Physics Room Window by artist Janet Boulton

THIS week’s object is a view familiar to anyone who has endured a long afternoon at school gazing out of the window and wishing they were anywhere else other than the classroom they were currently trapped in.

Artist and former teacher Janet Boulton has had her work shown all over the world and some of it features the very views that many of her young charges would have spent so long wistfully staring at while waiting for the bell to ring that would release them from captivity.

Boulton was born on a farm in Blunsdon in 1936 and attended St Catherine’s School for Girls in Bath Road from 1945 to 1953. It was while she was there as a 13 year old that boredom at school drove her to try drawing. A satisfying picture of a flower lit the spark of creativity in her and from that moment her course was set.

She studied at Swindon’s Intermediate School of Art for two years and then went to Camberwell’s famous School of Painting, which features designer Jeff Banks, illustrator Quentin Blake, director Mike Leigh and actor Tim Roth among its alumni.

It was here that Boulton began to develop her style and she was firmly set upon a career as an artist.

But it was difficult to become established and she was persuaded to teach part-time at the school then known as Hreod Burna (now Nova Hreod Academy) as well as at Commonweal and Swindon College.

Teaching allowed her time for her art and it also provided some inspiration. She captured the views from various windows at Hreod in watercolour. The school opened in 1966 and the vista to be seen from its windows has long since altered or vanished so her paintings are also a snapshot of a moment in time.

The painting featured here is called Physics Room Window and was created in 1974. Typically, it features an attractive landscape of trees and bushes but it is kept just out of reach by the drab, utilitarian blinds that cut the viewer off from it, like bars on a prison window.

The paintings formed part of a solo exhibition, called Windows and Reflections, at Swindon Art Museum and Gallery in 1977. That same year she moved to her home in Abingdon where she created a studio.

Her new base was the springboard for her career and her reputation to extend across the world. She became known for her ability to capture the delicate beauty of nature in her gentle, almost dreamlike visions of plants and everyday objects.

Later she began to experiment with paper relief work. Using colours and textures to bring her works to life.

That appreciation of natural beauty also manifested itself in a love of gardens. Her fascination with harnessing nature’s wonder within a carefully constructed garden led her to becoming an artist in residence at Ian Hamilton Finlay’s world-renowned Little Sparta garden and retreat near Edinburgh.

She returned further inspired and created her own stunning garden in Abingdon.

Boulton’s work can be seen once again in Swindon after a break of 40 years. She is the subject of an exhibition at Swindon Museum and Gallery until January 20. The exhibition, called A Seeming Diversity, features her watercolours and pulpwork. This painting was acquired in 2017 by Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, through the Creative Wiltshire project. This is an ongoing scheme to help Wiltshire museums acquire work by Wiltshire artists and creatives which is generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It is a fitting celebration of a creative life that shows no sign of slowing down. It should also be an inspiration to any child who finds themselves staring out of a classroom window.

n You can find out more about Swindon’s story at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm.

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