selected by Jem Panufnik
I am honoured to have been asked to choose my favourite picture from Orleans House Gallery’s permanent collection of amazing artwork. I knew it would be tricky: as great-grandson to the Rt. Hon. Mrs Nellie Ionides, not only have I inherited her fascination and passion in Twickenham’s romantic past but also out of loyalty I felt I needed to choose something from the rich collection she so generously left to the borough. I owe her a great debt: I have spent a large part of my life living in her magical house next door to the gallery, my entire childhood was spent making camps in Orleans Gardens and many years later I was married in the glorious Octagon Room which she had saved last minute from demolition.
I was pretty sure when I was invited to see all the paintings in the flesh I was likely to pick a view of Richmond Hill – a world-famous and still-unspoilt view she single-handedly rescued from urbanisation. Sure enough I fell deeply for the paintings of George Hilditch, which record tranquil summer scenes making me long for a time machine. But then I saw Osmund Caine’s 1947 painting Wedding at Twickenham Parish Church, which I would’ve attributed to another hero of mine, Stanley Spencer. I also saw a wonderful Hogarth and of course there is Henry Pether’s gorgeous and tranquil Twickenham by Moonlight, which my Uncle Toby (Jessel) had already picked for this very blog. I quite fancied The Interior of Milo’s Café, Richmond by Philip Poyser which looked to me like something Toulouse Lautrec might have made if he was into Brown Windsor soup instead of saucy can-can dancers.
Then I came across the collection of Richard Burton. I knew very little of him, other than he seemed quite eccentric and had a taste for the exotic. But seeing the crystal-clear paintings of the rooms in his home, rammed to the hilt full of animal hides, walls covered in ethnic art and crafts, tribal weapons and sculptures, made me feel like I had found a kindred spirit. When I also discovered his fondness for interesting facial hair and dressing up in fantastical costumes I liked him even more.
So I think my choice, if I can only pick one, would have to be Richard Burton’s Study by Albert Letchford, 1889. I would have loved to be able to sit in there with Sir Richard, knocking back port as he told me about all his crazy travels.
– Jem Panufnik