We are excited to share with you the news that we have recently been successful in acquiring a new painting for the collection at Attingham.
The painting was not previously known to us but it is intimately related to Attingham. Painted by Ethel Sands (1873-1962) it shows an interior view of The Boudoir, one of the property’s most beautiful rooms. From archival evidence it is possible to date it to November 1929 and it provides a charming depiction of the layout of the room at that time.
Ethel Sands was born in the United States but moved with her family to England in 1874, living initially in London before moving to Paris in 1894 to study painting. Following the death of her parents, she divided her time between Paris, Oxford and London.
Her paintings were generally of interiors and still lifes and she first exhibited in Paris at the Salon d’Automne. In later life she exhibited works at the New English Art Club and the Women’s International Art Club and played an active role in patronising modern artists while also establishing herself as an important hostess in cultured English society.
In 1929, Attingham was the home of Teresa Hulton, wife of Thomas Noel-Hill, 8th Lord Berwick. They had married in Venice in June 1919 and had returned to Attingham later that year, although they had initially lived at Cronkhill.
It is not known when or where Teresa and Thomas were first introduced to Ethel Sands but it is possible that they mixed within the same social circles in London. Teresa and Ethel had a mutual acquaintance in the artist Walter Sickert who painted portraits of both women and Teresa also knew the American artist John Singer Sargent, a friend of her father’s, who had painted a portrait of Ethel Sands’ mother.
Teresa and Ethel were similar women in a number of ways. Both had been born abroad but came to live in England and both were artistic and spent part of their early adult years absorbing artistic influences in early twentieth century Europe. Both were courageous and nursed wounded soldiers close to the front line during the First World War, Ethel on the Western Front in France and Teresa to the east on the Italian Front. Both also liked to socialise.
Our archive records confirm that Ethel Sands visited Attingham on at least two occasions in 1929 and that she and Teresa subsequently met in London on various occasions for tea and lunch. Her name, written in pencil is just visible at the bottom of the page in the Guest Book for the house in November 1929, although the entry was written by Teresa rather than Ethel herself. However, her presence at the house is confirmed by entries in Teresa’s personal diaries and it is possible that Ethel painted her view of The Boudoir interior on this visit, or made sketches from which the painting was later created.
The Boudoir itself has a fascinating history. It is thought to have been specifically designed for Anne Vernon, 1st Lady Berwick, and features a delicate, French painted and gilded decorative scheme based upon designs by Angelica Kauffman and featuring ‘grotesque’ decorations attributed to Delabriere. The intricate decorative scheme was possibly one of the few to be fully completed when the house was first occupied in the mid 1780’s.
The room also includes a ‘trompe-l’oeil’ design effect as it appears to incorporate five doors but in reality only two of these actually provide access.
Teresa Hulton sat in The Boudoir for her 1924 portrait by Sir Gerald Kelly which continues to hang at Attingham.
She was also painted in her Coronation robes by William Bernard Reid while standing in The Boudoir, probably prior to the coronation of George VI in 1937.
Further information on this painting can be found here.
When her husband became seriously ill in his later life, the room was used by him as a bedroom, from where he could look out over the Deer Park.
In recent years, The Boudoir has undergone significant conservation and restoration work as part of the ongoing Attingham Re-discovered Project, with specialist conservators cleaning the paintwork and restoring its decorative scheme.
It is initially intended to display the new acquisition in the Boudoir on an easel so that visitors can simultaneously see it and the angle of the room that it depicts and we will obviously let you know when the picture appears on display.