A fascinating new exhibition of posters and original artwork has just opened at Upton House, a National Trust house near Banbury, and I was delighted to receive an invitation to its opening following a recent post I wrote about our visit to Upton House on my birthday. The exhibition, Shell and the Art of Advertising, shines new light on the artwork of early 20th century advertising, and aims to help highlight Upton House as a worthy destination on the art scene. Despite its extensive collection of art – which includes notable artists such as Canaletto – its location away from the hustle and bustle of London means that this valuable collection can sadly get overlooked. It shouldn’t be!
The invitation to the exhibition launch arrived on this amazing handmade paper, and we met the chap who designed it, Brian, during the course of the evening. It turned out that he’d flown with Lee in the past – small world!
After the stress of our recent European flying adventures, a cultural Saturday evening spent at a beautiful country house was just what the doctor ordered. We felt rather privileged to be able to drive up the drive to park by the front door, rather than in the main carpark to the side, so we enjoyed a view that wealthy house guests would have enjoyed as they arrived for a weekend shooting party back in the 1930s.
We received a warm welcome at the door from Andrew, the chap responsible for organising Upton’s excellent programme of events. No sooner were we through the door than we had been handed a glass of Champagne, and it was lovely to see the house alive with people enjoying themselves – that is, after all, what the house was built for. We had a little wander around the Long Gallery, and relished having the room largely to ourselves.
The back doors were open but the wind was chilly, so we only had a brief stroll outside – sadly the weather wasn’t kind enough to allow us to have drinks on the terrace, but this is England after all!
Funnily enough, I wrote in my previous post about Upton that all that was missing was a glass of Champagne – so here I am on the terrace with a glass of Champagne!
The forget-me-knots looked beautiful in the early evening sun.
After enjoying the house, mingling with the guests and talking to many of the lovely staff, who were all so kind and welcoming, we were invited to make our way across the terrace to the Squash Court Gallery for the exhibition.
This old squash court was converted into an art gallery decades ago when Viscount Bearsted ran out of room for his art collection, but as you can see from the photo below, evidence of its former use can still be seen in the red lines on the floor. We thought this a wonderful reminder of the past, and to get this picture we were actually standing in the spectators’ gallery!
As you can see in the photo above, many of the original artworks upon which the posters were based are displayed beneath the posters themselves, which makes you appreciate the fact that these were by contemporary artists who were well-known for their own art. The posters all run along the theme of different groups of people “preferring Shell” – and when you take a closer look at adverts today, you realise that not that much has really changed! This was my favourite; I love the detail, with the seagulls, ship and lighthouse in the background, and the colourful little beach huts.
While we were admiring the artworks we were treated to some delicious canapes, followed up by my very favourite chocolates: Guylian shell chocolates, which fitted the Shell theme perfectly!
After the main exhibition we were allowed to go into the picture gallery in the main house, with one of the guides to tell us all about some of the paintings. The house was so quiet and peaceful, and it was an enormous privilege to be able to experience it after hours. You can see me in this picture – sporting my new favourite dress!
We had such a lovely evening at Upton House and everyone there was so warm and friendly. I would recommend it to anybody, whether you’re into art or not, and you can find details of how to visit here. The exhibition is on throughout 2014 – don’t miss it!