The Watercolour Project

Dal Giardino Della Sirene, Sorrento, Italy. Painted in 1870 by Rosamond Talbot

In 1833, while visiting Lake Como in Italy following his marriage to Constance Mundy, Talbot found himself in the frustrating position of being the only one in the group unable to sketch the scenery, even with the help of a camera lucida.

" When the eye was removed from the prism – in which all had looked beautiful – I found that the faithless pencil had only left traces on the paper melancholy to behold."
- William Henry Fox Talbot

This prompted him to dream up a new machine with light-sensitive paper that would make the sketches for him automatically.

An early photograph of William Henry Fox Talbot
Early photograph of William Henry Fox Talbot who owned Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire
An early photograph of William Henry Fox Talbot

When the Lacock Abbey collection came into the ownership of the National Trust at the end of 2009, it comprised over 15,000 items. At the time that the collection was acquired, its full extent was largely unknown and the property team have been gradually cataloguing items and developing a plan to deal with a huge conservation backlog ever since. 

Through this work, it was found that within the collection we held over 2,500 watercolours, painted largely by William Henry Fox Talbot’s wife and children. The paintings are of an exceptionally high quality and provide an insight into the lives of the family, the time that they lived and their travels across the world. Unfortunately many of the paintings are in poor condition and are in urgent need of conservation.