Masterpiece Art Fair | STAND A1
Edward Wadsworth 1889 - 1949
Pen Pits, 1936
Pen Pits, Somerset, was the country home built for Sir Arthur and Lady Bliss. One of the leading British composers of his generation and was professor of composition at the Royal College of Music from 1921 to 1922. In the early 1930s the Blisses, who were based in Hampstead, spent a year searching for a site to build a weekend house. They settled on Penselwood, Somerset, where they purchased a cottage in extensive grounds. Peter Harland was commissioned to design the house and a study for Arthur in the surrounding woods. The Blisses asked Harland to design a modern house.
In Pen Pits, ‘the only country house portrait of its kind by a major British artist’, Wadsworth depicts the result: a flat-roofed brick house rendered and painted white, with a large first floor terrace the curtains along the rails, which allowed for sunbathing in privacy; the outdoor shower can also be seen. But modernism could only go so far in rural Somerset at this time: without an electricity supply, Pen Pits was lit with oil lamps.
At Pen Pits, the Blisses hosted a wide circle; family included Edward’s younger brother Howard, a collector of note and the most important patron of Ivon Hitchens, and other friends included artists Paul Nash, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, the theatre director Bridges Adams, the poet Cecil Day-Lewis and composers such as Gerald Finzi. In 1941 Bliss became director of music at the BBC, and following his knighthood in 1950 he was appointed Master of the Queen’s Musick (1953), composing numerous works and fanfares for royal occasions including the Investiture of the Prince of Wales (1969); he continued composing until his death at the age of 83. After his death Lady Bliss devoted herself to fostering interest in Arthur’s music, forming the Bliss Charitable Trust in 1987. Powers (2005) notes that Pen Pits hung in Harland’s office after the war; the house itself retains many of its original features, and is now a Grade II listed building.
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