The Wishart family of Artists - an artistic dynasty
Lorna Wishart of Binsted (1911-2000) is known locally as a person who loved Binsted Woods, and as a woman of faith who erected the shrine beside what is now known as the Madonna Pond. She is known to a wider public for her role in the lives of artistic people of the 1930s and 40s, and for being the lover of both Laurie Lee and Lucian Freud. It is less well known that, as well as being an artist herself, she was the origin of an artistic dynasty which is still flourishing.
Her son Michael Wishart (1928-1996) was a successful artist in spite of his hard-driven lifestyle, and her daughter with Laurie Lee, Yasmin David, was a dedicated mystical nature painter whose impressive work is becoming better known. As well as these two of her children, there are two other notable artists in her direct family: Anne Dunn, b. 1929, Michael’s wife, and Francis Wishart, b. 1951, son of Michael and Anne. The work of both shows a strong feeling for nature; Anne is very versatile and her artistic life includes many other interests; with Francis this feeling leads to a devotion to conservation. They do not directly depict Binsted or its magnificent woods, but it is there as an influence, particularly in Francis Wishart’s monoprints of woodland – some of which are strongly reminiscent of Binsted Woods.
Laurie Lee, too, was a painter, though his art is less well known than his poetry and memoirs.
Lorna Wishart, nee Garman, married to Ernest Wishart of Binsted
Lorna's painting below is rich in references to her feeling for the landscape. She is riding in springtime, when the young leaves are translucent. She has come from Arundel, idealised by the castle on the right, along the south edge of Tortington Common where at that time there was a remaining narrow belt of deciduous trees bordering what was then a dense young conifer plantation in ancient woodland.
Looking aside into the darkness Lorna sees a vision of a crucifix between the antlers of a stag - the same as the vision seen by St Hubert (d.727), patron of hunters, whose relics were held at Arundel Cathedral, from which she is perhaps riding home.
As she rides on towards Binsted, before her is the first of the ancient trees of Binsted Woods, perhaps a giant of Binsted Park, to which she would come next after passing the pond where she erected the shrine. Is the stag even perhaps standing on the surface of the pond?
Lorna's woodland garden kept echoes of this vision through her life: stone statues of deer amongst evergreen trees.
Michael Wishart, son of Lorna and Ernest Wishart
Michael grew up painting in Binsted, where members of his family still live. His early paintings had much to do with the Binsted landscape, later he created mainly abstract or mystical paintings, though some later works also still have connections to Binsted. This picture of Kents Cottage, in its reimagined valley setting on the edge of Binsted Park, captures his love of the connections Binsted offered to more ancient ways of life, and conveys his emotional experience of this landscape:
‘Butterflies’ suggests the elusiveness of the Purple Emperor butterfly in Binsted Woods
His ‘Field and trees’ seems to be inspired by the field within Binsted Woods called Broad Green
More of his paintings can be seen on www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/john-michael-wishart.
Below, sketching Binsted Church - a favourite place for Michael to paint since childhood - in the 1950s.
Paintings by Yasmin David, daughter of Lorna Wishart
Yasmin's amazing paintings are are mostly of the Devon landscape where she lived with her family for nearly 50 years after leaving Binsted. Even so, the first of the paintings shown below is reminiscent of Binsted's Madonna Pond with the shrine erected by Yasmin's mother Lorna Wishart. It might not be too fanciful to be reminded by the second picture of the feeling of the great trees in Binsted Park, now mostly fallen, to which Lorna and the younger girls of her family would ride out at speed and rest there with their horses. With grateful thanks to Clio David: more can be viewed in her book 'Yasmin David', (c) Luscombe 2014, here.
Paintings by Francis Wishart, son of Michael Wishart and Anne Dunn
Paintings by Anne Dunn, wife of Michael WIshart
Anne Dunn with Michael Wishart
Pictures from Lorna Wishart's artistic circle
Pictures by Laurie Lee: left, self portrait; right, Girl Crouching, 1937 (the year he met Lorna)
Lorna Wishart was the model for Lucian Freud's Woman with a Tulip