an engrossing day of painting at Chartwell House

If, like me, you’ve had enough of WWII metaphors during the pandemic, the backdrop for Last Night’s Landscape Artist of the Year, when artists battled for a £ 10,000 commission, could have shaken a little.

On the first of the new series, painters put their easels down in Chartwell, the sprawling Kent mansion where Winston Churchill once lived.

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“For one thing, it will be their best hour,” said host Stephen Mangan of the participants, referring to Churchill’s famous 1940 speech, as we all know in this war-ridden country. That gag was definitely not yours, Stephen.

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Despite the battle scenes, there was much to admire about the heat, with six artists – four amateurs and two professionals – given four hours to capture Chartwell under the eyes of the show’s judges: art historian Kate Bryan, curator Kathleen Soriano and the Artist Tai-Shan Schierenberg. A horde of “wildcard” painters were also invited onto the grounds to have the chance to be considered for the semi-finals.

Landscape Artist of the Year, first episode at Chartwell House (Photo: Sky)

So much attention was paid to each painting that it couldn’t help but be drawn into it. I am not comfortable with a paintbrush. Even so, I soon cheered professional artist Gail’s futuristic outlook and wondered if student Julia was the right decision to fill her canvas with a sketch of one of Chartwell’s apple trees. (After much deliberation, my verdict was: yes, it was.)

In the end, ex-publisher Sheila was crowned winner of the week thanks to her “enigmatic” work that focused on Chartwell’s stairs. I can’t wait to see what the next week’s cohort does with a landscape that hopefully inspires less mundane metaphors than this one.

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