An artis­tic legacy

Hav­ing re­turned to her child­hood home, Cle­mentina Stiegler has com­pleted the work be­gun by her fa­ther, the cel­e­brated artist Caziel


There is an old French clock that hangs on the wall above Cle­mentina Stiegler’s din­ing ta­ble. It’s hand­some, but has no hands. ‘That was my fa­ther’s idea,’ she smiles. ‘He said, “If you have friends for din­ner, you don’t want them look­ing up to check the time”.’ In­stead, din­ners were for con­ver­sa­tion and sto­ries. ‘Al­ways so many sto­ries – my fam­ily does love to tell a tale,’ adds Cle­mentina. And what tre­men­dous sto­ries they were…

Her fa­ther was the 20th- cen­tury artist Caziel, born on the eve of the First World War in a Pol­ish town not far from Kraków. Cle­mentina grew up hear­ing of how, as a young boy, he and his fam­ily had fled through their war-torn home­land to rev­o­lu­tion­ary Moscow and then into the frozen wastes of Siberia.

Of how, aged 32, he left Poland for Paris to take up a schol­ar­ship at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he caught the eye of Edouard Vuil­lard and went on to work along­side Ge­orges Braque, Con­stantin Bran­cusi, Le Cor­bus­ier and Jean Arp. How Picasso took him un­der his wing, once clasp­ing him in a bear hug, say­ing: ‘You and I, we are the same; artists in ex­ile.’

And how a Bri­tish so­ci­ety beauty – Cle­mentina’s mother – fell for this ‘rogue, pen­ni­less artist’ and ran away to France to be with him. Then, fi­nally, how Cle­mentina’s par­ents’ whirl­wind ro­mance reached a gen­tler equi­lib­rium when they moved to Eng­land and bought this house on the Som­er­set Lev­els. ‘ War and strug­gle had fol­lowed my fa­ther around. But when my

par­ents came here, he found love, a fam­ily and a home,’ Cle­mentina says, sim­ply.

This con­verted mill house sur­rounded by mead­ows and water­ways is now Cle­mentina’s home, which she shares with her part­ner Ben Van Som­meren, an eques­trian trainer. When artists Caziel and his wife Cather­ine Sin­clair pitched up here to the be­muse­ment of lo­cals in 1968, Cle­mentina was just 10. ‘ Un­til then, we’d lived in an idyl­lic farm­house out­side Paris, where I ran around the vil­lage with all the other bare­foot ragamu ns,’ she says.

But with this house in the West Coun­try, it was time to put down stronger roots. ‘This was a home my fa­ther cre­ated him­self, by hand, mod­i­fy­ing the house and adding new rooms along one side, us­ing shed tim­bers, old bricks, what­ever was to hand,’ she says.

This was a home my fa­ther cre­ated him­self, by hand, mod­i­fy­ing the house and adding new rooms along one side

Cle­mentina moved back here when her son Max was a baby and has worked as an artist, stylist and florist. Grad­u­ally, she found time to turn her at­ten­tion to re­con­vert­ing the house, pick­ing up where her fa­ther left o .

‘This de­sign had been liv­ing in my head for years,’ says Cle­mentina, who brought in An­drea Pyle, ar­chi­tec­tural de­signer at O2i De­sign, to turn her imag­ined space into

Picasso loved Pol­ish folk art, so he was al­ready fa­mil­iar with my fa­ther’s work

a re­al­ity. The house’s old and new sec­tions are now co­her­ently joined and the main liv­ing and din­ing area is the hub. ‘I have a feel­ing that, if my fa­ther had the money back then, this is very close to what he would have cre­ated,’ ex­plains Cle­mentina. ‘A big room with lots of light and plenty of space for paint­ings.’

The din­ing room walls are lined with works by Caziel, but there is also a small draw­ing by Picasso, a gift from the artist when the two men met. ‘Picasso loved Pol­ish folk art, so he was al­ready fa­mil­iar with my fa­ther’s work,’ she says. ‘Picasso was like a god to artists by then, but had time to en­cour­age my fa­ther.’

There are also nu­mer­ous por­traits of Cle­mentina’s mother by Caziel. ‘He al­ways called her ‘My An­gel’ and painted her over and over,’ she says. Her mother Cather­ine was the daugh­ter of Sir Archibald Sin­clair, Churchill’s right-hand man dur­ing the war and one-time leader of the Lib­eral Party. ‘She was a debu­tante, ex­pected to marry a duke or some such,’ says Cle­mentina, ‘but she couldn’t bear all those stu ed-shirt suit­ors.’ In­stead, Cather­ine de­fied con­ven­tion, leav­ing Lon­don so­ci­ety to study art in Paris, where she met Caziel in 1952.

Their love a air re­mained hid­den from her par­ents for four years, but when Cather­ine fi­nally in­tro­duced Caziel to them, they were ‘charmed and de­lighted’. Af­ter get­ting mar­ried, the cou­ple lived in France un­til mov­ing to this house in Eng­land.

Cather­ine’s sculp­tures and paint­ings are well rep­re­sented and have a more Bri­tish, do­mes­tic feel than Caziel’s

Cather­ine’s own sculp­tures and paint­ings are also well rep­re­sented in the house and have a more Bri­tish, do­mes­tic feel than Caziel’s. As was of­ten the way (think of Gwen John or Winifred Ni­chol­son), her ca­reer took a back seat to her hus­band’s. ‘But it was the era, not my fa­ther, that held her back,’ says Cle­mentina. ‘They painted side by side and, if they weren’t paint­ing, they talked in­ces­santly about art – they dreamed about it.’

When her par­ents pitched up here al­most 50 years ago, Som­er­set was a lit­tle-known haven for artis­tic types. ‘Th­ese days, [in­ter­na­tional art gallery] Hauser & Wirth is nearby and my neigh­bours, the Tem­per­ley fam­ily, whose daugh­ter Alice is the fash­ion de­signer, bring lots of cre­ative peo­ple here,’ says Cle­mentina.

To­gether with her son Max, who is mar­ket­ing man­ager at lead­ing art fair Mas­ter­piece Lon­don, Cle­mentina is look­ing af­ter the artis­tic legacy of this house. Her next goal is to get a screen­play about Caziel’s ex­tra­or­di­nary life put into pro­duc­tion. ‘They did the best for me and now it’s my turn to look af­ter their work,’ she says. ‘This house is our fam­ily home, but it has so many more sto­ries to tell.’ Whit­ford Fine Art in Lon­don (020 7930 9332; whit­fordfin­ holds reg­u­lar ex­hi­bi­tions of Caziel’s work

ABOVE Pol­ished con­crete

oor­ing runs through this newer sec­tion of the house, which has re­placed a hotch­potch of rooms. The kitchen is by Mag­net and the be­spoke sofa is by Sofa Magic PRE­VI­OUS PAGE Her fa­ther’s clock looks down on the din­ing ta­ble by Richard Lyons at Midel­wood and the pen­dant lamps by Lee Broom

ABOVE Caziel’s art­work hangs above a sim­ple side ta­ble, which was a gift from Picasso. The por­trait to the left is of Caziel by his wife Cather­ine Sin­clair. Cle­mentina’s dogs, Wid­get and Pon­cho, have the run of the house LEFT The ar­chi­tec­tural re­work of the ground !oor in­volved open­ing up the war­ren of small rooms to cre­ate one light"lled, open- plan space. The gallery- like walls are per­fectly suited to Caziel’s larger works on can­vas

ABOVE In the draw­ing room, Cle­mentina’s par­ents’ work is dis­played side by side. The sculp­tures on the man­tel­piece and the paint­ing on the right are by Cather­ine. Caziel’s work hangs above the re­place FAC­ING PAGE The sculpted busts that are dis­played on top of the book­case are by Cather­ine Sin­clair

ABOVE An early work by Cather­ine Sin­clair against or­nate ‘Brunns­gatan’ wall­pa­per by Swedish brand Duro RIGHT A por­trait of Cle­mentina’s son, Max, by Cather­ine Sin­clair hangs above an heir­loom bureau FAC­ING PAGE The paint­ing over the bath is an early work by Caziel. Cle­mentina painted the bath ‘Green Smoke’ by Far­row & Ball

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