Mrs Beth Chatto

Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 inches, 1978

Beth Chatto is a leading plantswoman, lecturer and author. Her late husband Andrew was a grandson of the founder of the publishing house Chatto & Windus. She owns the internationally known Beth Chatto Gardens and Nursery in Essex, which specialises in unusual plants. In 1998 Mrs Chatto became a holder of both the Royal Horticultural Society’s Victoria Medal and the society’s Lawrence Medal.

I received a letter from Beth Chatto’s husband, asking if I would paint her portrait. Her home and beautiful gardens are just a few miles away from where I live. Her reputation was well known to me from her many TV appearances, and I looked forward to meeting her. She wanted to take me on a guided tour of her garden, and it became very clear that the portrait should be painted outside, amongst her cherished plants. Unfortunately, there were several days of bad weather, and we stayed indoors, sketching in her sitting room. It was clear that there was not the same spark about her that was so easy to see when she could enthuse in the open about her beloved hostas.