ISSUE 103  |  Homeward Bound

Art and Photography: The Flowers of Isabel Bannerman

December 19, 2013 2:00 PM

BY Kendra Wilson

Garden designer Isabel Bannerman works on the grand scale. A forthcoming London spring show at Park Walk Gallery, Chelsea will showcase her flower photographs, with prints 5 feet high. 

With husband Julian Bannerman, she designs big structures in big gardens (the most famous being the Stumpery at Highgrove), and in her flower photography she goes in close. She likes engineering: either creating hard landscaping or documenting the way a flower is put together.

Above: “Tree Peonie Seed Crown.” Isabel began to document flowers at the former Bannerman home, Hanham Court. Like a latter day Fox Talbot at Lacock Abbey, she developed her photography technique in the surroundings of a large country house, with inspiration provided by her own garden.

Above: “Pink Poppy I.” Isabel’s photographs have been compared with couture, sex, and death. And birth, of course.

The joint Bannerman look is uncompromisingly theatrical. Follies, pavilions, fountains: they draw on the heritage of this country’s great estates and re-imagine it for our times.

Above: “Pink Poppy IV,” with more than a passing resemblance to a silky frock. Along with other poppies and magnolias, it will be joining the forthcoming show at Park Walk Gallery.

The Bannermans have a romantic design aesthetic. Besides hard landscaping, they favor luxuriant planting: roses festooning walls, self-seeders popping up all over a terrace.

Above: “Peony Molly Seeds.” After prising them apart, Isabel lays her subjects in a box lined with black velvet, to be photographed in close-up.

The Bannermans’ projects have included Asthall Manor, home of the Hons’ Cupboard in Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate and repository of happier Mitford memories. A sculpture show is held in the rose-garlanded grounds of Asthall every two years, due to re-appear in the summer of 2014.

Above:”Pink Magnolia IV.” Like her garden structures, Isabel’s plant photos take what’s already there: the rich color combinations, the inimitable shapes.

Above: “Pink Magnolia II.” Isabel and Julian recently left Hanham Court, their home of 20 years, and took a lease on Trematon in Cornwall, owned by Prince Charles, aka the Duke of Cornwall. It has a nine-acre garden, ready to be stamped with the Bannerman hallmark.

Isabel Bannerman’s new work will be featured in The Spring Exhibition at Park Walk Gallery: “Flowers and Still Lifes” from March 9 to 22.

For Isabel and Julian Bannerman’s garden design work, see At Home With Prince Charles: A Garden Ramble

Is it just us, or do Isabel’s photographs remind you of JAR’s jewelry, too? See Jewels by JAR, Inspired by the Garden.