My post of 19th May, 2018, mentioned Patrick Baty in connection with “Invisible Green”. Then, I was at Kenwood House; today I’m at Hampton Court Palace, and only now have I read Ed Cumming’s 2017 article on “Doctor hue: the paint guru”.
Following a decade spent serving around the world with the 9th/12th Royal Lancers, the Paras and special forces, Baty took over his family’s paint shop. He realised that the field of historic paint hardly existed, and set about inventing it. In the process, he produced an 80 000 word dissertation on the methods and materials of the house painter between 1650 and 1850.
Mr Baty has, to be frank, been all over Hampton Court Palace. Today I am bound for its Cumberland Art Gallery, opened in late 2014. Jonathan Jones has described a visit as “like looking into the Queen’s jewel box.”. He adds that it “puts the history of royal art collecting on view….it has grown organically since the 17th century as a unique collection, with its own often surprising character.”.
Here, as at so many other sites, Baty was asked to carry out an analysis of the history of the decorative treatments within the Cumberland Suite, and to mix paint to match the original scheme.
The gallery occupies four remaining rooms of what was once the apartment of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, younger and favourite son of George II. The architect William Kent designed and decorated the interiors for the ten year old Prince, between 1731 and 1732. Kent embraced the latest Georgian fashion and was also inspired by the surviving Tudor decoration at Hampton Court.
Tim Richardson calls Kent a “total designer”: “perhaps the nearest equivalent to Kent today is not any garden designer but a figure like Thomas Heatherwick, the architect-designer.”.
“The Country Seat” blog calls Kent “the reluctant Gothick”. In response to the requirements of his patrons, the blog suggests: “One can imagine Kent sitting down with pen and paper and, much as if learning a new language, started drawing out his new vocabulary.”.
At Kensington Palace, Kent included in his large painting of George I’s Court a depiction of “Peter the Wild Boy” (1713-1785). Peter was found living wild in the Hertswold Forest in 1725 by George I’s hunting party. The King’s daughter-in-law, Caroline, Princess of Wales took an interest in the welfare of the boy, who walked on all fours and could not speak.
The Princess had him brought to Great Britain and arranged for Dr John Arbuthnot to oversee his education. However, he could not be taught to speak (or read or write).
In 1978, the chromosomal disorder Pitt-Hopkins syndrome was identified, and in 2011 various physical attributes of Peter’s were matched against it. Notwithstanding this likely diagnosis, Susan Curtiss, a UCLA linguistics professor, has commented that the window for developing grammar (rather than lexicon) seems to close between five and ten years of age.
In his 2017 article for “The Observer” Interiors, Ed Cumming noted that the recent mania for grey appeared to be on the way out. Patrick Baty told him:
“Grey appeals because you don’t have to take any decisions. There’s no risk. It’s like magnolia the decade before. But it always says something about the owner….”.