many future patrons. He was influenced by many of the ruins of
Rome and the gardens that he visited. Grottoes, sculptured trees,
statues, white marble against green hedges and water features would all
become part of his creative thinking when commissions came his way.
Lord Burlington of Holkham Hall was perhaps the most influential person
that he met. His invitation to “Come and join my household and I
promote your work” resulted in Kent working with him for 29 years.
Amongst the many fine examples of his architectural work and furniture
and interior design that we particularly liked were his contributions
to Burlington House, Houghton Hall and Chiswick House.
Horace Walpole, a great admirer of Kent, stated “He leaped the fence
and saw all nature in the garden” and this was evident in Caroline’s
images of Rousham. We plan to visit the garden as it seems to be
the finest examples of his redesigns. Here Kent made a garden of
immense variety making use of steep slopes, creating an arcade, a great
arch on the hill, a watery walk, plunge pool and alcoves with benches
painted in soft grey and picked out in white.
As a result of Caroline’s enthusiastic and most enjoyable talk on a
multi talented man, our other planned visit is to an exhibition of his
work in London early next year. We look forward to furthering our
knowledge of William Kent: Artist, Architect and Garden Designer.
Marian and Barrie Heathcote
Related Links (open in new windows):
Rousham House & Gardens