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New Ightham Mote exhibition celebrates John Singer Sargent

PUBLISHED: 14:53 13 March 2017 | UPDATED: 14:53 13 March 2017

Ightham Mote

Ightham Mote

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A portrait by John Singer Sargent returns this month to Ightham Mote, where it was painted more than a century ago. Pictures by: National Trust

KEN MAR 17 National TrustKEN MAR 17 National Trust

The Sargent painting, entitled A Young Lady in White, is an engaging portrait of Miss Elsie Palmer, daughter of General Jackson Palmer who rented Ightham Mote along with his family for three years towards the end of the 19th century.

Back where it was first painted by the renowned American artist John Singer Sargent, it will hang at the centre of a brand-new exhibition running at the medieval moated manor house from early March until December.

Palmer was a famous American railroader and the influential founder of the city of Colorado Springs. During their stay, General Palmer’s vivacious wife ‘Queen’ welcomed many leading figures from the art world’s Aesthetic Movement to the Mote.

The new exhibition, entitled Queen of Ightham – an American Interlude: Queen Palmer, John Singer Sargent and their Circle, explores how she created an intellectual hub for the cream of the Movement’s elite to meet and discuss their ideas.

A diverse history

The Palmers’ stay at Ightham Mote formed a very brief part of the house’s history, which dates back to its founding almost 700 years ago. Since then, it has been home to medieval knights, courtiers to Henry VIII and high-society Victorians like the Palmers.

Bernadette Gillow, General Manager at Ightham Mote, is delighted to be witnessing the homecoming of such a prestigious young woman.

“We are so thrilled to be welcoming A Young Lady in White back to Ightham Mote. We delight in creating new experiences that move and inspire our visitors and we hope that the return of Elsie’s portrait will provide a chance for them to create a new connection with the Mote’s diverse history.”

Michael Howell, Curator of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, who has helped facilitate the loan, adds: “This is an amazing opportunity for Ightham Mote and the Fine Arts Center, and I can tell that Elsie is quite anxious for a visit to her former home.”

An American in Kent

Sargent was considered the leading portrait painter of his generation and his works remain much-coveted today. He painted his young Elsie in the tower corridor at Ightham while visiting in 1890. The dramatic backdrop was inspired by the distinctive linenfold panelling that still covers the walls.

A Young Lady in White will now return to hang alongside the linenfold panelling for the exhibition’s duration, on temporary loan by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

Other visitors to Ightham Mote during the Palmers’ stay included actress Ellen Terry and author Henry James. The exhibition will showcase loans from their former homes at Smallhythe Place in Tenterden and Lamb House in Rye respectively.

These include a replica of the iconic beetle wing dress Ellen Terry wore on stage when performing Macbeth, and a portrait of Henry James. Displays also extend onto the North Lawn with an interpretation of another of Sargent’s works, A Game of Bowls. Sargent painted the oil on canvas at Ightham Mote a year earlier in 1889, with the lawn and manor house distinctly recognisable.

Find out more

Queen of Ightham – an American Interlude: Queen Palmer, John Singer Sargent and their Circle runs from 4 March until 21 December 2017 and is free to view once property admission has been paid.

For more information, and ideas for other places to visit and events to enjoy with the National Trust in Kent this month, please go online to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kent.

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