A completely new portrait of William Wordsworth is the highlight of a new exhibition at Rydal Mount where the poet lived.
The portrait is one of a series of works by Japanese artist Hideyuki Sobue on the theme of “I wandered”, to mark the 200th anniversary of William Wordsworth’s Daffodils. He based the new portrait on the life mask of Wordsworth, created coincidentally in 1815, the year that Daffodils was published. It forms a diptych – two separate paintings – with a stark picture of a sea of daffodils stretching back to infinity.
Sobue used the mask in the archives of the National Portrait Gallery in London as the basis for the new painting, which shows the poet as he would have looked 200 years ago, at the age of 45.
Based in the Lake District, after graduating from Osaka University of Arts in Japan, Sobue was elected as a member of the Lake Artists Society in 2008. His work has been shown at a number of major exhibitions in London and throughout the UK.
Sobue is a great admirer of Wordsworth and developed his distinctive style in completing this, believed to be the first new portrait of the poet for 150 years.
The new exhibition at Rydal Mount, which takes the Daffodils poem and the opening words “I wandered” as its inspiration, will run for three months. The works are spread throughout the house, among permanent displays, including the bedrooms and study. It was launched at a private viewing where the poet Gary Boswell read some of his own work written in tribute to Wordsworth.
Award-winning poet, journalist, teacher and writer, Boswell said that after a long break with “writers’ block” he started composing poetry again after visiting Rydal Mount and especially the gardens.
The Wordsworth family hopes that the anniversary will rekindle interest in what they call “this wonderful poem”. Rydal Mount curator Peter Elkington told guests of a visiting Zulu poet who had been taught Daffodils at school, “and it inspired her to become a poet, even though she had never seen a daffodil”.
The poet’s great great great great grandson Christopher Wordsworth said of the appeal of Daffodils: “The poem has deceptively simple language which delivers a profound message.”
Christopher added: “The role played by Wordsworth in the conservation of the Lake District and the promotion of its culture cannot be underestimated. Wordsworth resisted the move towards modernisation in England and created masterpieces based on his profound spiritual sense of the beauty of the Lakes.
“This project takes a contemporary view of the significance of the Lake District and its natural and cultural heritage both to those who live and work in Cumbria and those who visit from around the world.”
- Rydal Mount is still owned by the Wordsworth family and open to visitors daily. http://www.rydalmount.co.uk/opening/
- William Wordsworth spent the greater part of his life at Rydal Mount, living there for 37 years until his death in 1850.
- The house is a treasure trove of Wordsworth memorabilia. The gardens are being restored according to plans made by the poet, who was an accomplished garden designer. Below the house is Dora’s Field , which Wordsworth planted with daffodils in memory of his eldest daughter, who died from tuberculosis in 1847.
- Wordsworth wrote several earlier versions of Daffodils but the version we know today is the final one published in 1815 from Rydal Mount.