Rex Whistler’s Mural, Plas Newydd

Trompe-l’œil

Trompe-l’œil. Detail from one of the two side walls in Plas Newydd’s dining room. The impression of relief on this flat surface is astonishingly convincing.

Date

21 June 2015
Location

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Anglesey

SH 52085 69639; 53.20317°N, 4.21601°W

Information

Reginald John “Rex” Whistler (1905-1944) was born in Kent and, after initially starting to study art at the Royal Academy, attended University College London’s Slade School of Art from age 17 to 21. Not long afterwards he completed his first major commission, a mural entitled The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats (unveiled in 1927) for the restaurant of the Tate Gallery (now known as Tate Britain). Whistler was a talented artist who worked in a great variety of disciplines, including portraits and landscapes, murals, posters and book illustrations, porcelain designs, and stage and costume design. He was a popular guest at many country houses where he created a number of murals, which were in vogue in the inter-war years. During the Second World War he served as a Lieutenant in the Welsh Guards and was sent to Normandy after the D-Day landings. He was killed there in Caen on his first day of action.

In the 1930s the 6th Marquess of Anglesey had to sell off the Paget family home in Staffordshire and Plas Newydd, the family’s country retreat in Anglesey, became their home. The Marchioness, Lady Victoria Marjorie Harriet Manners, took charge of re-decorating the property and Whistler was commissioned in 1936 to create a mural for the dining room. Completed in the 1937, the piece, entitled Claudian Fantasy, is at 17 metres long the largest canvas painting in the UK. The work incorporates many tricks of perspective and continues onto two side walls giving a fascinating three-dimensional effect.

Further Reading

Rex Whistler;
Rex Whistler: A Talent Cut Short – review (The Guardian);
Plas Newydd

Trompe-l’œil

Trompe-l’œil

Mural

Mural detail. The coastal view in the mural was inspired by the mountains of Snowdonia.

Mural

Mural detail

Mural

Mural detail – Neptune’s crown and trident. On the depiction of the stone quayside below this are painted the wet footprints of the sea god, giving the impression that he has walked into the dining room itself. Observers walking along the length of the mural are given the sensation that the footprints are always pointing in their direction.

Mural

Mural detail

Mural

Mural detail

Mural

Mural detail

Mural

View from the right of the left-hand half of the mural. When viewed from the left-hand end, the mountains seen here in a compressed perspective appear to stretch out to take up half of the entire scene.

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15 thoughts on “Rex Whistler’s Mural, Plas Newydd

  1. You’ve caught this so well. I am always fascinated by it every time I go. I have great respect for the man as I once had to paint a mural (In a motorcycle dealership in Ayr…) It took me three weeks and wasn’t as big or as detailed as Rex Whistler’s, but boy what a job 🙂

  2. Pingback: Plas Newydd | GeoTopoi

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