Barbara Croisdale-Appleby walks us through a collection of British art which recently arrived at her home: the residence of the British Embassy in Bogotá. Providing insight into a very personal display of the classic and contemporary, the wife of Ambassador Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby, Barbara, is also the daughter of a famous Venezuelan artist: Humberto Jaimes Sánchez (1930 – 2003). The dignitary talks with knowledge and appreciation of the 21 works hanging on the walls of her Tudoresque home. Most are oil on canvas, but others are mixed mediums, from graphic illustrations to photography. One striking Black and White collage of the Lake District moors by Andy Goldsworthy (1956) looms over the stairwell.

The display is themed around nature and includes several timeless landscapes of renowned artists and influential exponents of Romanticism – an artistic movement of the late 1700s to mid-1800s, which emphasized an emotional response to the pastoral.

Barbara Croisadale-Appleby.
Barbara Croisadale-Appleby.

Five of them hang in the dining room which include a river scene of Trelissick House, Cornwall, by maritime painter Thomas Lyde Hornbrook (1780-1850), the sweeping brushstrokes of chalk cliffs attributed to Edwardian John Fullylove (1845-1908), a vibrant and post-Impressionist flower vase by the Bloomsbury Group painter, Duncan Grant (1885-1978), a balanced blue-tinted landscape by the Royal Academy’s Julius Caesar Ibbetson (1759-1817) and a mysterious modernist scene by the London Group member, Ivon Hitchens (1893-1979).

Other more contemporary works hang on walls throughout the house and in private rooms. The collection gives the official residence an air of renewal and beauty, enhancing the context and play of light from windows overlooking a flowering garden.

Other important painters and illustrators are also included in this most British of collections; among them William Gear (1915-1997), Stanley William Hayter (1901-1988), well known for his famous graphic workshop Atelier 17 which he founded in Paris, and a recent work of inkjet printing by Alison Turnbull (1956) who resided in the Colombian capital.

All the works are property of the UK’s Government Art Collection (GAC) and displayed in government buildings in nearly every capital city, making it the most dispersed collection of British art in the world. The mission of the collection is to promote British art while contributing to intercultural diplomacy.

The works on display in Bogotá were selected carefully for the residence by curators of the GAC taking into account the architectural style of a house which has stood on a plot of land in Cabrera since the mid 1900s. An expert on art conservation from the GAC recently traveled to Bogotá to personally oversee their correct installation and narrative.

The art pieces will be exhibited at the residence for at least eight years and reviewed when needed, for their proper conservation. The collection in Bogotá is an ambitious example of cultural diplomacy which could be equalled by other diplomatic entities: for art is a universal language which inspires us to communicate in ways which transcend political and economic boundaries.

The Government Art Collection has expanded to include some 13,500 works of art from the 16th century to the present day. new works are purchased by approval of an advisory committee that examines works by artists who have a strong British connection; not only those who were born in Britain, but also those who have lived or are living in the country.