The secret world of Marianne Rush

Marianne Rush died in 1814. She was interred in a burial ground which has been cleared of all its tombstones. I think she painted these pictures, although they have been attributed to another lady at times in their history. She created a place which is half real and half imagined, a special country made out of her imagination. The places she painted all existed but it is not certain whether she had seen them all. You can identify most of them and research them but you can’t quite pin them down. You could call her a naive painter, or an amateur. But her vision is clear. This is the secret world of Marianne Rush.

Let me tell you a story. Here is an old half fallen wall. The gate is open.

Follow the path through the banks of flowers to Lady Walpole’s grotto.

You can pass under the arches without being seen from the house.

Take note of the pattern on the floor. Do not look out of the window. You cannot be sure what you will see. The trees ahead have formed a passage through which you must go quietly. Cross the lawn and enter the greenhouse.

But don’t step into the shadow of the gate.

You can collect some fruit but only one from each tree. Keep them in separate pockets. Hold one in your left hand. At the end of the gallery you will find a staircase. Ascend and wait in the upper room.

It has a curious ceiling. Colonel Despard held his meetings here. There was a miniature guillotine on the mantelpiece but Dr Mead cleared the room. Most of the rooms here are empty. The current inhabitants don’t need furniture. Try the fireplace. There may be something worth keeping in the ashes. Squeeze the juice from one of the fruits into the ash. Does the smell disturb you? Close your eyes. Do you remember this place?

Did you select the middle passage?

Who is this who is coming?

Open your eyes. There is a key in your hand. Slip out of the window. You can climb down the ivy. Follow the river path to the summer house.

You can use the key. Enter.

Is there writing on base of the bust? Or is there a set of pages torn from the Gentleman’s Magazine? Pick them up. You need to leave quickly. Go through the trees. Stay close to the river. As the trees thin out can you see a building?

Remember this place. We will come back soon when it’s safe. But there is somewhere else to go first. Back to the machine, before it gets dark.

I’ll tell you more about what I know of Marianne Rush another time.

But you can always tell your own stories about her.

13 responses to “The secret world of Marianne Rush

  • Michael Gall

    Dear David,

    A Magical Post…into the enchanting world of Marianne Rush…Thank you.

  • Robin Greeley

    Really imaginative! A fascinating interpretation of these very private paintings.

  • Nancy

    Wondeful paintings and story.
    I could imagine a computer game with those scenes with ghosts, dandies, and Mrs. Grundy as participants.

  • Kat Sheridan

    Loved the story and loved the paintings! How lovely and mysterious!

  • Kat Sheridan

    I’m quite curious about these paintings (actually, I’d love to have prints of every single one of them!) Is that the artist’s real name? Where are these displayed? I just accidentally landed here from another link and am intrigued.

    • Dave Walker

      I’ll be doing a slightly less enigmatic post about Marianne Rush in a few weeks, but for the moment I will say that I’m pretty sure the pictures were painted by a woman of that name. The pictures have been owned by the Library since 1929 and only displayed in local exhibitions. To the best of my knowledge this is the first time they’ve been reproduced in colour.

      • Kat Sheridan

        They are truly gorgeous (although I think it’s as much or more the lovely story you’ve woven around them that makes them so attractive!) You might do well turning them into posters or postcards or prints!

  • Ana

    This is one of the most original posts I’ve ever seen!

    Have you played some of the old adventure computer games? This is very Myst-like.

  • Lorna McKenzie

    Myst like indeed, fab post and wonderful water colours, I must research her now! Thank you!

  • Nancy

    She seems to have had a thing for tunnels, hallways, and the art of perspective. Though they seem simple they do have a quality that one can view time after time

  • anglosardo

    Dave, why do you think the Gulston Collection is the work of Marianne Rush?

    • Dave Walker

      The odd thing is that anyone ever thought they were by Gulston. Reginald Blunt, in his introduction to the pictures in a catalogue of the exhibition in 1929, says “it is more probable that they were done for her (Gulston) by either Mrs Jane or Mrs Honor Rush”. these were assumed to be relatives of John Rush, the Rector of Chelsea. The burials of various female members of the Rush family have been found in parish records, and it seems most likely that MaryAnn Rush (or Marianne) was the artist. I may have been wrong in this post about her death. Within the last year I have been in contact with some of her descendants and it seems more likely she died in the 1850s. Elizabeth Gulston was an associate of Faulkner and there are a couple of pictures in one of our scrapbooks which are more plausibly attributed to her. In my opinion they are not as good as the Rush paintings. I can’t explain quite why the library came to the belief that they were by Gulston. The pictures were exhibited in the Manresa Road Library in 1970 under the heading “supposedly by Elizabeth Gulston”. By the time I was in charge of Local Studies at Chelsea it was accepted among devotees of the pictures (I include myself in that group) that they were by Rush.
      I’ve been guilty of spinning fantasies about the artist in this post and others, because I think they’re fascinating. I’m pretty sure they’re by a woman called Rush. Perhaps I need to do a more factual post one day.

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