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Art in the Garden

The Garden as Sculpture Gallery

Award winning Pashley Manor Gardens is one of England’s most beautiful gardens – and one of its finest sculpture galleries. Take a stroll around Pashley and discover how its owners have created a spectacular and unique venue for the works of noted artists.

Text and Photographs by Georgianna Lane


Art in the Garden

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he air is intoxicating with the breeze-borne scent of a thousand roses as a nymph pulls back her hair at the edge of a tranquil spring. A youthful flautist entices you around a corner and in a clearing, two human-sized hares spar like boxers. You have entered the sumptuous, romantic and imaginative world of Pashley Manor Gardens, set in the rolling, wooded countryside of East Sussex, England. An historically important Tudor-era estate, Pashley had lain empty and was overgrown with years of neglect when purchased by Mr. and Mrs. James Sellick in 1981. The grounds were further devastated by the epic hurricane of

ZoĂŠ by Kate Denton

1987, when over 1,000 trees on the property were felled. Despite these challenges, the Sellicks persisted in realizing their dream of creating a beautiful, quintessential English garden. With the assistance of well-known landscape architect Anthony du Gard Pasley, they have brought their


Art in the Garden

Little Flautist by Mary Cox (top right) and Dreamer by Kate Denton (bottom right)

passionate vision to reality and the gardens to their present glory. Pashley has since been voted “Garden of the Year” by the Historical Houses Society, and has been called one of the finest gardens in England. Among the lush plantings, and along the inviting pathways and gorgeous vistas, the Sellicks have also established a considerable outdoor sculpture gallery, impressive in its eclectic scope. Celebrated during the annual Sculpture Fortnight (16 May - 28 May 2009), and displayed and sold throughout the season, Pashley’s collection represents the work of many prominent sculptors including Philip Jackson, Ann Hogben, Mary Cox, Kate Denton, Jenny Wynne-Jones, Neal French, Peter Clarke and

Helen Sinclair. Local sculptors are also included, providing them a marvelous opportunity to introduce their work.

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The Art of Integrating Art into the Environment t Pashley, the sculptures are not passive spectators, stuck arbitrarily here and there on isolating pedestals. Rather they are involved and integrated into their surroundings, vital participants in creating the magical atmosphere of the gardens. They sit primly on benches, bathe in pools, recline among the roots of trees. And it is this thoughtful integration of art into


Art in the Garden

Mr. Bennet’s Daughter (left) and Chanting Cimarosa (above), both by Philip Jackson

exaggerated curve of her hat echoing her open book and the top of her skirt. At six feet tall, the imposing bronze is riveting, holding court on the sloping lawn in front of the manor house. The stylized, modern sculpture framed by the roseclad 16th-century house provides a startling and unexpected juxtaposition, but, as with all wonderful art, gives the viewer’s preconceptions a thrilling and thought-provoking jolt.

the environment that is one of the continuing sources of delightful surprise. A leisurely exploration of the grounds results in the discovery of dozens of realistic as well as fanciful sculptures, tucked in among the trees, roses and rhododendrons in pastoral repose. But some make a more dramatic entrance, as figures commanding attention upon a vast stage. Among these are three stunning works by eminent Scottish sculptor Philip Jackson – graceful, poised, enigmatic, faceless figures alone with their thoughts: Chanting Cimarosa – An elegant woman in romantic 18th century Venetian costume sings from a book of music by Italian opera composer Domenico Cimarosa, the

Mr. Bennet’s Daughter – Like Chanting Cimarosa, Mr. Bennet’s Daughter is a larger than life size bronze. The tilt of her wrists project the coyness of a coquette but the viewer is left to interpret the secrets behind her sharply turned head. Mr. Bennet’s Daughter occupies a prominent location at Pashley, at the far end of the famous summer borders, with verdant pastureland beyond, and has justly become a lovely symbol of the gardens. Philip Jackson’s sculptures have been known to move viewers to tears. And his third, and most affecting at Pashley, is Anne Boleyn, positioned on the Island near the classical temple. Head bowed, hands clasped, the doomed Anne contemplates her fate in a grove of towering rhododendron. The location is so perfect, the figure so


Art in the Garden

Anne Boleyn by Philip Jackson. Pashley Manor was once owned by Anne Boleyn’s family and it is likely she visited as a child.

poignant, it sends a chill to the spine, even on a warm day in summer. But the sculptures at Pashley invoke a broad gamut of emotions. As a counter to the somber and mysterious elegance of Philip Jackson’s work, the bronzes of Kate Denton engender wonder, surprise and humor. Double takes abound when visitors behold Stubble Stags, giant hares boxing balanced on hind legs. The incongruity of the pair is mesmerizing and another example of the marvelous use of location at Pashley. Stumbling upon Stubble Stags in their private clearing, one feels one has made a personal discovery of a fantastical land. Likewise,

Denton’s Lazy Days makes one hesitate at intruding upon the reading girl seated on an iron bench. Abstracts share space with the abundant roses, as Peter Clarke’s Feather Form joins an exuberant display of Rosa ‘Pashley’ in the walled garden.

Stubble Stags (left) and Lazy Days (above), both by Kate Denton


Art in the Garden

Who is Sylvia? (top left) by Helen Sinclair in the Rose Garden; Feather Form by Peter Clarke (above left); Rosetta by Jenny Wynne-Jones (top right); Apache and Moonshadow (right) by Gillian Simpson.

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illian Simpson’s filigreed Moonshadow and welded copper Apache flank the stairs to the patio, which offers breathtaking views to the verdant fields beyond the garden boundary, open land one can imagine the horses yearning to escape to. More traditional figurative works inhabit the pool area, where Rosetta by Jenny Wynne-Jones peeks out through billowing roses and Ann Hogben’s Sophie shyly greets visitors ascending the brick stairs.

As the sculpture installations at Pashley form a changing exhibition, visitors in future years may encounter pieces different to those reviewed here. But that is part of the enduring appeal of Pashley. Whatever the style or subject matter, the inspirational marriage of sculpture and setting at Pashley shows a delicate sensitivity in the use of art to enhance the spell of an already enchanting location. ✍ (For information on visiting Pashley Manor Gardens, see next page).


Pashley Manor Gardens

In addition to the Sculpture Fortnight, Pashley hosts a number of important art and garden related events each year, including an exhibition of botanical and flower drawings by leading artists, a very popular Tulip Festival and the Special Rose Weekend. Sculptures on the property can be viewed during any of these events. For 2009, the gardens are open to the public from April

through September. See the web site for days, times and admission rates. Pashley Manor Gardens is located on the B2099 road, near the village of Ticehurst, in East Sussex, England. For full details, visit www.PashleyManorGardens.com. Email: info@pashleymanorgardens.com. Phone: (UK) 01580 200888

The Garden as Sculpture Gallery  

An article on the sculptures at Pashley Manor Gardens in England, part of a series I write for Fine Art Registry

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