This small and modest watercolour is of the Stables at Hackwood, a large estate in Winchester. Sir Hugh Casson was an architect his whole life and found interest in the stables, with the tall tower over its entrance. The stables are empty, but the large tree casts a shadow on the well-kept lawn. The choice of colour is honest rather than bold and exciting. The sky is grey and dull, as it would be on a typical day in England.
Sir Hugh Maxwell Casson (1910-1999) was an influential writer and broadcaster, interior designer and one of the most popular British architects and artists of his era. He was best known for his intimate and observant watercolours, despite little training. He was described as charming and witty, with a "light and fluent touch" in design and drawing. Hugh bridged the gap dividing traditional and modern art & architecture. Building up to the Second World War in 1939, he taught at the Cambridge School of Architecture. He himself was an early modernist, which became highly useful during the war while he was responsible for camouflaging airfields.
As an architect, Sir Hugh enjoyed combining comfort with practicality. This was reflected in his creation of the interiors of the Royal Yacht Britannia, suites in Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. His ties to the Royal Family did not end here, as he taught the Prince of Wales, Charles, to paint in watercolours.
For Hugh, use of watercolour came naturally. He was in great demand as an illustrator for many books and articles, a painter of architectural scenes and a set designer for opera houses such as the Royal Convent Garden and Glynebourne.
Hugh came from Welsh origins and was the nephew of actor, Sir Lewis Casson. He married at the age of 29 to Margaret McDonald, a photographer, designer and fellow architect and they remained together for 60 years. He studied at Eastbourne College in East Sussex, St John's College in Cambridge and the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. He was appointed Director of Architecture of the Festival of Britain in 1948, a role he used to "celebrate peace and modernity through the appointment of other young architects", and a role which led to his being knighted (KVC0) in 1952 and kept him in the public eye for the rest of his career.
Sir Hugh's projects included university campuses, the Elephant House at London Zoo and the master-planning & design of the Sidgwick Avenue arts faculty buildings for the University of Cambridge. He also worked on a building for the Royal College of Art, where he was Professor of Interior Design from 1955 to 1975 and later served as Provost.
In 1976, Hugh's career was crowned by his election as President of the Royal Academy of Art, a post which he held for eight years. He also established the American Associates of the Royal Academy Trust and during his tenure, the Friends of the Royal Academy were instituted.
Hugh's works draw on his ability to attract the attention of the viewer to the tiny details, stemming from a passion for the minutiae of his surroundings.