We visited Farley Farm House today – it’s only 25 minutes from where we live, but sometimes the nearest treasures are the ones we keep forgetting to visit, so we fly to the other side of the world and avidly see the sites, but ignore our own back garden. Finally we got to visit it – and what a place it is!
Farley Farm was the home of the model and photographer Lee Miller and the artist Roland Penrose from 1949 for over 30 years. Here they entertained friends including Picasso, Max Ernst and many other well-known artists and surrealists. The house is filled with art, the garden is stunning, and a visit there is as special as visiting nearby Virgina Woolf’s house and Charleston.
You can see pictures and information on Farley Farm House here, so rather than repeating that information, I’d just like to mention one theme that speaks to me. When they saw the house and decided to buy it, the weather was poor. When they moved in, the skies cleared one morning and they discovered that they could see the Long Man of Wilmington in the distance from their garden, which must have been a lovely surprise for them.
The hillside giant then became an inspiration to them, since Penrose painted a vast fireplace inspired by the Long Man, and a visitor (was it Man Ray?) drew a Long Man holding a cricket bat and a drink atop each staff. But best of all, Penrose and Miller created a coloured bookplate depicting the Long man on the hillside above their names, with a huge stylised sun hovering above in a blue sky with big stars, reminiscent of the stars in ‘The Star’ arcana of Pamela Coleman-Smith’s Rider-Waite Tarot. It’s wonderful, but they had no reproductions in the Farley Farm shop and I’ve tried to find images of the bookplate online with no success. To see it, you’ll just have to make a trip there. It’s open every Sunday April to October.