Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A visit to Mulberry Hill

Last Sunday Shane Jones, Paul Compton, Bev Murray (L-R) and I paid our first ever visit to Mulberry Hill in Langwarrin South. A National Trust property, it is the former home of Sir Daryl Lindsay and Lady Joan Lindsay; the latter is best known for her novel Picnic at Hanging Rock.

We received a warm welcome from curator/caretaker Cara-Ann Simpson and her dog, Sebastian (pictured below, far right). In recent months Cara curated the exhibition Return to Hanging Rock in celebration of 40 years of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Paul, Shane and I all have works in the show.

Mulberry Hill from the front:

Below, L-R: Mulberry Hill visitor, Shane Jones and Cara-Ann Simpson

Mulberry Hill is very much as its former owners left it. We were enchanted at the way our works and those by other invited artists, including Danie Mellor, Sharon Blance, Julia de Ville, Leslie Rice, John Dyer Baizley, Robyn Rich and Malte Wagenfeld, were so seamlessly and imaginatively integrated with the rich and fascinating permanent collection.

The house and grounds are currently open on weekends between 11 am – 3.30 pm. Return to Hanging Rock runs until 27 March.

The following snapshots don't cover every part of the house, but will hopefully give those who have never been there an idea of what it's like.

The entrance hall

Pictured below, left: Sara’s pinafore and Miranda’s school dress - original costumes from the film of Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)Chief costume designer: Judith Dorsman in collaboration with Wendy Stiles, with assistance from Mandy Smith. Collection: National Film and Sound Archive.

Guest bedroom

Houseguests included Vivien Leigh, Lawrence Olivier, Sir Robert Menzies, Dame Nellie Melba, Sir Robert Helpmann and members of the Ballet Russe.

The bedroom is currently being restored. This stage shows the history of the house from 1926 to the last renovations undertaken by Sir Daryl and Lady Lindsay in the 1970s. The faded hand-block wallpaper is circa 1920-30s and is possibly related to artists within the Bloomsbury group. The Lindsays were friendly with a number of them, including Duncan Grant.

Pictured below centre (on top of the Georgian bow-fronted chest of drawers) is my Cabinet of Moth Masks (2010-13, acrylic on miniature plaster masks and timber cabinet). The mirror directly above it is early 19th century in a 17th century style:

Caught by the mirror as I photograph my work, Cabinet of Moth Masks:

From Cara’s catalogue notes: 

Miranda’s butterfly buckle represented her freedom and purity of spirit within Picnic at Hanging Rock. By contrast, Klein’s work conveys the more sinister nature of these similar and striking insects. Using a ‘myth-entomological’ approach, Klein compares the values of society and hierarchical values to those used as classification systems for etymological specimens within the scientific and museum realms. The masks, while stunningly beautiful are devoid of emotion and presented in a similar way to pinned, dead specimens in a museum. Eerily, in the opening scenes of Picnic at Hanging Rock, many of the images are presented through mirrors, while the entire film was shot through gauze over the lens providing the softened feel – reducing the harsh reality of the landscape and sharp features of the characters. 

Pictured below, left: Louise Thomas, Portrait of a Girl, date unknown, oil on canvas. Thomas was a pupil of George Bell. Below, centre: Danie Mellor, An unsettled vision (the predicament) 2007-2008, pastel, pencil, glitter pen and watercolour on paper. Collection: Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery:

The kitchen

According to Cara, Joan Lindsay was not enamoured of cooking but was a keen jam maker. The copper pot in which she made her jams is displayed on the mantelpiece:

Pictured below:
Painting right: Daryl Lindsay, Stocks and Iris, 1967, oil on canvas
Painting left, Margaret Preston, Still Life, 1924, oil on canvas
All "food" on the table was made from fabric by Robyn Rich


Pictured below: Joan Lindsay's well-used steamer trunk:

Daryl Lindsay’s studio

The wooden painted screen is by Colette Jueden (France):

I was fascinated by the silhouette below, a shadow of a shadow:

Below, I'm reflected in an antique mirror in a view recalling Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. Foreground is a Victorian spill vase belonging to Daryl Lindsay (Staffordshire, 1874-1990):

One of several parallels with my own work: two miniature plaster masks:

On the easel below: Daryl Lindsay, Belladonna Lilies, 1963, oil on canvas:

The Drawing Room

Pictured directly below: 
Left: Sharon Blance, Anne Lambert at Hanging Rock, 2014, giclée print on cotton rag paper, courtesy of the artist
Right: Paul Compton, The Vaudeville Cane is Booed Off the Stage, 2013, unique state etching, hand coloured. Private collection

Below: Paul Compton's one-of-a-kind artist book, Secret Flowerings (closed) on the sideboard, centre section, right. To the right directly above it are two copies of Joan Lindsay's autobiographical Time Without Clocks. Paul is the proud possessor of a first edition of this book.

Selected pages from Paul Compton’s remarkable artist book, Secret Flowerings, 2015, ink, paper, Chelsea cloth, turned by the artist himself:

Vignette Vitrine, 2012, miniature canvases in wooden display case, is the first silhouette-related work I ever made:

A drawing room still life: the coral and shells are real; the trompe l’oeil "chocolates" by Robyn Rich are made from fabric with beaded detailing.

The story of Picnic at Hanging Rock unfolds on Valentines Day. These exquisite Valentine's cards belonged to Joan Lindsay; some of them were loaned for the movie:

Joan Lindsay's Writing Room

Painting below right:

Robyn Rich, Chapter 18, 2014, oil on timber, depicts a piece of Mulberry Hill crockery with Chapter 18 of Picnic at Hanging Rock crumpled on top. (Chapter 18 is the chapter that was withheld from the original publication of the novel in 1967. It was published posthumously in 1987 under the title The Secret of Hanging Rock).

Pictured below, left: Lingerie tea dress c. 1900 incorporating daisy motif – the daisy was Miranda’s favourite flower. Collection: National Trust of Australia – Victoria.

Joan Lindsay designed the mural on the walls in the late 1930s. Fred Ward, a student of the National Gallery School, and later a theatrical and industrial furniture designer, transferred the design onto the walls, while Joan painted the lower and smaller fishbone ferns:


Below: Shane Jones with his trompe l'oeil painting Fact or Fiction? 2010

Below: Shane Jones, Fact or Fiction? 2010, oil on MDF


Staffordshire Dalmation in silhouette:


The Mulberry tree from which the house takes its name:

I've always had a soft spot for gum nuts and gum nut flowers, and eucalyptus leaves have recently become central to my personal iconography:

Mulberry Hill volunteer Jack with Cara's dog Sebastian:

Under the Mulberry tree with Paul, Sebastian, Jack, Bev and Shane:

Left-right below: Paul, Deb, Jack and Bev pictured with faithful hound, Sebastian

Mulberry Hill was built in 1926; it was designed by architect Harold Desbrowe-Annear in the American Colonial style. The front columns, slate roof tiles, windows, doors and staircase were sourced from Whelan the Wrecker. As a result, the house appears to date from an earlier period.

All the items inside, aside from those in special exhibitions, including furniture, clothing, crockery and artworks, belonged to the Lindsays. The house is kept very much as if they still live and work there.

Joan Lindsay was the cousin of Arthur, Martin and Penleigh Boyd and was proud of her connection to this artistic dynasty. She was an accomplished artist in her own right, but turned to writing after her marriage. As the National Trust notes expand: ‘there was only room for one painter in the family’.

Mulberry Hill Curator Cara-Ann Simpson is exceptionally knowledgeable about the house and its former owners and was a marvellous host. A visit there is highly recommended. For those who live too far afield, but want to know more about Daryl Lindsay, go HERE. To learn about the multi-talented Lindsay family, go HERE. For more about Joan Lindsay, go HERE.