Sir George and Lady Labouchere started collecting Modern Art in the 1950s while Sir George was working for the British Embassy in Brussels. The Laboucheres installed the galleries you can see at Dudmaston today.
Sir George and Lady Labouchere both loved collecting art, but their tastes were different. Find out what inspired them and how they made their differences work in the house.
Modern Art Gallery
Sir George was aware that his taste in art was not that of the mainstream and was concerned that visitors wouldn’t understand his collection. During his lifetime he would often pop up at a visitor’s shoulder to ask their opinion on a piece and tell the back-story to it.
Sir George designed the original hang in the Modern Art gallery when the house opened to the public in the late 1970s. Lady Labouchere saw the galleries as living museums, that should be kept fresh through changing exhibitions. Adhering to this and to manage the conservation of the artwork we have altered displays over the years. In the Modern Art gallery, only Chic Temps above the fireplace remains where Sir George wished it to be, in honour of the fact that it was one of his favourites.
The collection has been identified as one of the most important private displays of modern art in Britain, containing works from internationally acclaimed artists such as Matisse, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.
Sir George and Lady Labouchere were in Spain during the dictatorship of General Franco. They were dark and difficult days and many used art to express their emotions. Despite the anti-establishment message of the works Sir George collected he maintained good ambassadorial terms with the General.
El Cine by Antonio Saura is definitely one of these anti-establishment pieces—Saura spent many years in exile from Franco’s regime. It gives the impression of a crowd looking at at a huge screen. The screen contains establishment figures—but who is watching who?
Rachel, Lady Labouchere loved botanical art, collecting it and painting it herself. She came from a family of artistic women—her Aunt, Evelyn Blacklock, was also a prolific artist.
She was also skilled in needlework, working throughout her life on petit point chair covers and other crafts—often making items of clothing or accessories during her earlier years abroad to supplement what she could take with her.
Spending time on her return from abroad at Flatford Mill working under the accomplished artist Nash, Lady Labouchere befriended Mary Grierson, the famed botanical artist. Later when Lady Labouchere was starting the Ironbridge Gorge Trust, Grierson gifted a painting of wildflowers from the Gorge to be auctioned.
Catherine Bertola is an artist whose work responds to particular places, collections and historic contexts.
At Dudmaston, drawing upon the photographic archive and the servants’ bells, she has been inspired by the legacy of the estate, its tradition, its continuity, and those who for centuries laboured to maintain Dudmaston. In the house, these now redundant below stairs spaces would have been full of invisible labour, bustle and occupation, governed by the summons of the bells.
Using the evocative medium of photography and sound, she finds ways of connecting contemporary existences with those of the past.
Gallery 2 houses the history of the people at Dudmaston, shown through the objects they once owned. It presents a full timeline from the year dot, which for us is 1127 when the land was first gifted to the family who still reside here today.
The stories of some of Dudmaston's past inhabitants are told through items from our collection, chosen by staff, volunteers and our visitors over the past year. What memories do the Victorian tricycle hold for some local residents? What glimpses of daily life does the Steward's ledger from 1776 reveal?