School Prints Series at Mascalls Gallery


On Saturday, I had a fabulous time attending the Private View of School Prints: Art for the 1940s Classroom, the latest exhibition at the charming Mascalls Gallery in Paddock Wood, Kent. I’d had so much fun seeing the Ed Kluz exhibition at the gallery back in October (see my review of it here), that I knew I was in for a fabulous time. This weekend, though, I thought it would be fun to make the most of the beautiful Kent countryside that surrounds the gallery and explore the area a little more.

So saying, Mum and I drove off early-ish on Saturday, so as to arrive in time for lunch at the The Poet at Matfield, a delightful pub very close to the gallery, which had been recommended to us previously, but had been completely booked when we’d tried to go for dinner. It’s easy to see why this pub is so popular: as soon as we stepped through the door, we were enveloped in an atmosphere of cosy tranquility, as the pub’s wood burning ovens glowed merrily and we were warmly welcomed by the attentive staff. The Poet is filled with comfy nooks that make it tempting simply to curl up with a book and while away the afternoon.

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I made a bee-line for a table by one of the stoves and settled in happily to peruse the menu, read up a little on the School Print exhibition and enjoy a glass of wine. The specials board had lots of tempting options (I saw people having the burger and the sausage and mash, both of which looked delicious), but I find it hard to resist fish when I’m out (as for some reason I rarely cook it at home – must correct that!), so decided on hake with fondant potato, spinach, samphire and oyster cream. It was delicious! Mum went for beef fillet with wild mushrooms, salsify and red wine jus, which she said was wonderful too, and for dessert we shared lemon posset with apricot sorbet and flapjack. Yum!


After enjoying our lovely meal, it was time to head off to the gallery for the start of the private view. On arriving at Mascalls, we were greeted by the lovely curator, Rebecca Hone, and offered a drink (prosecco for me, orange juice for Mum who was doing the driving!).


Rebecca is always so kind and friendly, and I very much enjoyed getting to chat to her a little about the exhibition and some of the upcoming talks, which I’d love to attend.

The exhibition itself is a sheer delight. Not only does it offer a truly fabulous collection of prints, from artists such as Matisse, Picasso and Lowry, but the story behind this series of lithographs is also rather wonderful. ¬†Soon after WW2, Brenda Rawnsley oversaw the establishment of the School Prints scheme, in an effort to widen children’s access to art. Described as a beautiful and charming woman, and possessed with great determination, Brenda Rawnsley successfully commissioned British artists such as Lowry and Henry Moore to contribute to the series of lithographs, which were then sold (at as low a price as possible) to participating schools. Fueled by her desire for a more international representation of artists, Brenda Rawnsley then travelled to Europe with a portable press, managing to persuade world-famous artists, including Picasso and Matisse, to take part in the scheme. I love the story that, posing in a (no doubt, very becoming) bathing suit and sunhat, Brenda placed herself strategically in a spot she knew Picasso bathed everyday. It took little time for Picasso to introduce himself and invite her to lunch, during which Brenda could bring up the School Prints scheme and enlist his support. Sadly, although well received by art critics and children, educationalists were less than impressed by Brenda’s French prints (considering them too avant-garde), and the School Prints scheme dissolved.

FullSizeRender (2){Brenda Rawnsley in her office}

As a teacher myself, I can only admire someone who strove to democratise art and bring beautiful, original works into the classroom to inspire young minds. Brenda Rawnsley was certainly a woman ahead of her time, and I feel privileged to have been able to see such a fascinating exhibition. Let me take you on a little tour of it:

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If you’re near the area, or fancy a day trip out of London, I can’t recommend going enough! The prints are so gorgeous to see in the flesh (and reproductions of them are available to purchase – I only wish I could have afforded one!), and it’s free entry to the exhibition which is fabulous. School Prints is on until 14th March so you’ve got quite a bit of time to plan your outing! If you can’t make it to the exhibition, do listen to this Radio 4 clip which adds some fascinating detail to the story of Brenda Rawnsley and the School Prints series.

Having wandered round and examined all the prints thoroughly, Mum and I then decided to head for home, although first we made a slight detour to All Saints’ Church in Tudeley. This church is apparently the only one in the world to have all its windows decorated by the brilliant Russian artist Marc Chagall. Small and unprepossing on the outside, the church is truly incredible within, with its 12 glorious stained glass windows. How amazing to have such a treasure trove of artistic delight in a tiny village in Kent!

We arrived at the church just as the sun was setting, so that it glinted in gloriously through the windows, and the surrounding countryside lit up for a moment in a pinky glow. It felt such a special ending to a fabulous day.

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This year, I’m determined to explore the UK outside of London more, even if only as day trips. I think this outing marked a fabulous start!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend too. What did you do? Did any of you see an exhibition you can recommend, or go somewhere a little different to your usual haunts?

Outfit Details:

{Vintage Chanel jacket; Helmut Lang t-shirt (from previous season – similar here); Massimo Dutti trousers; Alex Monroe earrings and necklace; Pretty Ballerina boots (similar here); Tamara Fogle bag (sold out, but similar here)}