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Sienna Wood in Sussex. Now that it seems possible we may be ‘locked down’ in London, visiting places like this is something we can only dream of.  Look at the wonderful wisteria but also the beautiful detailing of the brick – perfection. The open day is May 17th, when presumably the wisteria is at its best, but who knows…

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The Laundry, Llanrhaeadr, Denbigh was once a field (cf. an article in the local paper here). The owners have created a website and a blog about the garden, which is open on June 7th (and by arrangement).

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Hilltop, Gillingham, Dorset will be open on Sunday 19th July. If life gets back to normal. Details here.

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The first day of what? A four months long vigil? A two week one? Well, who knows, but on Friday we took the difficult decision to close the shop for two weeks. We are fulfilling orders of course –Persephone Books is primarily a mail order business – but the shop is now closed. More details in the Letter tomorrow. Meanwhile, fresh air and gardens are the key for those of us lucky enough to have access to them; although for the poor people, millions of them, confined to their flats, pictures of gardens will have to suffice. The National Garden Scheme has just published its Garden Visitor’s Handbook and, courtesy of one of our most loyal helpers (she helps us with gift-wrapping), we have the London booklet in the shop (and could send it). And mindful of the readers of the Post who accuse us of being too London-centric: this week, photographs of gardens round the country, not just in London. This is Church View, Cumbria.

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This cheetah was painted in c. 1780 in Calcutta by Shaikh Zain Ud-Din ‘and has long been recognised as one of his masterpieces’ (Catalogue). Cf. also the excellent article in Apollo here.

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Here are the Impey children. Such a touching and fascinating painting. And my goodness you can feel the heat.

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‘The British didn’t stop at birds and plants.’ wrote Rachel Spence in the Financial Times. ‘They also commissioned images of architecture, festivals, dancers, soldiers, craftspeople, villagers, princes and courtiers. Yet it is difficult to regard these drawings — which encompass images of dancing girls, soldiers, princes, village elders and horse merchants — without unease. Pinioned against those empty backgrounds just as the Indian birds were, many of the figures have a lonely, vulnerable aspect that reveals the colonising impulse behind the European urge to chronicle, taxonomise and demystify their new territory. Nevertheless, Forgotten Masters has much to tell us. Since the 1950s, this genre of art has generally been known as Company School painting. Disregarded by historians of Indian art due to its Eurocentric characteristics and the names of its artists being either unknown or neglected, its topography has remained unmapped. But it is worth exploring for, beyond the art itself, the mechanisms by which it was commissioned reveal fascinating insights into the reality of relations between British and Indian people in pre-imperial India. Some of the most revealing portraits are of European patrons. Lady Impey, for example, is captured by a painter thought to be Shaikh Zain Ud-Din in the act of “Supervising her Household in Calcutta”. Wearing a turban, as her servant presents another turban for her inspection, she sits on a footstool under the breeze of a fan held by a page boy. Surrounded by Indian servants, who are arranged in various tasks with stylised precision, and one European steward, Lady Impey appears at once in control yet out of place. Was the painter conscious that he was failing to flatter?’

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The majority of the Indian watercolours are wildlife and plants, and although these are superb in many ways they are the least interesting. But this is magnificent.

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We mentioned the Indian Watercolours exhibition at the Wallace Collection on the Letter. And although a visit is memorable, probably essential for anyone who’s ever been to India, the catalogue is superb and would make a wonderful present. This is our favourite painting: it’s an ‘artist portrait’ c 1832-5. The catalogue says: ‘it brings us closer than any other surviving evidence to the way the forgotten Indian masters celebrated in the exhibition actually worked.’ This is an understatement: you feel you are there, you understand how they worked, this (presumably self) portrait illuminates every single watercolour in the show. Every detail is perfect and unforgettable, from the paint boxes to his glasses to the cushion behind his back.

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And the real star of the show – Evelyn Dunbar. This is Strawberry Cottage, it’s undated but presumably 1950s.

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