Discover the house and collection at Upton
Upton House is the country house and weekend retreat where 2nd Viscount Bearsted, Walter Samuel, assembled one of the finest art collections in 20th-century England. Immerse yourself in a remarkable range of world-class paintings, from Stubbs and Hogarth to Bosch and El Greco. See how Lord Bearsted furnished every square inch with his pictures and 18th-century English and French porcelain.
Beauty and pleasure
Upton House and Gardens was the beloved country home of the Jewish philanthropist, collector and Chairman of Shell, Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted and his family.
Remodelled in the 1930s as a weekend retreat, it had modern comforts, gardens and outstanding collections of paintings and porcelain.
A varied collection
While his greatest love was paintings, he also collected tapestries, illuminated manuscripts and oriental works of art, as well as early French and English porcelain, all of which are represented at Upton.
See the paintings as Lord Bearsted intended
The paintings cover a considerable range of masterpieces from Bruegel and Guardi to Hogarth and Stubbs, as well as a number of English sporting pictures.
It reflects Walter Samuel's interests in that almost all the pictures at Upton are concerned with human beings and their relationship with each other, as well as with the world around them.
The porcelain is 18th-century soft-paste Sèvres 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.
A legacy for us all to enjoy
In the changed world after the Second World War, Walter Samuel, already in failing health, wanted to ensure that the collections and gardens he and his wife had created and loved were kept intact for others to enjoy for ever.
Gifted to the National Trust
He decided to gift Upton House, the garden and the collections to the National Trust.
His generosity and philanthropy live on today every time visitors come to Upton House and enjoy the artwork he was so passionate about.
Discover the Canaletto
Take a closer look at one of Canaletto's impressive pieces, which is part of the Upton House art collection.
Canaletto is considered the most famous view-painter of the Georgian period. He was well known for his Venetian landscapes and attention to detail.
Giovanni Antonio Canal was born in 1697 in Venice. He was the son of Bernardo Canal, a successful painter of theatrical scenery. To distinguish himself from his father, he was given the nickname Canaletto, meaning 'a little canal'.
Inspired by Venetian artists
Inspiration for Canaletto's early painting came from established Venetian artists such as Marco Ricci and Luca Carlevarjis.
During his early career, Canaletto was taken under the wing of Joseph Smith, a merchant banker with contacts who was an ideal agent for the young artist.
Joseph Smith commissions
By the end of the 1720s, most of Canaletto's paintings were commissioned through Smith. Smith also collected Canaletto’s work and commissioned him to paint six large views around San Marco and the Piazzetta to be displayed in his palace.
In addition, the collection had a series of 12 smaller views on the Grand Canal. These paintings were the most important pieces of Canaletto’s career.
Smith's paintings sold
In 1762, Smith was forced to part with his beloved Canaletto collection consisting of 50 paintings and 140 drawings. He sold them to George III who paid a staggering £20,000 for the collection. They were purchased to furnish the newly bought Buckingham House (later palace).
In the 1830s, the collection was moved to Windsor Castle where it has remained ever since.
George Stubbs at Upton House
Born in Liverpool in 1742 where he grew up. George Stubbs had no regular training in painting and was almost entirely self-taught. When he was just 21 he travelled to Italy in search of inspiration for his art. After a successful trip he returned home, to begin a rigorous artistic study of the horse, from which he published The Anatomy of the Horse in 1766.
Upton is home to some of his more unusual paintings. The Haymaker, The Labourers and The Reapers are country scenes. See the famous George Stubbs paintings in the Dining Room at Upton House when you visit.
Discover Smartify at Upton
New for the spring and summer, you can now delve deeper into the collection and discover more about the treasured art, porcelain and tapestries. Using the Smartify app on your mobile, take an audio tour with the Property Curator, dedicated volunteers and past family members who share their unique insights and stories. See the collection through a new lens with close-up images and more detailed information. You can find out more and share your feedback here.
Please note: Upton houses an important collection of art and porcelain and it isn't possible to have all items on display permanently.
To find out if a particular room or work is currently on display, on loan or in storage, please contact us before travelling.
Visit Upton's historic garden and marvel at the view that unfolds in front of you. Discover the Mirror Pool and wander along the Winter and Woodland Walks.
Discover more about the history of Upton House and how following its acquisition by Lord and Lady Bearsted in 1927, they set about improving the estate and hiring garden designer Kitty Lloyd-Jones to improve the garden.
Discover how a rare painting by Venetian artist Jacopo Tintoretto is being researched, and conserved in a new project.
Take a look at some of the conservation work that takes place at Upton to look after this place for everyone, for ever.
The art and heritage collections we care for rival the world’s greatest museums. Learn more about the collection of paintings, decorative art, costume, books, household and other objects at historic places.
Historic buildings are a treasure trove of stories, art and collections. Learn more about their histories and plan your next visit.