Peter Blake, one Britain’s most important living artists, will attend the launch of the third annual Chiswick House Camellia Festival, on Thursday 14 February. The launch will be marked by the publication of a new limited edition print by Peter Blake: Camellia Japonica Incarnata, based on his original watercolour painting made especially for Chiswick House Trust. The limited edition of 250 prints signed by the artist will be sold to raise funds for the Trust at £100 each.
Camellias are known as the Queen of Winter Flowers. Their rarety and astonishing colours ranging from pure white through pinks, reds and variegated stripes, have made them highly prized by collectors and create a splash of vibrant colour in a winter landscape. Chiswick’s collection is widely regarded as one of the finest in the country and certainly the oldest in the West. Many of the plants are descended from the original planting in 1828. By the 1840s, the camellia was at the height of its fashion as the luxury flower.
The Parisian courtesan Maria Duplessis, who died young in 1847 inspired Dumas’ ‘La Dame aux Camélias’ and Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’. Famously, the white camellia was Coco Chanel’s favourite flower, adored for its regular perfection and classical order of its pure white petals, which became her emblem. The Chiswick House collection is housed in the historic Conservatory, which this year, celebrates its 200th anniversary, having been carefully restored as part of the renovation of the Gardens. Peter Blake said: “Chiswick House Gardens is a special place for me. I took our daughter Rose there so many times when she was a child. The wonderful landscape, the calmness of the lake and the beautiful trees are an inspiration. I am thrilled that the Camellia Collection in the restored Conservatory is being celebrated. I hope my painting will capture some of that beauty for others, and raise funds for Chiswick House Trust.”