Country houses - some as grand as a raspberry pavlova, as decorated as a wedding cake, as dark and mysterious as a rum truffle mousse, and as fortified as a fine port, feature in a new collection of prints in the University of Leicester's hospitality suite, the Garendon.
Complementing the views from the windows of the Charles Wilson Building over city and county, the houses range in date from the age when scraps of hearty meals were thrown to the dogs in the Great Hall up to the years of cocktails on the terrace. They are the work of David Weston, an artist with a considerable reputation who lives and works near Melton Mowbray.
The story of how this complete set of prints from original paintings came to hang in the Garendon Suite is as unpredictable as making mayonnaise.
During a spell as a patient of University Professor Peter Bell (Head of Surgery), Trevor Bennett, Leicestershire businessman and admirer of David Weston's work, happened to mention a set of paintings he had commissioned. When the originals went on tour, Trevor Bennett missed them so much from his billiards room that he replaced them with a print of each. When the originals returned to his house, he decided to donate the framed prints to the University. The icing on the cake was his gift of illustrated catalogues to accompany the exhibition.
David Weston is best known for his paintings of transport, particularly of cars and trains. "The thought of producing a set of paintings depicting the development of the English Country House was for many years never far from my mind", he says. "I outlined a plan to Trevor consisting of somewhere between 35 and 40 houses spanning eight hundred years of history. Trevor's commission of these pictures occupied a considerable part of my creative working life for five years between 1988 and 1992."
"I know that Trevor Bennett shares my original idea that the paintings should not only entertain and delight the eye, but also educate and inform the viewer as the sequence unfolds."
Professor Robert Burgess, the University's Vice-Chancellor, writing in the catalogue's Foreword comments, "I am sure that these pictures will give great pleasure to members of the University and to visitors for many years. They are a very considerable addition to the University's works of art for which we are most grateful."
Together with Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor John Holloway, University Catering Manager Nick Robinson has worked to mount this exhibition. He says of the gift, "We are very pleased that these are housed in the pleasant surroundings of the Garendon Suite, where they will remain on permanent display."
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