In memory of Rosalind Hudson

This model of Dulwich Picture Gallery, made by the late Rosalind Hudson (née Latham 31 July 1926 – 7 July 2013) in 2000, is now on display with its new specially commissioned plinth in the main entrance to the Gallery.

It shows the Gallery building as it was completed by the architect Sir John Soane (1753 – 1837) in 1814 (Fig.1). Hudson’s architectural model is interesting because it allows visitors to visualize in small scale the elegant simplicity of Soane’s original design and provides a glimpse of what the Gallery building would have looked like when it was first built, before its nineteenth and twentieth-century additions.

Rosalind Hudson Model of Dulwich Picture Gallery in 1814, 2000 (Fig. 1 )

Soane’s design for Dulwich was quite innovative. As the model shows it consisted of plan made up of a cube and double cube aligned to form a suite of rooms, known as an enfilade. To maximise the provision of natural light, Soane designed a series of clever octagonal skylights (first designed to be circular), and to create a more utilitarian, functional yet solemn interior, he eliminated the common elements of classical architecture, such as a frieze and entablature, and supported the vaulted ceilings directly on the walls. The building was not exclusively conceived as a gallery but much like today it was a multi-functional space: as well as having a suite of galleries in which to display works of art, it included alms houses for old women (today the temporary exhibitions Galleries VI to IX) and a mausoleum where the remains of the Gallery’s three founding patrons (Sir Peter Francois Bourgeois, his mentor Noël Desenfans and his wife Margaret Desenfans) were to put to rest.

The Gallery building at Dulwich has become one of the most admired examples of Soane’s peculiar and eclectic architectural style. However the rather severe, restrained and unconventional style of the executed building was not so much in the architect’s mind when he first came to design the Gallery. One of Soane’s desings, an elevation of the Gallery circa 1823 drawn by his life-long collaborator John Michael Gandy now in the collection at Dulwich (Fig. 2) shows that Soane had aspirations for a grander structure. But the architect had to adjust to strict and tight budgetary restrictions. Dulwich College, who were partly financing the project, in conjunction with the funds provided by Sir Francis Peter Bourgeois in his will in 1811 (£2000 plus £1000 for the mausoleum) and Margaret Desenfans’ £4000 donation a few months later, stipulated that Soane’s ‘estimate be not exceeded and that the work be done to according to the estimate; so that we may be justified by having some assurance in writing’. In order to reduce his budget to a minimum, Soane had to make a series of compromises and quickly abandoned ideas for a grander building. By eliminating all traces of classically inspired Jacobean elements, captured in early designs for the Gallery, Soane managed to reduce his estimate from £11800 to £11270. The west façade with a thirteen-bay arcade was executed in low relief and not as a covered loggia. Soane’s decision to use brick – much criticised at the time – instead of more luxurious materials such as marble and stone which were perceived as more appropriate for a building dedicated to the arts, was due to the fact that brick was a more economical but nonetheless durable alternative.

John Michael Gandy, Elevation of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, c 1820, watercolour on paper, 24.1 x 71.1 cm (Fig. 2)

Rosalind Hudson’s model reflects the particular aesthetic of Soane’s design for Dulwich Picture Gallery which was shaped by the project’s special circumstances.  Yet it turned out to be one of John Soane’s masterpieces.

Hudson, who passed away on 7 July this year, took up model making as a hobby with a particular focus on reproducing buildings from the Georgian period. This model of Dulwich Picture Gallery was completed in 2000 and it now stands on the oak plinth designed by the furniture maker Jeff Segal which was generously presented to the Gallery in 2013, thanks to a project financed by Dulwich Storage Company.

 Ian A C Dejardin remembering Rosalind Hudson

Ian A C Dejardin, Sackler Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery

Rosalind Hudson

I was sad to read of the death of Rosalind Hudson in July, aged 86. Rosalind was the lady who made the meticulous and beautiful model of Dulwich Picture Gallery as it was originally built that now stands in the Mary Weston Entrance Hall. I have a vivid memory of her. Kate Knowles, then Head of Publicity at the Gallery, and I (then Curator) had been tasked with finding a model maker, and it was a struggle. We had received some eye-watering quotes for the work, which we simply didn’t have the means to accept. Then Kate, I don’t know how, found Rosalind. We went to visit her. I remember a small, bird-like lady, completely delightful, in a farmhouse near Bath, who simply buzzed with enthusiasm for the task. She wouldn’t hear of being paid; she did models simply for the love of it; she was just thrilled to be offered the chance to do it. But she was no dilettante – the model, when we finally saw it, was and remains exquisite in its detail and craftsmanship, and correct down to the last drainpipe. I remember shining a torch in the windows of one of the almshouses (now Gallery 6) and seeing, to my utter disbelief, that Rosalind had even included the fireplace inside the room. We had to beg her to accept any payment for it; in the end I think we just wrote a cheque (for a fraction of what the ‘professional’ model-makers would have charged us) and sent it, fingers crossed.

I have often wondered what her background was, and whether she was still there, still making models. Reading her obituary was therefore a revelation. She worked at Bletchley Park under Alan Turing in Hut 8, one of the code-cracking team to whom we owe so much, and that makes perfect sense – the focus, the eye for detail, the patience, the absolute determination to get it right: I vividly remember the messages I used to receive from Rosalind asking me to check some tiny detail on the building, and Kate recalled her happily clambering over the actual roof of the Gallery (in her late seventies!).

So –it turns out we owe Rosalind Hudson for rather more than just her model; but it continues to give pleasure in its position of honour, and is one of our education department’s most valuable tools. I am particularly pleased that we have recently been able to provide a beautiful stand designed and made especially for it by Jeff Segal.

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