After I wrote about “Smirke Revisited”, various works of art duly arrived at Eastnor on loan from the Lonsdale collection, and we had the excitement of unpacking and unwrapping the items as they were delivered. I image my ancestors had the same experience as their purchases arrived from the Grand Tour, or its mid-19th century equivalent, though I suspect they would have been more in a supervisory capacity rather than in a hands-on role as I was and I doubt that so much of high quality would ever have arrived at one time.
We then had the challenge of displaying it all. I had done some planning and bought in a quantity of heavy hooks and chain from Frank B Scragg of Birmingham. Our first job was to fix cast iron hooks to the backs of the frames as the Lowther picture hanging system was different from ours. We then suspended the new chains from existing rails, after moving our own pictures to one side to make room for the distinguished visitors. We then offered up the new paintings to see what they looked like. On the whole, they looked excellent.
In the first image, David Littlewood, our Business Manager, and Anthony Marriott, one of our house managers, have just finished helping me hang a painting of Lowther Castle from the park by Turner. Obviously a very good painting, it was nevertheless hard to see without a picture light, so we asked Tom Oates from Chelsea Lighting Design to produce a light that would exactly illuminate it after I had sent all the dimensions. Then the second image shows the Turner in the middle, duly lit after Tom and two colleagues came down and did the job. The effect is dramatic. The painting is now the highlight of the Dining Room, if not the whole display, and the light exactly covers all the canvas and frame, whereas our old-fashioned lights used just to light the top of the painting-and overheat the canvas in the process. We have also had Tom fit new lights to six other paintings on his visit.
I hope our visitors will appreciate the new display when we re-open to the public at Easter in 2014. Meanwhile, I am glad the bulbs have a predicted life of 4000 hours!
JH-B 17th November 2013