Kirkudbright Source wikimedia © LeCardinal, CC-BY5
We had dreamed for a long time to visit Kirkcudbright, this lovely little town situated on the southern coast of Dumfries & Galloway, on the Solway Firth, but we never had time to fulfil our dream during our previous trips. So, last June, though we had only two days left before leaving Scotland, we decided to stop there on our way to Moffat.
Like Argenteuil, Giverny or Pont-Aven in France, Kirkcudbright shelters an artists’ colony and it is there that Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1956), a very famous Scottish painter and one of the ‘Glasgow Boys’, spent most of his life. On our NTS booklet we had read that we could visit Broughton House & Garden, his former house and workshop which is situated in Highstreet. It opened at 12 pm.
Early in the morning, after enjoying a delicious Scottish breakfast in the historic dining room of the Bank of Fleet Hotel, we left Gatehouse of Fleet and arrived before opening times at the gates of Threave Gardens which we absolutely wanted to re-visit. We spent the whole morning lingering along the paths of this wonderful garden with as much pleasure as we had in Castle Kennedy Gardens the previous day.
Broughton House façade © 2015 Scotiana
We finally arrived in front of Broughton House a little before 14 pm. As we had also planned to visit Sweetheart Abbey and Carlaeverock castle in the afternoon (preferably before 5 pm), we had not much time to visit E.A. Hornel’s house and his lovely garden which is a pity for there is much to see inside and outside. We’ll have to go back there to discover more about the artist’s life, his paintings, his books and the old trees and plants dating back to his time.
Rain is never far in Scotland so, as the sky was grey and the weather uncertain, we decided to visit the garden first. Both the house and the garden are in charge of the National Trust of Scotland and I will tell you more about the house in a next post. There is much to say about it and the paintings which are on display.
The library is well worth a visit in itself for it contains, among many other fascinating books, one of the world’s biggest collections of works by Robert Burns, the ‘local hero’ ;-).
In Broughton House, like in Abbotsford, one feels as if the master of the place was still there, lingering about the house, in his workshop, at his desk or in the wonderful garden he created with his sister Tizzie …
Broughton House information pannels © 2015 Scotiana
Broughton House & Garden advertising poster © 2015 Scotiana
Broughton House & Garden Hornel’s house © 2015 Scotiana
“Poetry, Painting, and Gardening, or the Science of Landscape, will forever by men of Taste be deemed Three Sisters, or The Three New Graces who dress and adorn Nature.”
In 1901, E. A. Hornel bought Broughton House, a picturesque 18th-century Georgian house situated in Highstreet. He must have admired it quite a lot when he lived in the nearby old family house, at a time when Broughton House was owned by the Murrays, a rich family of the neighbourhood.
Broughton House & Garden © 2015 Scotiana
Hornel lived in Brougton House with his sister until his death in 1933. The house served him as his home, studio, gallery and library and he devoted much money and much time arranging the place to his taste, adding extensions and trying to create the garden of his dreams, which he did quite well.
Hornel commissioned the Glasgow architect John Keppie to build a large extension at the rear of the house to serve him as a studio and he added a top-lit gallery between this extension and the original house. We can see it on the above photo.
Edward Atkinson Hornel autoportrait © 2015 Scotiana
From the 1900s through to the 1920s, the Scots painter Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933) turned increasingly to the cultivation of his antiquarian collection of local literature; folklore, poetry and history; and his walled garden by the banks of the river Dee in the Scottish Border town of Kirkcudbright. Hornel’s one acre garden was designed in sections (some were already in existence): areas of lawn, rose-beds and box hedges, flower and herb gardens (fig.1).
But the section deemed most important to the artist himself was, as Stephen Harvey writing for Scottish Field in the 1970s termed it, ‘An Eastern Garden. This was clearly the artist’s own dominion, a place apart from the conventional villa garden, landscaped with exotics to remind Hornel of his travels.
(Tate Papers : ‘The Veriest Poem of Art in Nature': E. A. Hornel’s Japanese Garden in the Scottish Borders by Ysanne Holt)
The Life and Work of Edward Atkinson Hornel Bill Smith Atelier Books 2010
Born in Australia and brought up in Kirkcudbright in southwest Scotland, Hornel trained as a painter in Edinburgh and Antwerp.
Through his friendship with George Henry, the two artists became important members of the Glasgow Boys, promoting the second, highly coloured decorative phase of the Boys between about 1880 and 1896.
His masterpiece, Summer, acquired by Liverpool Corporation in 1892 amid intense controversy, propelled Hornel into the limelight and led to an invitation to exhibit his work in Brussels in 1893 alongside that of Rodin, Signac and Toulouse-Lautrec.
In 1893-94 Henry and Hornel spent thirteen months painting in Japan; Hornel’s subsequent exhibition in Glasgow was a triumph. His instantly recognisable later work of children playing in woods carpeted with snowdrops or wild hyacinths or among the burnet roses above the sea shore remain as popular as ever with collectors and the public alike. (Source: Amazon)
Broughton House Garden the cat © 2015 Scotiana
We found a guide to lead us around the garden…
Broughton House Garden © 2015 Scotiana
‘Nestled behind the house, backing on to the River Dee, is Hornel’s beautiful garden.Greatly influenced by his love of Japan,
it’s a curious and colourful mixture of Eastern and Western horticulture and sculpture that is a delight to explore.’
Broughton Gardens Kirkcudbright © 2015 Scotiana
Gardens are a form of autobiography.
(Sydney Eddison, Horticulture magazine, August/September 1993)
The garden is divided into a number of sections well delimited by boxing hedges which were of a lovely yellow shade when we visited it, which creates intimate spaces sometimes with a bench…
Broughton House Lily Pond flamingo© 2015 Scotiana
At the time of E.A. Hornel the garden was new and as such not as luxuriant as it is today with its huge mature plants : the omnipresent ferns, the Gunnera Manicata with its big leaves, the exotic yucca…
Broughton House bench & ferns © 2015 Scotiana
Ferns are a favourite motif as we can see on this lovely bench…
Broughton House lead flamingo © 2015 Scotiana
A lead flamingo proudly stands amidst this mini tropical forest as if ready to take its flight…
Broughton House Garden allium flower © 2015 Scotiana
A good source of inspiration for a painter…
Broughton House blue iris and allium flowers © 2015 Scotiana
The choice and artistic arrangement of the flowers reflect the art of the successive gardeners from E.A. Hornel to the present one, Mike Jack, who recently replaced Nick Hoskins who had worked there for 15 years. Mike Jack did part of his training in the garden of Broughton House…
Broughton House sundial troughs © 2015 Scotiana
Here’s a lovely garden shed…
Broughton House garden house © 2015 Scotiana
where you can sit and learn a number of interesting things about the four seasons in Broughton House Garden, also about the art of gardening and the NTS work which is remarkable.
Broughton House season posters © 2015 Scotiana
“With the advent of SPRING the garden begins to come to life after the long winter months. Gardening jobs in spring include applying mulches to conserve moisture and suppress weeds, seed sowing, taking cuttings of shrubs, planting out and potting up.”
“The garden in SUMMER is an explosion of colour. This is the busiest time of the year in the garden, with jobs such as staking, weeding, mowing and watering taking up most of the day”.
“In AUTUMN the garden is ablaze with a rich kaleidoscope of colour. This is the season to put the garden to bed, rake leaves, dig over the vegetable plots and plant spring bulbs.”
“In WINTER the structure of the garden becomes prominent, floweres are scarced and valued for their colour and scent. Here at Broughton House winter is a time for redesigning elements of the garden, replanting and basic cultivation (digging!)”
(NTS Broughton House Garden four season posters)
Broughton House spring information sheet © 2015 Scotiana
Spring and summer sheets are at our disposal to help us discover the garden…
Broughton House summer information sheet © 2015 Scotiana
Broughton House Garden blue iris © 2015 Scotiana
Blue and green as dominant colours in the foreground, yellow, different shades of brown and a touch of red in the background composing a wonderful harmony…
Broughton House greenhouse © 2015 Scotiana
A shrub of delicate roses and in the background the Edwardian summerhouse sheltering the most delicate species…
Broughton House green house © 2015 Scotiana
This lovely summerhouse was originally built to rotate in order to follow the the sun but the rotating mechanism no longer operates.
Broughton House sundial lawn bench © 2015 Scotiana
Here, in the middle of a remarkably well tended piece of lawn, one of the beautiful sundials Hornel had collected during his lifetime stands as if to remind that time is passing to people who are sitting on the bench well decided to let it pass…
Broughton House old tree and blue iris © 2015 Scotiana
Had we stayed longer in this wonderful garden we could have asked the gardener what’s the name of this old tree which provides shade to the beautiful blue iris. He was not far…
Broughton House hedges and broughs© 2015 Scotiana
There are many slabbed or gravel paths like this one, lined with low box edging and leading to some or other secluded place of the garden…
Broughton House Garden heuchera© 2015 Scotiana
Heuchera,” the despair of the painter”, with its myriad of tiny flowers and beautiful autumn coloured leaves…
Broughton House peonies © 2015 Scotiana
On his trip to Ceylon in 1907 he [E.A. Hornel] was disappointed that the colours did not meet his anticipations and the country was less exotic than he had imagined. Disenchanted, unable to reconcile expectations and actual experience, he is nostalgic for his own garden. The ‘going away’ simply intensified his idealisations, and he wrote: ‘I go home with double interest in my garden… from letters, my garden has been doing marvels. The Peonies were magnificent, & my Wisteria which I have longed for any weary years to see in bloom, took advantage of my absence and made a royal show.’
(Tate Papers : ‘The Veriest Poem of Art in Nature': E. A. Hornel’s Japanese Garden in the Scottish Borders by Ysanne Holt*)
*Ysanne Holt is Senior Lecturer in Art History at the University of Northumbria and editor of the Manchester University Press journal Visual Culture in Britain.
Tate Papers Autumn 2004 © Tate
Broughton House Garden cat on the path© 2015 Scotiana
Hornel cherished his garden and he collected all sorts of objects to decorate it: stone sundials and troughs, sculptures, architectural fragments coming from a local ruined abbey…
Broughton House Dee river view© 2015 Scotiana
Would Hornel recognize his garden if he came back here, I wonder… the river still murmurs the same melody, a number of old trees and plants have survived, growing with an invading tendency while the flamingo is still keeping guard in front of the lily pond but the ingenious greenhouse no longer rotates…
Broughton House calico cat © 2015 Scotiana
There is a new cat or is he an old cat living one of his other lives ? We’ve called him Calico … but where is Tizzie ?
We could have stayed there for hours. It’s a magical place, a secret garden… but stay tuned for next time we’ll discover ‘Bro-Hoose’, the artist’s beloved place which shelters many secrets too 😉