Cecil Beaton at Home: Ashcombe & Reddish, Salisbury Museum, Salisbury, until 19th September 2014)
Cecil Beaton on the front steps of Reddish House, Broad Chalke, June 1947, Reddish © Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s
This really is a fascinating and revelatory exhibition as it takes us into Beaton’s private world and looks at his two homes in Wiltshire and his life there. In both homes there is a sense of theatricality whether the beautifully evoked Circus Room (Ashcombe) recreated here, or in the more formal elements of the Reddish Drawing Room that have been reunited once more.
Dorian Leigh photographed for ‘Modess… because’ campaign, Reddish House, Broad Chalke, 1950s, Reddish, © Johnson & Johnson
Cecil Beaton in his first costume of the night for the Fete Champetre, in his Circus bedroom, 10 July 1937, Ashcombe © Getty Images/ Time Life
It is fortunate that curator Andrew Ginger is Director of Beaudesert Ltd and The Cecil Beaton Fabric Collection since it has meant that the special chintz for the Reddish Drawing Room once more covers the sofa, which Garbo sat on when she visited Beaton. Beaudesert Ltd was also responsible for the recreation of the “Circus Bed”.
Beaton’s certain eye for detail and composition both in his homes and his various costume designs and film and theatre sets has meant that he is still a source of inspiration and study for young designers.
Frontispiece montage for Cecil Beaton’s Scrapbook, 1937, Ashcombe © Private Collection
However it is just not the physical settings that are considered there are his relationships with his mother Esther, secretary Eileen Hose as well as his love life -, his friendship with Greta Garbo and with the younger American academic Kin Hoitsma. Scrapbooks recall the numerous visitors who enjoyed his hospitality over the years. His skill as a painter is not ignored either with portraits of local children which he gave to their families. There are interior sketches of Reddish which he did with his left hand following his stroke.
Ashcombe House, by Rex Whistler, 1930s, Ashcombe © Private Collection
This is a really all-encompassing look at Beaton’s country life in all its facets and it has certainly made me rethink my perception of him in a much warmer way. Do listen to the recollections of his local neighbours on the telephone. I also think it is wonderful that the Drawing Room curtains he gave to the villagers and which are used in the Village hall survive so well to this day, surely a tribute to him?
Portrait of Cecil Beaton by Henry Lamb, 1935 © Private Collection
Generously supported by The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s, The Aldama Foundation, Quilter Cheviot, Savills, Sotheby’s, The Salisbury Area Board, The South West Area Board and other generous benefactors.
Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum, The Kings House, 65 The Close, Salisbury, SP1 2EN
01722 332151, www.salisburymuseum.org.uk
Monday – Saturday, including bank holidays 10am – 5pm; Sundays (during June – September) 12noon – 5pm