The Whistler Room

The Whistler Room at Mottisfont is an amazing piece of artwork. In 1938, Maud Russell commissioned Rex Whistler to redecorate the entrance hall and turn it into a saloon during her modernisation of the house. Originally, he was told to keep it simple with cream colours which he found difficult considering his skill as an artist, and so he deviated a bit from his brief. However, he has created a masterpiece that contains elements of Mottisfont’s history as well as various coded messages around the room.

The murals are all trompe d’oeil which lends a marvellous 3D illusion to the flat walls. The room has amazing curtains that will make you take a closer look as you struggle to distinguish curtain from the trompe d’oeil. The main bit of the curtain is fabric with spots painted on by Whistler himself and the tresses hanging at the top are papier-mâché that is the thickness of a piece of paper, requiring extreme skill to make. He had smoke coming out of the urn on one bit of the wall and you initially think ‘wow this is beautiful, if not slightly odd’. However, you then see that the smoke is reflected in the mirror above the fire on the opposite wall and see the genius of the design; when the fire is lit it gives the impression that the painted smoke reflection is from the fire.

Rex Whistler was killed in action in France in 1944 making this incredible room his last piece to be completed before his death. Hidden away in the room is a little inscription he wrote when he heard World War II had broken out. Also there is a little paint pot, containing a brush, on one of the ‘ledges’ to give the impression of having left it behind.

This magnificent room needs to be seen to be believed as photos don’t seem to quite capture how incredible the room is. It is an amazing optical illusion and the skill that must have gone into creating it will leave you in awe. (Check opening times here)

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