Monday, June 25, 2007

Sketching at Gertrude Jekyll's home - Munstead Wood

Munstead Wood - Summer Garden
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) is a very famous English gardener and garden designer who lived at Munstead Wood in Godalming in Surrey. She originally studied botanical drawing at the Kensington Scool of Art and subsequently developed strongly held views on design, form and the use of colour in the garden and was an advocate for the Arts and Crafts Movement. When her eyesight failed, she switched to painting in colour in her flower beds instead and became a much revered and very successful garden plantswomand and garden designer as a result.

Her house was designed by a young Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) and completed in 1896 (see inscription left) while she designed the garden. The University of California at Berkeley holds digitalised drawings for a number of her gardens - including Munstead Wood in its Environmental Design Archives.

Lutyens was known as the great English Country House architect - but he was also responsible for designing New Delhi!

He met Gertrude Jekyll as he was establishing his practice and they collaborated together on the landscape portion of many of his country house commissions. His Lutyens bench (see left) can be found in many a country house garden.

I used to read all I could about Lutyens in my youth when I aspired to be an architect. In fact, I've probably been reading about Munstead Wood for some 40 years or so - and I wondered whether it would live up to the images I had in my head. I was fortunate to be able to visit the garden yesterday (in the rain!) courtesy of the National Gardens Scheme. What I found was that the garden surrounds the house and is made up of compartmentalised spaces which lead one to the other. It leaves you always wondering what's just round the corner.....

Below are just a few of the photographs I took - from top left in clockwise order, they are: the view from the Lutyens Bench in the North Court; the Tank; the garden below the North Court and Tank; the Nut Walk; the South Terrace and the Main Border. Click a photo to see larger images of a very wet garden!

I sat on the bench in the corner of the Summer Garden to do the first sketch. It was a little bit difficult as I has having to hold my umbrella above my head with my left hand while balancing my sketchbook on my knees and drawing with my right hand!

You can just see in my photo of the sketch made prior to getting the coloured pencils out that some rain drops made it through the paper prior to adjusting the angle of the umbrella.

I found it very interesting using coloured pencils in the very damp atmosphere. The ones which are watercolour pencils had a much greater impact than usual.

For my second sketch I found a small summer house which contained some chairs and used that to sit out of the rain and sketch the view along the pergola to the walk next to the main border which is famously planted in drifts of colours.
The Main Border is approximately two hundred feet by fourteen feet and is backed by an eleven foot Bargate stone wall clothed with shrubs and climbers......The border itself consists of a colour scale at each end commencing wth plae blue. mauve, cream and white. As you get nearer the middle your eye is met by increasingly strong vivid yellow, orange and red hot colours. Many annuals as well as perennials are used. Each end has a yew hedge as background to help bring the colours out. Yucca, Bergenia, Sea Kale and Lyme Grass provide a variety of leaf textures.
From "Munstead Wood - House and Gardens"
The Pergola, Munstead Wood
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I came home with a fair bit of material in terms of sketches and photos plus a much better appreciation of the nature of the garden. I'll be using the material to work up drawings for exhibition and will add in a link to this post when they emerge.



  1. AnonymousJune 25, 2007

    I LOVE these sketches! Thank you so much for posting them. I am particularly interested in seeing what you do with watercolor pencils; would it be a lot of trouble to post specifically when you are using them, rather than the wax-based ones? You certainly set a standard for me to aspire to!

  2. Ann - very few of the pencils used were wax based.

    Most of mine are oil based - Faber Castell Polychromos and Lyra Rembrandt. I have some Caran d'Ache Watercolour pencils which are not so good at delivering pigment load on dry paper but come into their own on damp paper.

  3. AnonymousJune 25, 2007

    Sketching in the rain...that's real dedication to one's art! Lovely results too!

  4. Well it was either that or give up on sketching and then wait until next Spring for the next time the garden is open again!


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