Maud Russell – one of the first interior renovators…
Transformed by the ‘lively and beautiful’ Maud Russell, Mottisfont stately home in the verdant depths of the Hampshire countryside has become a rising star arts venue in more modern times. Back in Maud’s day, her fascination with the arts prompted her to invite contemporary artists, designers and writers to the house for weekend retreats and soirees, during which she often commissioned them for inspiring works.
The Whistler Room
In this #InteriorSpotlight article, Art Today will zone in on the famous ‘Whistler Room’. Designed by the internationally-renowned artist himself – Rex Whistler – just before war broke out in 1939, its trompe-l’oeils are a playful interpretation of Mottisfont’s mediaeval origins. The lavishly-decorated sitting room unfortunately proved to be the artist’s final work before his untimely death during active service in France.
Originally an inspirational muralist (his most famous works are at Plas-Newydd and Tate Britain, as well as Mottisfont), Reginald John Whistler also diversified into set design, portraiture and illustration. His talent was evident from a young age, catapulting him into the spotlight and a world of ‘Bright Young Things’ such as photographer Cecil Beaton, poet Siegfried Sassoon and his beautiful muse Lady Caroline Paget (daughter of the 6th Earl of Anglesey – and ultimately Whistler’s lover).
Art Today’s Tour
During Art Today’s tour of the house, this particular room proved awe-inspiring and captivating. With hidden details in every nook and cranny, The Whistler Room reveals its secrets to you at its leisure. From trompe-l’oeil candelabras, to faux books and paintbrushes, and even clandestine inscriptions, this stunning salon’s impish insouciance belies its grandeur.
Whistler was allegedly given the brief to decorate the room in such a way as to ‘deceive the eye’, which he certainly achieved with aplomb. Originally the salubrious Entrance Hall, Maud Russell decided to re-dedicate its function during her renovation works.
The results are impressive – gothick details (alluding to the house’s previous guise as a priory) meet feminine, buttery-yellow decorative paintwork, giving a surprisingly restful, delicate feel.
A Day-Trip from London
This is a must-see destination and is surprisingly easy to get to for a day out. Trains from London Waterloo to Mottisfont & Dunbridge Station take approximately 2 hours and are direct. The house itself is then a short walk (via footpaths and country roads – there is no taxi rank) of about 1 mile. See ‘Mottisfont – How To Get Here’ on the nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont website, for more details.
[Credits: Feature image – The Whistler Room, Mottisfont (detail), Hampshire Life; Mottisfont NT (nationaltrust.org.uk); onelondonone.blogspot.com;