A mo­ment in time

John Goodall ex­plains how Coun­try Life’s ear­li­est pho­tog­ra­phers pi­o­neered the art of cap­tur­ing Eng­land’s most beau­ti­ful rooms. To cel­e­brate our 120th an­niver­sary, high­lights will be on show at Lin­ley from April 6 un­til June 17

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

John Goodall ex­plains how COUN­TRY LIFE pi­o­neered the art of cap­tur­ing Eng­land’s most beau­ti­ful rooms

IT was worse than bur­glars,’ re­called the Hon Mrs Ruck, de­scrib­ing the visit of the Coun­try Life pho­tog­ra­pher Al­fred E. Hen­son to Aud­ley End, Essex, in 1926. When pho­tograph­ing a house, Hen­son took con­trol of every­thing. On ar­rival, he would im­pe­ri­ously si­lence the but­ler with a long list of de­mands for chem­i­cals, a steplad­der, a mop, a bucket and a strict timetable for re­fresh­ment. Then, he would cre­ate a tem­po­rary dark­room some­where in­side the build­ing for the de­vel­op­ment of his glass plates.

Con­strained by the weather and the avail­abil­ity of nat­u­ral light, he crafted in­te­rior pho­to­graphs with bril­liant tech­ni­cal skill, stick­ing printed signs on doors to pre­vent dis­tur­bance and wait­ing hours for the op­ti­mum mo­ment. In ad­di­tion, how­ever, he ruth­lessly re­ordered the fur­nish­ings of rooms, in­tro­duc­ing or re­mov­ing chairs, ta­bles and pot­ted plants.

This or­gan­i­sa­tion of rooms—what we would now think of as styling—was done with a clear pur­pose at the ex­act­ing direc­tion of the ar­chi­tec­tural ed­i­tor Christo­pher Hussey, who be­gan work for the magazine in 1920. Hussey not only wanted beau­ti­ful im­ages of houses—which the magazine had al­ready been pub­lish­ing for more than 20 years—but ones that made aes­thetic sense of the in­te­ri­ors they recorded. He wanted Coun­try Life to trace the evo­lu­tion of Bri­tish taste through the creation of in­tel­lec­tu­ally and aes­thet­i­cally co­her­ent illustrations. To this end, he de­manded that Ge­or­gian or Tu­dor rooms dis­play fur­ni­ture ap­pro­pri­ate to their pe­riod, not Vic­to­rian bric-a-brac.

Mod­ern own­ers of coun­try houses hope­fully find the vis­its of Coun­try Life pho­tog­ra­phers to­day more con­ge­nial than the Hon Mrs Ruck. Cer­tainly, times have changed. Even by the 1970s, the de­sire to re­order in­te­ri­ors was sub­sid­ing, to be re­placed by an in­ter­est in record­ing houses as homes with eclec­tic col­lec­tions.

The magazine, mean­while, grad­u­ally switched to colour, although it was re­mark­ably slow to adopt this tech­no­log­i­cal shift through­out its pages; as late as 1992, there were still oc­ca­sional ar­chi­tec­tural ar­ti­cles il­lus­trated in black and white. More re­cently, pho­tog­ra­phy it­self has passed through a dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion that has trans­formed its prac­tice.

Coun­try Life pho­tog­ra­phers still seek to make aes­thetic sense of the in­te­ri­ors they work on in or­der to show them to best ad­van­tage. They once again rely to­day al­most ex­clu­sively on nat­u­ral light. This helps cap­ture the spirit of rooms and dis­tin­guishes Coun­try Life’s pho­tog­ra­phy from the brightly lit in­te­ri­ors beloved by so many mag­a­zines.

For these rea­sons, and be­cause of the painstak­ing care with which our pho­tog­ra­phers work, the qual­ity of Coun­try Life’s ar­chi­tec­tural and in­te­rior illustrations eclipses all com­pe­ti­tion. Week by week, our pho­tog­ra­phy con­tin­ues to trace the chang­ing face of do­mes­tic ar­chi­tec­ture across the full ex­tent of the Bri­tish Isles, both his­toric and newly com­pleted.

As the magazine cel­e­brates its 120th birthday, it’s im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine a richer or more mag­nif­i­cent source for trac­ing the his­tory of Bri­tish in­te­rior taste than our ar­chive.

The 1930s en­trance hall of Eltham Palace was cre­ated for Stephen and Vir­ginia Cour­tauld by the Swedish de­signer Rolf Engströmer. The walls are cov­ered in ve­neer that is in­laid with im­agery. Vis­i­ble here are a Ro­man, a Vik­ing and views of Italy. This pho­to­graph was pub­lished in 1937 and has been used for the mod­ern re-creation of the space

By nail­ing sheets over the win­dows of Ruf­ford Hall, Cheshire, the pho­tog­ra­pher Arthur Hen­der­son dif­fused the fall of nat­u­ral light to cre­ate the per­fect in­ter­nal shot

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.