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; whitfordfineart.com) 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