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‘The Majical World of John Clare’ revealed

PUBLISHED: 16:47 08 May 2014

Marianna Kneller with the Four Seasons Artists Exhibition at Exbury's Five Arrows Gallery

Marianna Kneller with the Four Seasons Artists Exhibition at Exbury's Five Arrows Gallery

Archant

Exbury artist Marianna Kneller has captured the enchanting words of the poet John Clare in a stunning, full colour, illustrated 176 page book.

Front cover to 'The Majical World' of John ClareFront cover to 'The Majical World' of John Clare

Exbury artist Marianna Kneller has captured the enchanting words of the poet John Clare in a stunning, full colour, illustrated 176 page book.

The book will be launched at the Five Arrows Gallery at Exbury Gardens, the New Forest, on Sunday 11 May 2014.

‘I have always been transfixed by the words of Clare’ said Marianna. ‘His depiction in verse of the natural world still has the power to move us, exactly 150 years after his death. His poetry has inspired me throughout my career and ‘The Majical World of John Clare’ has been a project many years in the waiting. I am proud that it has finally been realised and only hope that the accompanying illustrations do justice to Clare’s verse.’

Marianna has been connected to Exbury Gardens for some 35 years, of which 25 have been spent working in situ at their Studio, and recently as the organiser of the Four Seasons Art Group (4SA) where their current Spring Exhibition will be running until the 8th July. Visitors will be able to see some of the original illustrations displayed. The book will be available for purchasing and signing at Exbury.

‘I always feel at home in the Gardens and couldn’t think of a better place to draw inspiration. The natural world is my subject matter, as was Clare’s.’

Intriguingly, Marianna has discovered a number of parallels linking Exbury to Clare and his Northamptonshire home. ‘The Woodland Gardens at Exbury were developed by Lionel de Rothschild after the end of the First World War. Lionel sponsored many of the great plant hunters who went overseas to collect seeds from rhododendrons and azaleas and other exotic species; he embarked on an ambitious hybridising programme producing over 1200 new species, and was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour, the highest honour the RHS can bestow, for services to horticulture. At the same time, his cousin, Charles Rothschild, was establishing the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves, the organisation that went on to become the Wildlife Trusts. One of those closely involved with Charles in setting up the Trusts was George Druce, who wrote ‘The Flora of Northamptonshire’ whilst staying on Charles’ estate. Druce describes seeing Clare as an old man, and notes that Clare refers to about 120 different plants, of which 42 were mentioned for the first time as Northamptonshire species and which have been included in this new book.’

Marianna observes: ‘There is no doubt that the spirit of Clare imbued the work of the Trusts from their earliest days as throughout his poetry he laments the destruction of wildlife and its natural habitat. The trusts have recently celebrated their centenary and while they have done much to rescue and preserve, following the ideals of John Clare and Charles Rothschild, there remains much still to be done. Clare spelt ‘Majic’ with a ‘j’ and not with a ‘g’ – he may have done this intentionally, causing us to look twice and think and wonder - he felt ‘Majic’ in the natural surroundings. I hope my book will help bring Clare to a wider audience and inspire a vision of nature such as he held.’

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