Thursday, 10 July 2014

Cecil Beaton at Home - Ashcombe and Reddish Friday, May 23, 2014 to Friday, September 19, 2014

Cecil Beaton at Home - Ashcombe and Reddish
Friday, May 23, 2014 to Friday, September 19, 2014

Booking: No booking required.
Cost: Normal admission charges apply.
Following sellout shows on Whistler and Constable, Salisbury Museum presents an innovative biographical view of legendary designer, photographer and artist, Sir Cecil Beaton, through his two Wiltshire homes. Simultaneously a retreat, an inspiration and a stage for impressive entertaining, they also fuelled his passion for gardening and delight in village life.

Against re-creations of his extravagant interiors, Beaton’s private life unfolds – the unique talent for self-promotion, desire for theatricality and his uncertain pursuit of love.

This exhibition brings together original photographs, artworks and possessions from both houses with insightful local anecdotes, to present a fascinating picture of Beaton's extraordinary life.
If you would like to walk in the Beaton landscape, please visit for suggested walks in the areas surrounding Ashcombe and Broad Chalke.

Curated by Andrew Ginger of Beaudesert Ltd, in collaboration with Salisbury Museum.

For a sneak preview of the exhibition and to hear what Hugo Vickers, Cecil Beaton's biographer, has to say, watch our YouTube clip.

A new exhibition of photographs from The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s, curated by Jasper Conran, opens at Wilton House on the 18 April 2014.

This exhibition has been kindly supported by Quilter Cheviot, Savills, Sotheby's and Wiltshire Council.

The Wiltshire homes and lifestyle of Sir Cecil Beaton are the focus of a new exhibition which opens in the spring. Shown top, is a painting of Ashcombe by Rex Whistler, in the 1930s – once home to Sir Cecil, and now owned by film director Guy Ritchie. Pictured above, is a photograph of Dorian Leigh in the sitting room of Reddish House, in the 1950s – Sir Cecil transformed this building to one of artistic excellence. He died here in 1980

Sir Cecil Beaton exhibition
By West Country Life  |  Posted: February 15, 2014

He photographed everyone from Winston Churchill to Mick Jagger, and turned one corner of the West into the party retreat for the world's A-list celebrities.

And now a generation after the death of Sir Cecil Beaton, a new exhibition is revealing for the first time how his private life in Wiltshire shaped his ascent to become the pre-eminent portrait photographer, designer and artist of the 20th century.

Beaton took up residence at Ashcombe House in Wiltshire in 1930 and spent 15 years there, entertaining many notable figures of the time.

The house, which is now owned by film director Guy Ritchie, with pop queen Madonna living there for a time before their split, became the place for 1930s celebrities to spend their weekends, at Beaton's sometimes lavish events.

After the war, he ended the lease, and three years later, he bought Reddish House, five miles east of Broad Chalke in south Wiltshire. The house became his own sanctuary from a stellar career which saw him photograph virtually every beautiful famous woman, film star, actress or singer, as well as notable royalty and politicians.

Everything Beaton did, he did with greatness – he turned his hand from portrait photography to set and costume design on Broadway and in Hollywood, winning four Tony Awards in New York and three Oscars: one for costume designs on the iconic film Gigi in 1958, and two for costume and art direction on 1964 classic My Fair Lady.

He transformed Reddish House from a brusque gentleman's country pad into a place of artistic excellence.

Those Oscar-winning costumes for the likes of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins were stored in Reddish's upper floor, in cages that were installed at the turn of the century for indoor illicit cock-fighting.

Awarded a knighthood in 1972, he passed away at Reddish in 1980, leaving behind an unrivalled legacy of portrait photography, art and design.

Now, the nearby Salisbury Museum is to devote its entire summer exhibition to one of the city's most famous sons. Cecil Beaton at Home explores the private retreats created by the artist at both Ashcombe and Reddish.

Curated by Andrew Ginger, the exhibition aims to reveal Beaton, the man behind the camera, through his life in Wiltshire.

The exhibition will go as far as recreating the extravagant interiors and gardens of his Wiltshire creations, unfolding his private life, his unique talent for self-promotion, his uncertain pursuit of love – he struck up relationships with a string of men, as well as many of the beautiful women he photographed – notably Greta Garbo.

"Beaton's two houses near Salisbury were his refuge from a madly heavy workload," said curator Andrew Ginger, who is director of Beaudesert Ltd and The Cecil Beaton Fabric Collection.

"Beaton described his life in the country as 'an oasis of luxury and civilisation,' which was both restorative and inspirational to his work. The design of his home was approached with the same attention to detail as any theatrical production," he added.

Cecil Beaton was just one of the extraordinary creative talents that have lived, and continue to live in the Wessex region, added Adrian Green, the museum's director. "The local aspect is vital. Our exhibitions are designed to reflect local interest – and also to appeal to a large national and international audience."

Highlights of the exhibition include a show-stopping recreation of Beaton's "circus bed" complete with unicorns, sea horses, Neptune and barley-twist posts. Made by specialist bed-makers Beaudesert Ltd, the bed will be the central display in a reconstructed room lined with copies of murals by close friends Oliver Messel and Rex Whistler.

Pages of Beaton's visitors' book will reveal a dazzling list of royalty, artists and other guests who enjoyed Beaton's lavish hospitality. Beaton's love life is sympathetically handled, including his complicated affair with Greta Garbo, and his only live-in partnership with Kin Hoitsma, the athletic 30-year old Californian academic who Beaton met when he was 60.

The supportive roles of his mother Esther and secretary, Eileen Hose, are given equal prominence.

But the exhibition will give a new insight into how his home life, lavish and stunning homes and the entertaining he did in Wiltshire shaped his stellar career.

"Reuniting many previously unseen photographs, artworks, furniture and possessions from both homes, the show offers fascinating insights into Beaton's interior life and creative inspirations," said Mr Green.

"Sir Cecil was one of Britain's most successful exports of the 20th century.

"His iconic portraits and fashion photography for American Vogue, his Oscar winning sets and costume, as well as theatre, ballet and opera designs, continue to captivate and inspire generations of young designers across the world.

"Sketches of his interiors painted with the left hand after his stroke, give a poignant sense of the hidden vulnerabilities and willpower of the man," he added.

"Beaton also made exquisite paintings of local children, which will be on display alongside listening stations where locals recount first-hand memories of their talented neighbour. Sculptures, paintings, fancy dress costumes, vintage photographs, original letters, diaries, decorative elements, catalogues, scrapbooks and press cuttings will also be displayed to create a truly immersive experience within the museum's galleries.

"Exhibits include loans from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, private collections, and the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's," he added.

His portfolio of portrait photographs reads like a 'Who's Who?' of art, film, royalty and beauty of the middle 50 years of the 20th century.

From a portrait of Lady Diana Cooper in 1928, which established him as a photographer of note, he went on to capture some prominent names during the 1930s, from Pablo Picasso to Aldous Huxley and Salvador Dali. After Lillian Gish in 1929, he probably made his name as a photographer of beautiful women with the famous portrait picture of Marlene Dietrich in 1935, and of royalty with Helen of Greece & Denmark, the Queen Mother of Romania in 1937.

Within two years of the start of the war, Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle had posed for portrait photographs, and within two years from the end of the war, a new generation of Hollywood stars had been captured by his lens: Greta Garbo, Yul Brynner, Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando.

In the two years after being the official photographer for the Queen's Coronation, he'd photographed Grace Kelly, Joan Crawford and also taken perhaps his most enduring image – that of Marilyn Monroe in 1956.

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