Animal magic

Stody Lodge

Stody Lodge - Credit: Archant

The prestigious Animal Art Fair comes to north Norfolk this month, combining stunning sculpture with natural beauty, says Rachel Buller.

With the rhododendrons and azaleas bursting into a riot of spectacular colour, the gardens of Stody Lodge will create a most spectacular natural gallery for this year’s Animal Art Fair.

The prestigious event showcases the work of some of the most acclaimed contemporary animal artists in the UK and will combine the stunning beauty of the landscape with paintings, etchings and sculptures.

Founded in London in 2010, the Animal Art Fair represents artists working in a wide variety of mediums and styles and it has chosen Stody Lodge Gardens, near Holt, to host its 2015 spring exhibition. Life-sized sculptures will be set among the canopies of the rhododendron blooms, and visitors can follow winding pathways through the breathtaking gardens. A further exhibition of oils, watercolours, drawings and etchings will be held in a special marquee.

Kate MacNicol, who moved back to Stody Lodge with her husband Charlie last year, says they were absolutely thrilled to be asked to host the prestigious exhibition.

“Stody Lodge is my husband’s family home and we were so excited to be moving back to Norfolk. We knew Jamie Polk, founder of the Animal Art Fair, and he knew about the gardens here and asked whether we would consider hosting his spring exhibition. We didn’t hesitate; it seemed a very exciting start to our life at Stody. I think there is a real natural affinity between the subject matter and the gardens and Norfolk itself,” she says.

Stody Lodge and its gardens were created in 1932 by the 1st Viscount Rothermere, the British newspaper proprietor and founder of the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror. They are renowned for their stunning spring floral displays with 200 different varieties of rhododendrons and a magical azalea water garden. Kate says the exhibition will take visitors on a journey of discovery which will not only highlight the work of the artists but the natural beauty of the gardens.

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“There is a beautiful large lawn with two main walkways taking you off into the gardens. From there you can follow lots of other little paths lined with rhododendrons and azaleas which suddenly open up to reveal wonderful secret gardens and areas of woodland, where you will find these fantastic sculptures.

“We have worked very closely with Jamie on the selection of artists and have loved everything which he has chosen; he has really understood the setting. Kate Denton’s fantastic life-sized sculptures, including a beautiful stag and an iconic hare, will look incredibly striking against the backdrop of the gardens with its brightly coloured shrubs and flowers.”

The work covers all tastes and budgets, ranging from Pop Art representations of African animals and table-top bronzes to traditional watercolours of British game and contemporary oils paintings of capturing the drama of horseracing. Artists exhibiting are Guy Allen, Ashley Boon, Lucy Boydell, Kate Denton, Bruce Little, Ian Edwards, Matt Falle, Tom Hiscocks, Michelle McCullagh and Jamie Wild. Both Guy Allen and Lucy Boydell are from Norfolk and are graduates of Central St Martin’s School of Art in London.

Guy’s etched depictions of animals, from his Norfolk terrier to an iconic Gunton stag, perfectly capture their character and have won him acclaim, with his work selected for the prestigious Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London in 2013 and 2014.

Lucy, who lives and works on the north Norfolk coast, is known for her animal bronzes and large charcoal drawings. She prides herself on getting to know almost every creature she depicts and works closely with breeders, farmers and zookeepers to help create her much sought after work.

Jamie Polk, founder and director of the Animal Art Fair, says his experience holidaying in Norfolk over the years inspired his decision to use Stody Lodge.

“I have seen first hand both the creativity and passion for wildlife within the county. Holding our spring exhibition within Stody Lodge’s exceptional gardens is a perfect fit for us: Beautiful art in beautiful surroundings. The artists we have selected to take part in the exhibition offer something for everyone and we are delighted to be introducing some of the UK’s leading animal artists to this very special county.”

The Animal Art Fair will be held in May, see the website for details of opening dates and times. Entrance £5 (children under 12 free). Stody Lodge and Gardens, Stody, Melton Constable NR24 2ER; 01263 860572;