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A Classical Scene

After a very successful gallery opening fro North East Open Studios in September, the house has again fallen quiet. It's now the end of our opening season so we're busy tidying rooms and gardens before the leaves begin to fall in earnest, requiring all our attention.

While dismantling various bits of gallery paraphernalia in the parlour, I took a breath to survey the beautiful painted panels surrounding me. These are sometimes taken for granted when more modern artwork is displayed in the this part of the gallery, but once cleared of contemporary pictures they again take over as a striking focus.

The series of classical scenes were painted directly onto the wooden panels, using the 'grisalle' technique, by the one of the Norie family (a very popular group of decorative painters based in Edinburgh, but originally from the North East) in the late 18th century.

‘Grisaille’ is a painting executed entirely in shades of grey or of another neutral greyish colour. A ‘grisaille’ may be executed as an underpainting for an oil painting or as a model for an engraver to work from. This method was used by many famous painters including Giotto, Rubens, Rembrandt and Caravaggio.

The panels that adorn the parlour today started life furnishing one of the first floor rooms in the house, but were taken out and banished to the attic as fashions changed and the house received an interior make-over in the 1830s.

There they languished until Susan Burnett returned from South Africa in 1964 to make Kemnay her home once more. She discovered the treasure, then lovingly redecorated the downstairs dining room (now parlour) with them, after having to restore the entire area due to a very bad case of dry rot.

The panels gave her considerable joy, and continue to delight visitors today - the cool grey tones depicting delicately painted classical scenes still have the power to calm us after a very busy month.

*For more information on the Norie family, and where to view further work, please follow this link:

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