Artist Francis Hamel and garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith met at Rousham House – Francis had been living in the old laundry building on the grounds and had a studio in the stables since 1996, and Tom had been visiting the garden regularly for about 20 years. Since then they have been regularly walking the garden together, swimming the river and in Francis’ case, painting the place.
In this event they will discuss the profound impact of the garden on their lives and their work with particular reference to the current exhibition of 80 paintings made by Francis since the beginning of the pandemic. (The exhibition will be at Rousham House from the 2-6th October and then at the John Martin gallery in London from 14th October to November 5th.) This collection of paintings must be one of the most thorough examinations ever made by an artist of a garden. Several of the paintings, selected by Francis and Tom, will be on display at the Museum for the evening.
The collection captures both the seventeenth century walled gardens with espalier pear trees, dovecote and box parterre as well as the eighteenth century Pleasure grounds designed by William Kent with the seven arched Praeneste, cascades, the rill and the octagonal ponds.
A book of the paintings will be published to coincide with the exhibition featuring essays by Francis Hamel, garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith, the novelist Joanna Kavenna, and Garden Museum Director Christopher Woodward.
Francis Hamel is a painter based in the UK and working between studios at Rousham in Oxfordshire and Le Marche in central Italy. He is known for his landscape painting and portraiture. His practice involves painting and drawing from observation and also includes paintings of the circus and theatre, flowers, still life and monumental tree paintings.
In 2008 he was commissioned to make a large collection of murals and paintings for permanent display at Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly. In 2019, Francis exhibited a collection of 28 portraits of leading figures in film and theatre at The Victoria and Albert Museum in London together with a collection of theatre paintings, this coincided with the publication of a book of his collected work. ‘Francis Hamel paintings and drawings'. Following two trips to China in 2019, his last exhibition “Painting the Yellow Mountain’ was a collection of landscapes from China and Hong Kong. As well as painting the great gardens of Central and Northern Italy he has painted a number of British gardens including those at Highgrove by invitation from HRH The Prince of Wales. His next exhibition will be a large collection of paintings and drawings of the gardens at Rousham, where he lives. The exhibition will be at the John martin Gallery in October 2021 and will be accompanied by a book of the work with essays by Francis, Tom Stuart-Smith, Christopher Woodward and Joanna Kavenna.
Tom Stuart-Smith is a landscape architect whose work is characterised by strong contrasts between built form and naturalistic planting. Tom read Zoology at Cambridge before completing a postgraduate degree in Landscape Design at the University of Manchester. He worked for several years at Hal Moggridge and Elizabeth Banks Associates before setting up his own practice in London in 1998.
Tom has since designed parks, gardens and landscapes throughout Europe, India, USA and Caribbean. Significant projects in the public domain have included the Queen's Jubilee garden at Windsor Castle to mark the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire, the Bicentenary Glasshouse Garden at Wisley for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and on a smaller scale, the Keepers House Garden at the Royal Academy of Arts. International projects have included Le Jardin Secret in the heart of the Medina in Marrakech, a garden located on the waterways near Kottayam in Kerala, India, and a show garden for the international horticulture exhibition at IGA Berlin 2017. Current projects include a garden square at King’s Cross in London for Argent LLP and the Aga Khan Foundation, several projects at Chatsworth, a garden for the Scottish baronial estate of Aldourie Castle, a new public garden at the Hepworth Gallery Wakefield, and the masterplan for the RHS’s gardens at Bridgewater (near Salford) which is the largest new garden project in the UK.
Tom has also designed eight award winning gardens for the Chelsea Flower Show all of which were presented with gold medals and three ‘Best in Show’. In 2018, Tom was delighted to return to the Chelsea Flower Show after eight years absence to create The Weston Garden, celebrating 60 years of the Garfield Weston Foundation.