Sketch Celebrates 200 Years of The National Gallery

To commemorate the National Gallery’s bicentenary, sketch – the renowned ‘destination for experimentation’ and iconic Grade ll* listed building that once housed the esteemed Royal Institute of British Architects and the London atelier of Christian Dior – presents the highly anticipated tenth edition of ‘sketch in Bloom’. This immersive floral exhibition celebrates the 200th anniversary of the National Gallery.

From 1 to 27 May 2024, sketch will transform its grand neoclassical spaces into a blooming homage to seminal artists from the National Gallery’s collection. The exhibition pays tribute to iconic masters such as Alfred Sisley, JMW Turner and Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder through large-scale floral centrepieces, textured hangings, and reimagined botanical beings. Visitors can revel in Sisley-esque pastoral landscapes amid hills of colourful blooms, gaze upon an abstract floral ceiling piece drawing from Turner’s dynamic seascape or encounter extraordinary ‘Plant Beings’ embodying Bosschaert’s still life composition. Additional highlights include a ‘living portrait’ photo opportunity to honour Edouard Manet and his muse Eva Gonzalès, as well as bespoke workshops guided by Central Saint Martins-trained artist Tony Green.

Reception – Rebel Rebel
From the moment guests step foot in the door, they will be whisked away into a world of blooms and greenery, evocative of The National Gallery’s own arched corridors, adorned with treasures from across the ages. Here in the Entrance Hall and Reception, creative florists Rebel Rebel present their installation. Guiding the eyeline through the stately hall, lined with botanical Liberty print wallpaper, is the image of the iconic Whistlejacket by esteemed equestrian artist Sir George Stubbs, woven into the corridor’s plush carpet underfoot and repeated along the corridor like an Eadweard Muybridge. To the right, 15 exquisite prints showcasing British-inspired paintings, captured by master’s at The National Gallery. To the left, three still life arrangements incorporating ceramics by artisans Annalea Clelia, Dimitris Papailias and Trisha Filor, crafted with blooms in the esteemed tradition of Britain’s Old Masters. These arrangements will be created each week, meaning that over the course of the month, different flowers – mostly British, many grown from Rebel Rebel’s own cutting garden in Norfolk – will be presented at their best in the season. The British lilacs, mock orange and lily of the valley will give way to the blowsy ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peonies and cherry blossoms, and then finally to the first garden roses and yellow jasmine.

Rebel Rebel’s reception area installation is also a life-size recreation of Edouard Manet’s portrait of muse and painter Eva Gonzalès – comprising a half-finished canvas of a flower painting, and a chair for the artist. Enclosing the scene is a very large gold picture frame, suspended from the ceiling, which visitors can step through to become part of the painting.

The Lecture Room & Library *** – Lucy Vail Floristry
In the Lecture Room and Library can be found Lucy Vail’s ‘Pastoral Inspiration’. This captivating installation serves as a poignant tribute to ‘the forgotten impressionist’ Alfred Sisley’s influence on English heritage and his love for the British landscape. A reimagining of his painting The Small Meadows in Spring, the centrepiece promises to immerse visitors in the essence of his pastoral landscapes. Sisley’s works are symbolic of the quintessential English landscape, characterised by its lush greenery, tranquil rivers, and idyllic villages. Working with resin for the first time, the team at Lucy Vail showcase delicate pressed flowers and foliage, preserved within the resin, creating panels of between one and two metres tall, meticulously arranged in the centre of the room to imitate standing stones and to evoke English stone circles. The rolling hills are echoed in the colourful dried flowers and fresh plants beneath. This enchantingly tranquil centrepiece not only pays homage to Sisley’s artistic legacy but also demonstrates Lucy Vail’s passion for circular floristry and for extending the lifecycle of flowers, as the dried petals featuring in the resin panels have been repurposed from other projects and events, preserved for reuse.

The Glade – JamJar Flowers
‘A Vision Under Vine’ by JamJar Flowers will be a stunning, dreamlike installation in The Glade, inspired by the drama of light, colour and movement in JMW Turner’s masterpiece Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus, one of the National Gallery’s treasures. Draped across The Glade’s lofty ceiling with intricately knotted ropes and sumptuous textiles, the installation extracts elements and translates them into an ethereal work, incorporating botanical materials including flax fibres, honeysuckle, bog myrtle, bear and elephant grass, reeds, willow, and grasses artfully arranged to form dreamlike drifts echoing the waves and sails from the mythological scene. For the first time, JamJar is working with fabric installation artist Mia Sylvia, who works with botanical dyes which she makes herself from foraged flowers, food waste like onion skins and avocado pips and spices. Carving out the shape of the base of the piece with large swathes of material, she creates the impression of sails buffeted and billowing by the wind. Airy whips of soft blue-grey limonium will soften the edges of the piece, suggesting clouds merging back into the ravishing decoupage walls. Turner’s inclusion pays tribute to his enduring impact and contributions to this nation’s rich artistic legacy – a vision indeed worthy of celebration.

The East Bar & Pods – Yan Skates
Finally, award-winning artist and floral designer Yan Skates brings people and paintings together with his ‘Plant Beings’ taking up residency amidst the iconic Pod Loos, in an installation curated by Artistic Statements. Taking inspiration from The National Gallery’s A Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase by Dutch Master Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, ‘Plant Beings’ are a whimsical celebration of the famous painting – in human form. As if the painting itself has walked off from the canvas – these beings embody the rich colours, the exotic composition, and wild floral combinations of the famous Dutch Masters painting. At sketch, these same flowers create the shape of a person, so that you become the art, the art is you. These playful characters, let loose from the confines of their frame are at home at sketch – known for its bold championing of quirky ‘Englishness’ and daring contemporary art. And yet, while on the surface a leap from the original painting, they also convey much of its message, including mortality and spirituality. In the human-formed floral arrangements exist important themes of love, loss, food, decay, life, and death.

A key activity in the NG200 programme is the ‘Art Road Trip’, encouraging the community to engage with the National Gallery’s collection through a series of workshops. sketch will hold workshops which are set to captivate attendees at the upcoming Flower Show, both drawing inspiration from the florals and artwork from around the building. On 13 May, a Floral Tote Bag Workshop will be led by Tony Green, a central Saint Martins-trained artist, in which participants can design and style a floral tote bag taking inspiration from Rebel Rebel Flower arrangements. A further floral arrangement workshop in May will involve Yan Skates working with guests to create bespoke arrangements, alongside discussing his artistic process for creating the Plant Beings.

‘sketch in Bloom’ is inspired by the National Gallery’s NG200 initiative, marking two centuries of the institution. By showcasing floral interpretations of iconic artworks within its historic setting, the exhibition aims to immerse audiences in Britain’s rich artistic legacy and celebrate the cultural impact of its most renowned artists. sketch Gallery also aims to engage local communities through daily talks and floral workshops that explore the creative process. Playing its part in the National Gallery’s momentous bicentenary celebrations this spring, this innovative exhibition promises to transport visitors through a world of blooms, uniting people, art, nature, and Britain’s cultural heritage.

“Working with Sketch over the past 7 years has been the most creative and enjoyable relationship in our career. We love how we have been allowed to spread the wings of our imagination and encouraged to step far away from conventional floristry on many projects over the years. ..There is nowhere like it and we are delighted to be back to celebrate the glorious month of May at Sketch with our representation of Turner’s painting to celebrate the bicentenary of The National Gallery.” Melissa Richardson of JamJar

“We’re delighted to be working with Sketch again and very excited about the theme for this year’s install. The National Gallery is a testament to Western art, and we get to remake some of its bounty in real flowers, couldn’t be more fun.” Athena Duncan of Rebel Rebel

“Participating within Sketch’s Mayfair in Bloom exhibition is a dream come true! We have long admired their celebration of all things flowers and as floral designers it is such a joy to be given a theme so that celebrates two subjects we are incredibly passionate about: art history and the British landscape. As a company we are constantly mixing mediums to create otherworldly, immersive designs, and Sketch actively encourages that by holding the exhibition across a whole month. We love a challenge and are so excited to be given this opportunity to showcase another side of our work!” Lucy Vail