Clara paints in the spirit of Wordsworth

New work by the artist in residence at Rydal Mount will be going on display soon.

Clara Li-Dunne is aiming to capture the romantic atmosphere at Rydal Mount’s house and garden where Wordsworth nurtured his poetic works and published a great many masterpieces. 

Now her first series of work at the house describes how nature changes in four seasons, “and to find romance, the audience will find a heart shape within the painting, for which I used a heart shape stone that I found outside the tearoom of Rydal Mount.”

Clara is more familiar than most with Wordsworth, his life and work, and the beautiful house near Ambleside, having worked there as a guide for the past nine years. Originally from Hong Kong, she has a degree in fine art and is a qualified teacher.

Clara became interested in ‘camera-less photography’ while studying for her BA (Hons) and MA in Fine Art in the 1990s, and was inspired to develop her current practice in painting.

‘I was always fascinated by how nature evolves in its own time; and also the unnoticeable mutation within nature,’ she says. ‘The creations of the images of abstract landscape were from my memories of colours and shapes while out walking, hiking or cycling.’

She uses pigment powders, graphite and sand to build up layers of the mediums like the formation in nature.  ‘A subtle change of the perspective caused by the refraction of light between the colours symbolises the mutation of nature. I also photograph shapes and forms created by natural light to create a new landscape.’

Clara follows in the footsteps of Helen Johnson, from Alston, who was artist in residence at Rydal last year. A former head teacher who is now a full-time artist, Helen produced pieces of work on five themes which match the writing and ideas of Wordsworth: spirituality, family and relationships, emotions, nature, and excursions.

Curator at Rydal Mount Emily Heath said that Clara’s work as an artist brought a new dimension to the place. “Clara’s art is really beautiful and she has some fascinating ideas. And of course, she is a true expert on Wordsworth and his work.”

Wordsworth’s garden in new nationwide project

The garden at Rydal Mount will represent the Lake District in an exciting new interactive online exhibition.

Rydal Mount near Ambleside, along with another home of William Wordsworth, Dove Cottage at Grasmere, has collaborated with Google Arts and Culture to feature in Gardens United, a new project which has just launched.

The exhibition aims to help visitors be inspired by the breadth and wonder of green spaces around the UK.

It’s an interactive online resource celebrating gardens around the UK, which is the result of a collaboration between Rydal Mount and more than 30 cultural partners around the country.

They include Alexandra Palace Gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the Alnwick Garden, the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum, and Blenheim Palace Gardens in Oxfordshire.

“From archives, museums, botanic gardens and heritage bodies, this enables you to learn from leading experts and community gardeners about topics ranging from health and wellbeing, food growing, urban gardening and much more,” said Amit Sood, Director of Google Arts and Culture. “Gardens United gives everyone, everywhere an opportunity to explore, learn and discover gardens through a new lens.” 

In more than 150 curated online exhibitions, Gardens United presents an enormous archive of over 4,000 items including photos, videos, ASMR tours and Google Street View tours. These show how gardens have always held a special place in our lives, how important they are for our health and wellbeing, what gardening can do to help support the planet and look back through botanical history from Darwin’s garden to royal landscapes. 

Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of William Wordsworth, whose family still own Rydal Mount, said that the project was a magnificent opportunity to show the world the wonders of the garden originally planned and designed by the poet.

“We are thrilled to be part of this ground-breaking new exhibition which features the best of everything that’s special about gardens in the UK. The visitors who come here invariably fall in love with the place but we want to be able to tell the story of this wonderful garden to a wider audience.”

Said Amit Sood: “Everyone around the world can find joy in exploring a garden, and through this program we wanted to celebrate this as well as inspire audiences to seek out new gardening experiences. From botanical art to urban gardening, thanks to our incredible partners, Gardens United has something for everyone – even if you are only looking to plan your next staycation itinerary.”

Explore Gardens United on the Google Arts & Culture app on iOS or Android or online viag.co/GardensUnited

Discover the Rydal Mount partner page here:

https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/rydal-mount-gardens

Google Arts and Culture puts the treasures, stories and knowledge of more than 2,000 cultural institutions from 80 countries at your fingertips. It’s your doorway to explore art, history, and wonders of the world. Discover stories about cultural heritage ranging from Museum Island Berlin, Puerto Rico’s heritage, Sports in Australia or the women’s right movement to ancient Maya temples, Japanese Food and Indian Railways

In the footsteps of Wordsworth

The first ever poet-in-residence since the time of Wordsworth himself completed a successful week staying at Rydal Mount.

Kieron Winn spent the time writing, reading, giving a recital of his own poetry, and exploring the Lakes in the footsteps of Wordsworth. That included an ascent of Helvellyn on the summer solstice.

A great admirer of Wordsworth, Kieron has won many poetry awards and accolades and his poetry has been published in many magazines, including The London Magazine, New Statesman, Oxford Magazine, The Spectator and The Times Literary Supplement.

Selections of his poems also appear in anthologies and he has read his poems on BBC TV and radio.

The Mortal Man, Kieron’s first book of poetry was published in 2015 and Melvyn Bragg said of it: “I have had much pleasure reading the poems. There is a real talent for binding centuries together and there are additions to the great Lake District tradition.”

Kieron and his wife Amanda on Helvellyn

Kieron said: “I first visited Rydal Mount in 1987 with my parents, and have made several pilgrimages over the years. I could never have imagined that I’d live there for a week, see the moon from Wordsworth’s attic study, or, most unlikely of all, be allowed to try on his top hat.”

Photo: Amanda Holton

The residency gave him the opportunity to experience life as William Wordsworth had done. “Wordsworth is associated with solitude, but was at the centre of a busy household. I now know what it’s like to live at Rydal Mount when quite a few people are about, including another Mr Wordsworth, the curators and visitors, and that made me feel closer to my favourite poet in his very comfortable house.

“Why is he my favourite? Because he’s so salutary and sensible, with his greatness evident and his human flaws visible. My wife and I had a richly happy week, which we will always remember along with the kindness of the curators Emily and Matt and the Wordsworth family, to whom we express our deep thanks.”

Kieron’s collection of poems, The Mortal Man, is available here: https://www.kieronwinn.com/

Wordsworth, Rawnsley and the Lake District

The leading Japanese artist based in the UK is to have a major new exhibition here at Rydal Mount, the home of William Wordsworth.

The exhibition of paintings by Hideyuki Sobue features two leading figures who championed natural beauty in the Lake District, Wordsworth himself, and Canon Harwicke Rawnsley, one of the founders of the National Trust – who was born a year after the death of Wordsworth.

Hideyuki selfie

It’s a welcome return to Rydal Mount, near Ambleside, for Hideyuki whose epic new portrait of Wordsworth was unveiled there six years ago. That portrait was one of a series of works on the theme of I wandered, to mark the 200th anniversary of William Wordsworth’s Daffodils, said to be the world’s most famous poem.

The new works were commissioned last year in the 250th anniversary of Wordsworth’s birth, supported by the Arts Council England. There are two portraits of each figure in the double-vision style, which proved a success during Hideyuki’s previous art project Conversation with Ruskin.

“I portray Hardwicke Rawnsley when he first met the young Beatrix Potter at Wray in 1882 while he was working as a vicar of the St Margaret of Antioch parish church in Wray Castle (near Ambleside), passionately talking to her about the importance of conservation. And I portray William Wordsworth in his late 20s when he and his sister Dorothy settled at Dove Cottage, when he started to write his autobiographical poem The Prelude,” Hideyuki says. 

 “By carefully determining the distance between the two images, I promote a visual illusion so that each portrait can be seen as a single image in another dimension, emerging from the surface of the supports. It is a paradoxical approach, achieved by stimulating a visual illusion.

“I aimed to portray them as the spiritual guardians of Lakeland and beyond in a period of ecological and existential crisis. I have produced two portraits and two drawings, depicting them with contrary lighting conditions, so as to create the installation to look as if the light projects and radiates out from the centre above the artworks. “

Hideyuki completed the works (apart from the drawings) with his unique brush hatching technique using Japanese sumi ink and acrylic, which he created and has developed over the past 15 years. “This method is inspired by the concept of designo, which was established in the Florentine School during the Renaissance, combined with neurological studies, one of which revealed that the human visual brain perceives objects predominantly by oriented lines.

“I completed all works with the gold background using acrylic gold paint inspired by the Japanese traditional painting style, such as Fusuma-e (sliding door painting) and Byōbu-e (folding screen painting) for exploring my cultural roots. In this way, I made my utmost effort to pay homage to these important historical figures of the Lake District, in a way that is appropriate to their memory, despite, or even because of these challenging times.”

The paintings couldn’t be shown until now because of the pandemic, but the new exhibition will open on August 15, after a private view on August 14, and run until the end of September.

Hideyuki created another new portrait of William Wordsworth which was unveiled for just one night in the Lake District at Rydal Mount before heading for a major exhibition in Japan four years ago. The painting of Wordsworth with the Japanese poet Basho was commissioned by the Kakimori Bunko Museum in Japan.

Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the poet, whose family own Rydal Mount, said that Hideyuki’s exhibition would be one of the art highlights of the year in Cumbria. “We are very proud to have this strong connection with one of our leading painters who has such a talented devotion to Wordsworth, and whose work always excites and challenges.”

Come and listen to Wordsworth’s poet in residence

Here’s a wonderful opportunity to sit in Wordsworth’s Drawing Room at Rydal Mount and listen to Kieron Winn read a selection of his poetry.

Kieron is Rydal Mount’s first Poet in Residence and a great admirer of Wordsworth. Kieron has won many poetry awards and accolades and his poetry has been published in many magazines, including The London Magazine, New Statesman, Oxford Magazine, The Spectator and The Times Literary Supplement.

Selections of his poems also appear in anthologies and he has read his poems on BBC TV and radio.

The Mortal Man, Kieron’s first book of poetry was published in 2015 and Melvyn Bragg said of it: “I have had much pleasure reading the poems. There is a real talent for binding centuries together and there are additions to the great Lake District tradition.”

Tickets for this event on Sunday June 20 are free of charge but limited. Book here:

Poet will stay and work in Wordsworth’s home

The first person to be appointed poet in residence at Rydal Mount will take up his place next month. Kieron Winn will spend a week in June at the home of William Wordsworth, writing and meeting visitors to the house.

Kieron’s first collection of poems, The Mortal Man, was published in 2015. He is a great admirer of the work of Wordsworth, and has twice won the University of Oxford’s most valuable literary award, the English Poem on a Sacred Subject Prize.

Kieron studied English at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was awarded a doctorate for a thesis on Herbert Read and T. S. Eliot.

He lives on Osney Island in Oxford, and (as of April this year) in Penrith. He is a freelance teacher of creative writing and English literature, including to visiting students from the Stanford University programme in Oxford and from Lady Margaret Hall, where he has been poet in residence. He sometimes visits schools to talk to pupils about form and structure in poetry.

His poems have appeared in British and American magazines, including The London MagazineNew StatesmanOxford Magazine, The Spectator and The Times Literary Supplement. Selections of his poems also appear in anthologies and he has read his poems on BBC TV and radio.

Christopher Ricks, editor of The Oxford Book of English Verse, introduced Kieron at a reading by saying he is “A very good poet indeed…a poet to whom Wordsworth matters a very great deal…”

And the writer and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg said of The Mortal Man: “I have had much pleasure reading the poems. There is a real talent for binding centuries together and there are additions to the great Lake District tradition.”

Ranging from the Lake District to Rome, from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first, the poems in the collection revel in the particularity of people and places, and look for the sources of delight in human consciousness. The poems are relatively unusual now in their use of rhyme and traditional forms.

The appointment  was due to happen last year to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wordsworth, but was postponed because of the pandemic.

Kieron said that he was delighted by the opportunity:  “It would be hard to imagine my life without Wordsworth and the Lake District.”

Curator of Rydal Mount, Emily Heath, said Kieron was to be the first in a series of visiting poets. “We are very excited about this and looking forward to reading what Kieron produces in the wonderful atmosphere of Rydal Mount.”

Find out more at https://www.kieronwinn.com/

Young poets will get their reward

Young poets whose competition was halted by lockdown will be rewarded at last later this year.

The youngsters who entered the eighth annual Rydal Mount prize for young poets will be invited to an award ceremony at the house in the autumn term.

The poets from schools throughout Cumbria were invited to show their talents in a special version of the contest to mark the 250th anniversary of Britain’s best-loved poet, William Wordsworth. The theme was Milestones to mark both the special birthday, along with 50 years since Rydal Mount was first opened to the public.

The poetry competition along with many other events planned to mark the occasion had to be abandoned after the young writers had submitted their work. But Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the poet, and his mother Susan, have been reading through the poems and making their decisions.

“We will wait until after the summer holidays and then have a ceremony here where we can, at last, recognise the fantastic efforts that these youngsters have made,” he said.

Christopher with winners from the last competition

The competition is organised each year at Rydal Mount near Ambleside where Wordsworth lived for the second half of his life. Said Christopher:  “We thought that Milestones was a most appropriate theme and gave our young poets a very wide range of interpretations. It’s still valid as this year is the 250th anniversary of Dorothy Wordsworth’s birth.”

The winning poem will be framed and displayed prominently in the drawing room at the popular tourist attraction. The winner will receive a £50 cash prize, a personal trophy, and his or her name will be added to the roll of honour on the plaque at Rydal Mount. There are book prizes for the poets judged as highly commended in the primary and secondary school categories. Each entrant also receives a certificate signed by the family of William Wordsworth.

Rydal Mount to re-open thanks to Recovery grant

One of the best-loved tourist attractions in the Lake District, Rydal Mount near Ambleside, will re-open to the public next month with new facilities and a safer environment for visitors.

The house, where William Wordsworth spent the latter half of his life, and where he spent years landscaping the gardens as well as writing some of England’s most important poems, will open its doors on May 17.

Thanks to a grant from the Arts Council’s Culture Recovery Fund, work is under way now to give the 16th century house a modern facelift. Rydal Mount is among more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from the latest round of awards from the £1.57 billion Fund 

Improvements will be made to access and ventilation. New tables and seating will be installed in the tearoom, extending onto the forecourt of the house. And, throughout the house, there will be recordings of members of the Wordsworth family reading some of the most loved poems.

The Wordsworth family, who own the house, have plans for a series of events throughout the spring and the rest of the year. These will include bespoke guided tours, poetry readings, exclusive dinners, and an art fair.

Daffodils at Rydal Mount this week

Arrangements are under way to make visits to the house and gardens a safe and enjoyable experience. The gardens were open last summer and, when some restrictions were lifted, and the house was open for limited visits by prior arrangement. Now all visitors will be able to see some new exhibits, previously never displayed.

They include two portraits which had not been seen for generations. One is a framed portrait in oil of Wordsworth by Sir William Boxall. Previously only a study of this portrait had been available in the National Portrait Gallery. There’s also a chalk and charcoal drawing by Samuel Crosthwaite, the last known portrait done of Wordsworth while he was still alive. This shows Wordsworth as a wild old poet at the end of his life rather than the more familiar image as a traditional pillar of Victorian society.

Christopher Wordsworth Andrew

Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the poet, said: “We are thrilled to receive this grant from the Culture Recovery Fund, which recognises the place of Rydal Mount in our nation’s heritage. We were genuinely worried about our ability to reopen the house, and this grant not only makes this possible but gives the family and everyone working at Rydal Mount a well-needed shot of optimism.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said: “Investing in a thriving cultural sector at the heart of communities is a vital part of helping the whole country to recover from the pandemic. These grants will help to re-open theatres, concert halls, and museums and will give artists and companies the opportunity to begin making new work.  We are grateful to the Government for this support and for recognising the paramount importance of culture to our sense of belonging and identity as individuals and as a society.”

Clara is new artist in residence at Rydal Mount

A new artist in residence has been appointed to work at William Wordsworth’s home at Rydal Mount next year.

Clara Li-Dunne is more familiar than most with Wordsworth, his life and work, and the beautiful house near Ambleside, having worked there as a guide for the past nine years.

Clara, originally from Hong Kong, has a degree in fine art and is a qualified teacher.

Her aim is to capture the romantic atmosphere at Rydal Mount’s house and garden where Wordsworth nurtured his poetic works and published a great many masterpieces. 

Clara became interested in ‘camera-less photography’ while studying for her BA (Hons) and MA in Fine Art in the 1990s, and was inspired to develop her current practice in painting.

‘I was always fascinated by how nature evolves in its own time; and also the unnoticeable mutation within nature,’ she says. ‘The creations of the images of abstract landscape were from my memories of colours and shapes while out walking, hiking or cycling.’

She uses pigment powders, graphite and sand to build up layers of the mediums like the formation in nature.  ‘A subtle change of the perspective caused by the refraction of light between the colours symbolises the mutation of nature. I also photograph shapes and forms created by natural light to create a new landscape.’

Most of her works are on Chinese Hsuan paper, with some on canvas. Earlier this year she made a wreath from flowers in the gardens at Rydal which was laid in poets’ corner at Westminster Abbey during a special anniversary service.

Clara follows in the footsteps of Helen Johnson, from Alston, who has been artist in residence at Rydal this year. A former head teacher who is now a full-time artist, Helen produced pieces of work on five themes which match the writing and ideas of Wordsworth: spirituality, family and relationships, emotions, nature, and excursions.

Rydal Mount gardener Helen Green captured at work in this portrait by previous artist in residence Helen Johnson

Curator at Rydal Mount Emily Heath said that Clara’s appointment was an exciting move for all involved. ‘We want to have the chance to celebrate Wordsworth’s 250th birthday next year after we had to cancel so many events to mark the occasion in this anniversary year. Clara’s art is really beautiful and she has some fascinating ideas. And of course, she is a true expert on Wordsworth and his work.’