John S. Muller, A General Prospect of Vaux Hall Gardens, Paul Mellon Collection.jpg
John S Muller, A General Prospect of Vaux Hall Gardens, Shewing at one View the disposition of the whole Gardens, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

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So a free lecture series coming up in London exploring “the different ways in which artists have impacted upon our understanding and perception of the British garden from the 17th century to the present day” should be right up our street (or garden path).

Starting on September 27, this five-week course is being held every Thursday evening at the Paul Mellon Centre in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury.

Dr Martin Postle, deputy director for grants and publications at the centre, says: “Through this series of related talks, expert speakers will explore not only the ways in which artists depicted gardens but how so many of them were active as gardeners themselves – whether formulating grand landscape designs or cultivating private domestic spaces.”

Among the team of guest lecturers will be Christopher Woodward, director of the Garden Museum, the noted academic Joy Sleeman and landscape architect Todd Longstaffe-Gowarn.

Study of British art

“We are offering The Artist and The Garden to the public, for free, as part of our core ethos of promoting the study of British art and architecture,” adds Mark Hallett, director of studies at the Paul Mellon Centre.

“The centre is committed to supporting lifelong learning, while also funding scholarship, academic research and the further dissemination of knowledge of art and architecture. ‘The Artist and The Garden’ is a great example of that and I’m sure it will be very popular.”

Booking for the course opens on August 20, but numbers are limited, so art lovers are urged to book now via the Events page on paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk. For more information about the course see paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk/whats-on/plc

The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art is an educational charity “committed to promoting original, world-class research into the history of British art and architecture of all periods”. It collaborates closely with the Yale Center for British Art and is part of Yale University.

Fairy inspiration

Staying on the theme of art and the garden, an exhibition at the Garden Museum also in London showcases the Flower Fairies work of Cicely Mary Barker (1895-1973), until September 30. The show celebrates the centenary of the earliest publication of her first fairy illustrations.

Continuing to be inspired by fairies, Barker published the first of her Flower Fairies books in 1923. Visitors will see original illustrations for more than 40 of her Flower Fairies designs, drawing extensively from the Frederick Warne archive which is an imprint of Penguin Random House UK. There will also be previously unseen sketchbooks and drawings together with her research materials.

Fairies were experiencing great popularity at the time Barker first published her works. Most notably, the mystery surrounding the Cottingley fairy photographs which Arthur Conan Doyle published in a sell-out article for The Strand, while JM Barrie captured the imagination of a generation in his enduring tale Peter Pan.

Barker at auction

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Original artwork by Cicely Mary Barker, Cheering Her Up with Christmas Tree Fruits, which sold for £1500 at North Yorkshire auction house Boulton & Cooper.

Original artwork by Barker, on a different theme to fairies, sold well at auction on October 25 last year in a sale at Boulton & Cooper in Malton, North Yorkshire. Cheering Her Up with Christmas Tree Fruits, a 10.5 x 7.5 (27 x 19cm) watercolour with pencil, signed with initials and inscribed with the title below the mount, sold for £1500, five times the top estimate.

Another watercolour offered in the same sale, The Virgin Mary showing the Baby Jesus to a crown of people, titled in the border Who For Us Men and For Our Salvation Came Down from Heaven, made £1100 against an estimate of £150-200. An envelope to the reverse of the 8 x 10in (20 x 26cm) picture contains a label inscribed Cicely M Barker, 23 The Waldrons, Croydon.