A talented young artist at Plas Newydd
Plas Newydd is home to one of the largest and most well-known murals in the United Kingdom, painted by artist Rex Whistler. This ambitious and fantastical mural, over 17.5 metres long, was designed as an imaginary view from the windows of Plas Newydd House in Wales.
In 2019 a large project began to upgrade the pipes and wires throughout the house, however in March 2020 as the country went into lockdown, tools were put down and the works were paused.
Today you will see evidence of unfinished pipework and some ‘rough edges’ throughout the house. Essential works have continued, and we hope to start the larger works again soon.
Rex Unfinished – 4 March to 6 November 2022
In this unfinished house we are presenting an exhibition of unfinished artworks by Rex, some of which are on show for the first time in over a decade, for people to see and enjoy whilst we are in this transitional phase.
Some of the highlights of ‘Rex Unfinished’ include a self-portrait of Rex painted in 1939, lying on the grass and looking towards the mansion, the Menai Strait and the mountains of Snowdonia.
Rex was also a familiar name in theatre production, having designed costumes, sets and backdrops. Rex painted the backdrop for a production called ‘The Luck of the Devil’, shown at the Players’ Theatre in 1939. We have worked with specialist paintings conservators to protect and display this unique piece.
Rex and the Paget family
During his time at Plas Newydd, Rex would socialise with the family, often painting their portraits. ‘The Family in the Music Room’ also known as the ‘conversation piece’ you will see Charles (6th Marquess) Marjorie (6th Marchioness) and their children posing in the music room. Painted between 1938-1939 the piece is unfinished as the face of Caroline, the eldest child of Charles, is blank.
Rex Whistler always intended to return to Plas Newydd after the Second World War to complete some of the unfinished details of his work. Tragically, he was killed on his first day of active duty in France on the 18 July 1944.
During the reservicing work, access to the upstairs of the house cannot always be guaranteed, but will remain open whenever possible.
Beginnings of Rex Whistler
Rex Whistler created his first commissioned mural whilst still a student at the Slade School of Art in London. Once the mural was unveiled in the famous Tate Britain art gallery in 1927, he became very sought after. Whistler first visited Plas Newydd at Easter in 1936, and the commission was agreed that April.
By July that same year, Rex created a smaller, detailed watercolour of the whole composition to plan out the mural. The commission is believed to have been the idea of Lady Marjorie, the wife of the 6th Marquess.
The ambitious and fantastical mural, over 17.5 metres long, was designed as an imaginary view from the windows of Plas Newydd.
Rex Whistler was a master of complex compositions that could deceive the eye. This European fantasy landscape encourages us to think we are standing at the edge of the sea on a paved promenade looking onto a stone jetty. In the distance is a coastal town featuring Roman architecture, along with identifiable British buildings, all backed by the mountains of Snowdonia.
This playful scene was one of Whistler’s great masterpieces, and he even included a portrait of himself as a gardener with broom in hand.
As well as a commissioned artist during his time at Plas Newydd, he was also a much-welcomed guest of the 6th Marquess’s family.
Rex spent much time with the family in the 1930s. He regularly attended parties and staying at the house. Rex fell in love with the family's eldest daughter, Lady Caroline, and became a great friend to the current Lord Anglesey.