Episode 7: The Landscape as Work of Art

Treasures from Chatsworth, Episode 7: The Landscape as a Work of Art

“The landscape is wonderfully sympathetic to sculpture,” says artist Michael Craig-Martin of Chatsworth’s rolling parklands and gardens, which he knows intimately. One of Britain’s best-known contemporary artists, Craig-Martin was commissioned by the Duke and Duchess to create new works for their annual outdoor sculpture exhibition in 2014. Two of those sculptures are now permanent members of Chatsworth’s collection – a large upside-down umbrella and a giant pink stiletto shoe, both wittily rendered in outline only and entirely flat, like drawings in space rather than three-dimensional objects. “We acquired the upside umbrella and the pink shoe because we love his work and wanted something to remember that exhibition by,” says the Duke. Strategically installed to frame the landscape’s vignettes, they are remarkably edgy additions to the traditional bronze figures that grace the property. “When you come either into the gardens or here in the house, the things that are old are mixed with the new,” says Craig-Martin. “It’s not just a gesture toward the contemporary. There is a real integration, a real desire to see these things together and to put them into a kind of equal status.” The landscape, like the Devonshire Collection, reflects the loving attention of many generations of Dukes and Duchesses, from Elizabethan and Victorian times to the present. As Steve Porter, Head of Gardens and Landscape explains: “It’s a case of stamping your own mark but respecting what’s gone before, which is something that all the generations have done, and what makes Chatsworth unique among houses and gardens in this country.”

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