Friday, April 11, 2014
More than 20 works by the Norfolk painter Edward Seago are being hung in the ballroom of the Royal residence, which opens to the public next week for the summer.
“His cows were just blobs of paint,” Prince Charles once wrote of Seago. “But they were the right blobs of paint.”
Seago (1910 - 1974) studied anatomy, particularly of horses, until he was able to convey the animals’ movements.
Early sketches of steeplechasers from the Queen’s private collection, on show for the first time, show how he would practise his technique at trackside.
Born in Norwich, the landscapes, coasts and skies of Norfolk form a major part of his work.
Seago worked on camouflage ideas for the army during the Second World War, until he was invalided out of the military and became a war artist.
In 1947 he painted a view of the wedding procession of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, and in 1948, his portraits of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, commissioned for the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell, were displayed at a London exhibition.
Queen Mary, a noted art connoisseur, visited the exhibition, and shortly afterwards Seago received the first of what were to be many invitations to Sandringham.
Seago became a regular guest in January and July each year, driving across from his home at Ludham, where members of the Royal Family also visited him.
Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret visited Seago at Ludham on February 5, 1952 - hours before the King died in his sleep at Sandringham. They collected pictures, which they put on display for the King.
Shortly afterwards, Queen Elizabeth wrote to Seago: “I have been longing to write and tell you what real pleasure your lovely pictures gave the King.
“He was enchanted with them all, and we spent a very happy time looking at them together.
“Thank you with all my heart for giving us the heavenly pictures and particularly for the pleasure you have given the King.”
Subjects range from the wedding procession of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947, to racehorses thundering down the final straight.
Landscapes include the rugged terrain of far-flung islands in the South Atlantic, the sand dunes at Happisburgh and King’s Lynn waterfront.
“To me, the exciting thing is the breadth of the subjects,” said Helen Walch, the Queen’s public access manager at Sandringham.
“We’ve got horses, we’ve got landscapes, we’ve got sea, we’ve got land, we’ve got Sandringham and literally the other side of the world.
“The way he’s brought these scenes to life is extraordinary.”
Seago, who lived in Ludham, was famed for his impressionistic style, using light strokes on the canvass to almost sketch his subject matter.
You can almost see the marram moving in the breeze across the north Norfolk sand dunes, in a landscape which has not been seen for half a century.
The painting of Happisburgh was loaned by its current owner, whose father was a tenant farmer on the Royal Estate. He was part of a group who offered Princess Margaret a painting by Seago when she married Antony Armstrong-Jones, in 1960.
The Princess was offered a choice of two paintings and chose an alternative to the sea view. The farmer liked it so much that he bought it instead.
Seago was a regular visitor to Sandringham and would turn a person’s signature into a caricature for a party trick. Signatures which were transformed in this way include those of King George VI, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.
Seago also taught the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles to paint and accompanied the Duke on a voyage to the Antarctic, aboard the Royal yacht Britannia, in 1956.
The exhibition contains a pair of portraits - one of the Duke, by Seago; and one of Seago, painted by the Duke.
Seago gave Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, a view of King’s Lynn in 1954, to commemorate her being accorded the Freedom of King’s Lynn. She was instrumental in the campaign to save the town’s Guildhall of St George (now the Arts Centre), and patron of its festival, which was held for the first time in 1951.
One of her favourite events each summer was the Sandringham Flower Show, which Seago captures in a blur of figures bustling up the hill towards the familiar marquees, still pitched in the same positions today.
The exhibition is in the ballroom at Sandringham House, which is open to the public from Saturday, April 19, for the summer season.