Chris Wadsworth
Percy Kelly - Looking East to the Ennerdale Fells
Writer and Art Consultant

3rd July 2016

WINIFRED NICHOLSON IN CUMBERLAND

Men in white gloves (not white coats!) appeared at our door last Friday. They had come to take away our Winifred Nicholson entitled Lily of the Valley; St Bees for the upcoming exhibition at Abbot Hall in Kendal.

They examined it, packed it very carefully and whizzed away across the field with it.  It won’t be back on our wall until the end of October.  Once it had gone I realised how all you people who have offered a loan of your precious Kelly’s next year might feel   when they are collected. The reward is being part of a bigger picture and seeing your painting in the context of a whole body of work. The Nicholson catalogue arrived in the post this morning and is very beautiful. It is good to share.

Winifred lived in Cumberland most of her long life and this exhibition is exclusively about her work here in this county. It opens at  Abbot Hall  next  Friday 8th July and runs until 15th October so don’t miss it. It has been curated by Winifred’s grandson Jovan and promises to be a rare treat. His father Jake, Winifred and Ben’s eldest son, went to boarding school in St Bees where she found her inspiration for the painting and several others in the show. On  a clear day the Isle of Man looks so close to St Bees that you feel you could swim to it. Some days when I look at the painting I can actually smell the distinctive scent of Lily of the Valley.  It reminds me of the solo exhibition which I mounted at Castlegate House in 2005. There were some 40 works by Winifred; some loaned, some for sale. We sold every one of the latter. Some of them will be making an appearance in this show I’m sure.

Isn’t it funny how we sometimes remember the exact circumstances of a big event in our lives; the smells, the sounds, the people we were with at the time. I vividly remember the day in 2007 when we bought that painting. We were in Carlisle when my mobile rang. It was the London auction house who were ready to take our bid but it was too noisy in Hoopers department store to hear properly so Michael grabbed my phone and edged into a quiet corner not realising it was the shop window. I joined him noticing  with some amusement and embarrassment that passers by were stopping  outside to look at this strange man standing in the window. I could see they were wondering if we were part of the window display. Ironically it was a display by the menswear department. It would have been even funnier had it been swimwear or ladies underwear.

I am still tied up with house renovation. It is coming to an end though – I’m now on toilets and tiles and the decorators started sanding and scraping this week.  It has been relatively painless. The builders have been brilliant – efficient, friendly and always cheerful. I shall really miss them when they move on. But I have missed all the exciting things happening in London this spring and there have been many – the opening of  the Tate Modern extension and the opening of the Summer Eexhibition at the RA as well as Sicily at the British Museum to name just a few. But once we have moved in I will rectify that and get to the Hockney portraits at the RA as well as the Francis Bacon at Tate Liverpool. I will report back on my findings.

But first I must get to Devon for my part in the Dartington Festival next week. Hope to see some of you there.

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