Tag Archives: Estella Canziani

In Estella’s house

In the previous post  about Estella Canziani I showed you some  of the pictures she painted or drew of the garden and the area around the house she lived in for her whole life. This week we’re continuing the story with more pictures inside the house in Palace Green. In 1967, shortly after her death a newspaper described her as the Bird Lady, an eccentric old woman still wearing the fashions of her youth and the house as a shambles infested by birds and other small animals. It seems a shame that people are often judged by how they were (or might have been) at the end of their lives. When a life is finished we are free to look at the whole story, see the whole pattern  and pick the greatest hits. No doubt the house in Palace Green was a bit of a mess but you could also choose to view it as a collection of wonders, mundane and exotic and a kind of wonderland. A lively little girl grew up to be a talented artist. She filled the house with mementos of her life and travels. Given her interest in folklore and fairies and the proximity of faery-infested Kensington Gardens you could imagine her house as a gateway into a world of wonders.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green Cpic 581 00002_1 - Copy

The corridor at the rear of the house looking out onto the garden. Estella painted it more than once.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green with Mrs Squeaky from round about book

In this version, taken from her memoirs she has included Mrs Squeaky, a companion of hers for thirteen years. Estella was encouraged in her love of animals by her mother and the family pets included dogs, cat and rats but above all birds. Mrs Squeaky, an Indian Tumbler actually came from a shop where Estella found her in a tiny cage too small to turn around in: “I bought her for one-and-sixpence, and in three months she was a different bird, flying after me up the long corridor and then walking into the studio. She was called Mrs Squeaky because she invented a special squeaky coo for me.”

This is a photo of that same long corridor.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green fp

So too, I think is this.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green K69-112

But who’s that at the end of the corridor glimpsed like a secret inhabitant of the maze? We’ve met her before in the preview post where we saw her in a painting looking out of a room.

Here she is taking centre stage.

Staircase at 3 Palace green Cpic 564 00002 - Copy (2)

Florence, the housemaid again, probably well used to Estella’s ways by now.

As was Mrs Squeaky.

LW_KCLS_1461

Posing on the sofa.

I think this is the same window. The house seems to have been full of objects, vases, glassware and ornaments collected from a wide variety of sources across Europe.

LW_KCLS_545

And paintings, on the wall and stacked up on the floor.

Studio at 3 Palace Green K68-116

Paintings Estelal collected, and her own work, scattered about the place.

Studio at 3 Palace Green K68-117

It must sometimes have been a relief to relax in the conservatory.

Conservatory at 3 Palace Green Cpic570

Or just sit in front of the fire.

Fireplace at 3 Palace Green Cpic 583 00001

Estella’s memoirs also feature a few family photographs. Here she is in the garden with her father.

Canziani p50 photos 02

One of the items donated to the Library by the trustees of Estella’s estate was a small family album featuring a series of pictures taken when she was very young. As we started with Estella as an old woman let’s finish with her as that lively little girl whose imagination encompassed the house and the whole world outside it.

Young Estella Plate 12

 

Postscript

This is another bookplate, probably a little earlier than the one in the previous post.

 

Bookplate 70-123

As a professional hoarder I imagine that those who come after me might be appalled by the accumulation of stuff I left behind. But I like to think some of it might be just as interesting as the contents of Estella’s house.

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What Estella saw

`In 1965 a woman died in an old house in Palace Green, a house she had lived in all her life. The house had once been the laundry of Kensington Palace but her parents had just been looking for a pleasant family dwelling. The houses around it had become grander (and more valuable) over the course of the 20th century but for Estella Canziani her house was the family home and garden she had always known.

Estella had done many things in her life. She was a writer on travel and folklore (and local history), a campaigner for the RSPCA and RSPB,  a book illustrator and painter. She painted landscapes, portraits, animals and costumes but what we’re looking at today are paintings of her home and the places around it. What Estella saw were gardens, trees, small animals and rooms full of objects.  She wrote a memoir of her life in the house, her travels and her charity work called  Round about 3 Palace Green (Methuen, 1938)

Here is her garden:

Garden at 3 Palace Green Cpic 580

Estella, encouraged by her parents had a fondness for birds, particularly pigeons and had several as pets. She also had many friends among the birds which visited the garden including pheasants and a parrot.

The rear view of Mr Clementi’s house in nearby Kensington Church Street.

Clementi's House 128 Kensington Church Street Cpic569

The colours of the plants and flowers are what immediately caught my attention. “Flowers on walls have always fascinated me and some of my earliest memories are associated with them.”

Estella’s mother was also a painter.

LSC in studio

Louisa Starr, who was born in Liverpool of American descent married an Italian engineer called Frederico Enrico Canziani. Estella reports that her mother dreamed of an ideal house and recognized it while driving in Kensington Gardens, seeing a board up advertising it to let. She telegraphed to her husband to come back from Paris and they secured the property just five minutes ahead of a gentleman who was also waiting for the office to open. Estella was born there two years later.

The photograph of Louisa in the studio she had built in the courtyard comes from a feature in the Ladies Field of about 1900. This photograph from the same feature shows the garden in Estella’s picture.

LSC in garden fp

Is that Louisa on the stepladder with Estella beside her? Estella is said to be aged 13 in the article which describes her as inheriting her mother’s talent. The young Estella was often around artists. She remembers being kissed while in her pram by Lord Leighton and of visiting him at “his beautiful house in Holland Park Road.” “He gave me rides on his shoulders about his studio to the Arab Hall and fountain…He showed me the stuffed peacock at the foot of the stairs and also the beautiful tiles on the staircase…”

Estella also knew Val Princep and his family who lived next door to Leighton as well as G F Watts, Holman Hunt, Luke Fildes and John Everett Millais. She also recalls visiting the studios of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and W P Frith, and attending fancy dress parties at Walter Crane’s house.

Louisa often signed her paintings with a little pictogram of a star. Estella adopted this motif with the addition of a C. You can see this in the picture of a window at the house below.

Window at 3 Palace Green Cpic562

More plants on walls. The Ladies Field describes the house as ivy-covered. Below Estella is a little older than in the previous picture, seen with her father.

Estella and her father in the garden fp

She is wearing her artist’s smock and carrying a plaette so the picture is posed but the affection between them is quite apparent. The identity of the superflous man standing by them is unknown. The precision of her work can be seen in this line drawing entitled Mulberry trees in the garden at Palace Green.

Mulberry Trees in the back garden at 3 Palace Gren Cpic577

Estella had been told that Queen Victoria had picked mulberries from the two trees in the garden.

Here’s another view from the garden showing the houses beyond the fence and a lone pigeon

Garden at 3 Palace Green Cpic 560 00005 - Copy

Animals and birds, particularly pigeons frequently feature in Estella’s pictures. This one shows the Paddock in Kensington Gardens.

The Paddock 3 Palace Green Cpic574

This view at dusk is looking  from Kensington Gardens, westwards I think.

Kensington Gardens Cpic572 00004 - Copy auto

The distant light of the setting sun, and the frantic activity of the squirrels recalling Rackham’s furtive faeries. Estella painted several fairy pictures influenced by European folklore. Her picture the Piper of Dreams of 1915 was much reprinted and became very popular during the war. In her memoir she recalls being told by Philip Lee Warner of the Medici Society that they had sold 250,00 copies in the first year. There was a signed edition of a thousand (at 2 guineas each) – “the old man who looked after me while I autographed them sat me at a table and passed one to me at a time…he watched carefully to see that I was not getting tired and writing badly and after every hundred gave me a rest…He had worked for Leighton, Burne-Jones and many other artists and explained how he had watched each on to see that their signature was perfect.”

The picture below, of the sunken garden in Kensington Gardens also has an unearthly quality, like an illustration to an Edwardian fantasy.

Sunken garden Kensington Gardens Cpic 566

 

Postscript

We’ll be back at Estella’s house again soon I think. There are many more things to see.

Bookplate K61-238

On an unrelated matter:

On Sunday, a courier handed me a package containing David Bowie’s new album Blackstar. Thanks to the practices of a certain online retailer the album’s tracks were already on my MP3 player although I hadn’t heard any of them yet. This is a contrast with the arrival of the first Bowie album I received in the post, The Man who sold the World which came to me in a large cardboard packet from the first incarnation of the Virgin empire back in the early 70s. I had heard all the tracks on the album on a late night programme on Radio Luxembourg. After listening to it I remember walking down the wide road near our house feeling…. something, not quite realising that the world had changed and that David Bowie would be with me for the rest of my life.

You get more emotional as you grow older I’ve found and quite banal things can move me to tears these days but I was surprised on Monday morning at quite how upsetting the news of Bowie’s death was. I was sad when I heard the news of John Lennon’s death but I was still young and cynical then so I got over it quite soon. I don’t know how long it will take me to regain my equanimity this time. I didn’t play Blackstar on Sunday, there was too much to do. Now I wish I had, so the first time I do play it, it won’t be with the realisation that this is the last word.

Bowie was one of the cleverest pop stars. It’s so like him to deliver one final surprise.

Gimme your hands.


Christmas days: a preview for Estella

Only the second year of short posts for Christmas week and I’m already breaking my own rules. I had intended these posts to cover subjects where there wasn’t much to say or where we only had a few pictures. But this one is purely because I don’t have time to write a long post about the pictures of Estella Canziani. I can come back to her in the new year and try to give you a fuller picture of a Kensington resident whose first memory was being held up by her nursemaid to see Queen Victoria pass by in a procession, and who lived until the mid 1960s.

Christmas for me is a time for being at home. So it’s appropriate that these pictures from our collection feature the house she lived in all her life in Palace Green.

Garden door at 3 Palace Green Cpic 582

I love this image of fiery plants glimpsed out of the back door from the corridor.

Estella had a particular liking for domestic interiors, and the garden outside.

Garden at 3 Palace Green Cpic 579

(The family also kept pigeons.)

Trees in the garden can also be seen through the skylight in this view from the studio.

Studio at 3 Palace Green Cpic 565

Below a picture I had to scan on our book scanner. Images copied this way are often a bit pale so I did some post production in Photoshop.

Corridor z at 3 Palace Green with Florence Cpic 563 00003

It restores the blue elements of the orginal, particularly Florence’s dress. Another brightly coloured dress is featured in this painting of a friend of Estella’s playing the piano.

Annette Hullah playing in the drawing room at 3 Palace Green 1925 Cpic 561

We’ll come back to this Kensington house on another occasion and I can tell you how I identified a picture by Estella’s mother.

That’s the last of these short posts for Christmas week. I hope you had a good day and that your friends and family appreciated all the presents you gave them. The final soft toy Happy Christmas is from a group of animals.

DSC_5803

The 12 monkeys of Christmas obviously.

And a happy new year to you all.

Next week, party season, there will be another visit to that perennial blog favourite the Duchess of Devonshire’s costume ball of 1897.


The Kensington Painter – gardens where we feel secure

Kensington Gardens by Arthur Clay LW_KCLS_1724

The painters in our Kensington collection did not have a central feature like the river upon which  to focus their talents. But like many parts of London there are plenty of gardens amongst the houses, shops and churches, some of them grand, some almost hidden.This picture by Arthur Clay is a view of a late afternoon from Kensington Gardens. There’s a layer of mist on the ground, some dimly glowing street lights and a single illuminated window.

We need a view of Kensington Palace, so here is an unusual example.

Kensington Palace allotments by Arthur Clay LW_KCLS_1549

The picture shows part of the Gardens under cultivation during the Great War. It looks like another cool autumn day.

The picture below is closer to the usual idea of the Gardens, a bright summer scene which could be any time between the 30s and the 50s painted by an unknown artist.

Summer in Kensington Gardensby unknown artist  LW_KCLS_0656 maybe cpic1048

Below is another summer scene called “The Elms “by Beatrice Pedder.

It’s also set in that same indeterminate summer time.

The Elms Kensington Gardens by B S Pedder LW_KCLS_2922

On the border of the gardens the setting is more specific.

A rainy day in Kensington Gore in 1921 also by Arthur Clay. A pre-London Transport London General B-type bus with an open cab takes on passengers on a quiet day for traffic as perhaps they all were in those days. (I have someone who tells me this sort of thing)

Kensington Gore by Arthur Clay 1922  LW_KCLS_0647

On the edge of another park an artist called Kenneth Graham shows what he calls the Old Wall in Melbury Road.

the Old Wall Melbury Road by Kenneth Graham LW_KCLS_140

A dog investigates a tantalising smell while its owner, a young woman stands by. The date unrecorded in our records might be as late as the 1960s. It’s still a quiet summer day though.

Behind the walls and fences you can find many gardens like this one:

Gledhow Gardens by Patricia Willis LW_KCLS_2929

Gledhow Gardens by Patrica Willis.

Here is a garden seen from two interiors, in a pair of paintings by Estella Canziani.

Palace Green number 3 by Estella Canziani Cpic 0578 LW_KCLS_1461

Window by Estella Canziani LW_KCLS_545

Estella Canziani lived in a house in Palace Green. She also painted watercolours and sketches, several of which are in our collection, along with family photographs. We’ll come back to the Canzianis another day.

Further north is another large private garden, painted in 1919 by Dacres Adams.

The Lodge -garden Front of Bloomfield Lodge by Dacres Adams LW_KCLS_1479

The picture of Kensington Gardens in the mist is one of my favourites from the Kensington collection but I’m also fond of this picture, not strictly a garden view but another of someone passing by the wall of a garden. In the evening a lone figure carrying a case makes his way home.

Kensington Church Walk by Walker cpic 0529 LW_KCLS_1347 maybe

Perhaps he is heading for the shop out of which a welcoming light spills. Perhaps he is hurrying to catch the indistinct woman in the distance ( I should say it was a woman). This is Kensington Church Walk, an obscure byway if you don’t know Kensington, a little like Lord Dunsany’s Go-by Street if you remember that. The artist’s name is Walker. No relation.

Postscript

It was a long hard haul loading the post tonight. WordPress have improved the process and it took  some time to work it all out.

On another subject this Saturday we’re having an open afternoon at Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies. It will be more like Open Basement than Open House, as I will be leading a couple of tours through the archive rooms. I’ll be showing some of the actual pictures featured in the last couple of posts, along with some of the other prints and photographs featured on the blog. I know lots of you don’t live anywhere near Kensington but if you do and you fancy a look come along. Email me if you want to come so I can get some idea of numbers.

dave.walker@rbkc.gov.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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