An art collection to rival the best

Painting of Venice by Canaletto

Upton House and Gardens has something rather special for lovers of art - Lord Bearsted’s collection of paintings and porcelain.

A fine place to display a growing collection

In 1927 Upton House became the country home of Walter Samuel, 2nd Lord Bearsted, a retreat from his busy life in London as Chairman of Shell and his other business and philanthropic interests.  Upton, in the idyllic Warwickshire countryside, was a splendid setting for his growing art collection, considered to be one of the finest in private hands in Britain.

How it all began

Walter Samuel began collecting in his early 20s, inspired by his father and mother who were both keen collectors. It was after the First World War that his passion for paintings grew and he made many purchases. His wife Dorothea was not so enthusiastic – there’s a story that he would smuggle his latest buys into the house and hide them under the bed in his dressing room!

A varied collection

While his greatest love was paintings, he also collected tapestries, illuminated initials and oriental works of art. As well as early French and English porcelain, all of which are represented at Upton.

Attributed to Hieronymus Bosch or his studio (c.1450-1516) The Adoration of the Magi
Typtic painting in gold frame by Bosch showing the birth of Christ in stable
Attributed to Hieronymus Bosch or his studio (c.1450-1516) The Adoration of the Magi

Back on display

We have two of our most famous paintings back on display this spring. The 'Adoration of the Magi' triptych is back in the picture gallery after being out on loan at an exhibition in Bosch's hometown in the Netherlands over the winter. We also had to send the 'John Corbet and the Warwickshire Foxhounds' Weaver painting off for restoration and repair last year, but it's now back in the dining room and looking better than ever.

See the paintings as Lord Bearsted intended

The paintings cover a considerable range of masterpieces from Bruegel through El Greco and Guardi to Hogarth and Stubbs, as well as a number of English sporting pictures. It is a reflection of Walter Samuel's interests that almost all the pictures at Upton are concerned with human beings and their relationship with each other as well as to the world around them.  

George Stubbs (1724-1806), The Labourers, 1779 / NT 446710
The Labourers by George Stubbs
George Stubbs (1724-1806), The Labourers, 1779 / NT 446710

Rare Porcelain

The porcelain is eighteenth century soft-paste Sevres and Chelsea.  Of special historic and artistic interest is the coffee can and saucer made to royal order for Catherine the Great of Russia and the rare complete 10 figure Chelsea set of Apollo and the Nine Muses.

Bleu céleste coffee can and saucer from the service made for Catherine the Great, Sèvres 1778
Blue and gold silver plate
Bleu céleste coffee can and saucer from the service made for Catherine the Great, Sèvres 1778

A legacy for us all to enjoy

In the changed world after World War II, Walter Samuel, already in failing health, wanted to ensure that the collections and gardens he and his wife had created and loved be kept intact for others to enjoy for ever. He decided to give Upton House, the Gardens and the collections to the National Trust.

His generosity and philanthropy live on today every time visitors come to Upton House and enjoy the artworks he was so passionate about.