The picture is the work of Maria Spartali Stillman (1844- 1927), who was a close friend of Morris’ wife Jane and a frequent visitor to the manor. Her picture records the garden c.1904 in high summer. Jane wrote around the same time: “My dear friend… paints quietly in the garden, making pretty portraits of bits of it.”
The picture was acquired from London dealer Karen Taylor Fine Art at a price of £25,000, with a 50% grant from the Arts Council England and the V&A Purchase Fund.
Taylor said: “I continue to specialise in the work of British female artists and it is especially pleasing when a work finds such an appropriate home.”
The Grade I-listed 16th and 17th century limestone manor house in Oxfordshire was home to Morris (1834-96) from 1871 until his death.
He famously called Kelmscott his “heaven on earth” and it still contains much of his collection including furniture, textiles, pictures, ceramics and metalwork. The gardens, barns, dovecote, meadow and stream were a source of inspiration for Morris and his wife.
Last year the house, which is owned by The Society of Antiquaries of London, reopened after a 30-month, £6m renovation project. The Kelmscott Manor: Past & Present & Future Campaign is chaired by dealer Martin Levy, who was involved in the acquisition of the picture.
As for Stillman, her star is on the rise. She was a second-generation Pre-Raphaelite painter and model who produced around 150 works during a 60-year career.
Though little known compared to other Pre- Raphaelites, she has drawn significant interest on the open market. Last year her picture The Last Sight of Fiammetta soared over estimate at Bonhams, making £230,000 (£290,100 including fees).