Waddesdon Manor purchases two famous 20th century murals

Two murals that are over 70 years old have been purchased by the Rothschild Foundation
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Two sought-after historic murals have been purchased by the Rothschild Foundation which runs Waddesdon Manor.

The Rothschild Foundation announced the purchase of The Englishman’s Home by John Piper (1951) and The English Pub by Edward Bawden (1949 -1951).

It is the first time the murals have been shown side-to-side.

Edward Bawden, The English Pub, 1949-51 © The Edward Bawden Estate, Courtesy of Liss LlewellynEdward Bawden, The English Pub, 1949-51 © The Edward Bawden Estate, Courtesy of Liss Llewellyn
Edward Bawden, The English Pub, 1949-51 © The Edward Bawden Estate, Courtesy of Liss Llewellyn

The Englishman’s Home covers almost five by 16 metres and is the largest surviving mural from the Festival of Britain in 1951.

Currently, the Rothschild Foundation plans to loan the art display to the new Museum of London Poultry Market when it opens.

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The Englishman’s Home consists of 42 plywood panels, created with house paint - many have a complex surface with multiple finishes combining impasto with scumbled glazes and incised lines.

John Piper, The Englishman’s Home, 1951 © The John Piper Estate, Courtesy of Liss LlewellynJohn Piper, The Englishman’s Home, 1951 © The John Piper Estate, Courtesy of Liss Llewellyn
John Piper, The Englishman’s Home, 1951 © The John Piper Estate, Courtesy of Liss Llewellyn

The mural was installed on the river side of the Homes and Gardens Pavilion in a prominent place on a main route through the Festival of Britain site on the South Bank in London. The composition is an imagined street scene including a highly personal and impressionistic selection of buildings, both grand and domestic, mainly 18th -century and only some of which are identifiable.

The Englishman’s Home creates a visual survey of some of the different social layers of 1950’s Britain. The Festival of Britain was a key moment for patronage of large-scale murals. A number by a range of British artists were commissioned, either to decorate buildings, or for inclusion in an exhibition of murals called 60 Paintings for 51. The Englishman’s Home was easily the largest.

The English pub consists of two panels which are the only survivors of Edward Bawden’s creativity.

It is linked to the First-Class Saloon on the steamship Oronsay, and its sister ship the Orcades.

A companion piece called English Garden Delights is already on show at Waddesdon Manor.

Alongside the panels, Bawden also designed the menu covers, ceramic tableware and curtains for the Saloons on both ships; the celebration of English life was important in the context of the liners, which sailed between the UK and Australia. Both vessels continued in service until they were decommissioned and scrapped in 1975, at which point the panels were removed and sold.

Pippa Shirley, director of Waddesdon, said; “It’s so exciting to be uniting these murals at Waddesdon, partly because of their impressive scale, but also because, although made for very different purposes, both embody an expression of Englishness which is at once nostalgic and evocative. Piper’s work for the Festival of Britain reflects its statement of national hope, regeneration and creativity after the trauma of the Second World War. The panels made by Bawden for the great liners of the Orient Line have all the romance of that age of international travel, yet share the same sentiment. It’s fascinating to compare the approaches of two such inventive and important artists.”

Both The English Pub and English Garden Delights can now be seen on display side by side for the first time in the Stables Restaurant at Waddesdon Manor.

Plans are also underway to display the two Bawden panels with sections of the Piper mural in a special exhibition at Waddesdon Manor in 2024.