Andrea Jameson and her sisters — all three of them artists — grew up in a period house with a walled garden on the Blackwater where there’s no shortage of inspiration for their work
‘To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” said the talented and wise Audrey Hepburn and now, more than ever, we need to believe in the future.
A more literary person, the Roman philosopher Cicero said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need”.
Andrea Jameson has both and they are very important to her, as is working on her garden. However, she couldn’t be without her paints and brushes to capture the glory of her garden and, indeed, other beautiful gardens nationwide — she is one of four artists specially commissioned to take part in the Irish Georgian Society’s current exhibition of paintings of Irish walled gardens at City Assembly House, Dublin 2.
As her contribution to the exhibition, Andrea painted seven walled gardens, including those of Lismore Castle, Cappoquin House and the Dower House at Rossanagh in Wicklow. Her paintings, which number 12 in total, also feature the Victorian walled garden at her own home; she and her sisters, Kristin and Tara, own Tourin, a magnificent 18th-century house on the banks of the Blackwater which is surrounded by 15 acres of gardens, including the walled garden.
The women, who are all artists, grew up in the spacious, elegant country house, just outside Cappoquin, Co Waterford, which has been in their family for centuries. “The original dwelling place was the Tower House, built in 1560. There was a series of those tower houses strategically built, from the sea in Youghal right inland, to signal to each other if there was trouble on the river. Our family, the Musgraves, bought it in the 1780s and they built a house onto it; there were no planning officers in those days,” Andrea says, laughing. Fifty years later, the family took some of the cut stone from the tower and, with it, built a new house in 1840, the wonderful house that stands on the grounds today.
Andrea’s grandmother, Joan Musgrave, married Thomas Jameson of the Irish whiskey company and, in his turn, Andrea’s father, Shane Jameson, inherited Tourin. Her mother, Didi, was Norwegian. “Our parents met when he went on a golfing trip to Norway. They were both quite young, and they were very happily married. She absolutely loved Ireland and the Irish but she did get homesick so she went back every year and we went with her — so we’re bilingual,” she says. Her mother’s family had a holiday » » home on an island in southern Norway where the whole extended family went every summer. “It was heavenly. You’d have to go fishing for your supper. It was a summer community of cousins and aunts and uncles.”
Tourin in on 360 acres and her
parents farmed the land, while her father also served as an outside director of Irish Distillers. “Actually, the agreement among all the different distilleries to unite under one name was signed in this house in 1968,” Andrea says, adding that the farm was the main source of income for the family. “There were tough times after the war; it was hard work for both my parents to keep the place going. The vegetable garden was a huge thing, They sold vegetables which went by train to Dublin from Cappoquin. And we were all involved in the work, potting, repotting, planting. We grew everything from seed.” Didi was very proud of her potatoes and used to bring a bag to Norway every summer.
Some parts of the work were tedious — apparently carrots are particularly fiddly to grow — but it was an idyllic childhood in many ways. “It was very much an outdoor life. We had chickens and ducks and pigs and ponies, shaggy little things that went backwards more than forwards,” Andrea says. And of course for wet days, there was plenty of space to roam inside the house. The wide staircase was a favourite play area for the girls when they were very small. “We used to slide down those bannisters. There’s a crack in one of the bannisters where you’d always tear your clothes. You learned how to tighten your tummy muscles as you came to it.”
Andrea and her sisters boarded at Newtown in Waterford and afterwards all three went on to study painting; art was always highly regarded in their home. “My grandmother, Joan Jameson, was an artist. She was friendly with Norah McGuinness and Mainie Jellett and, in fact, she exhibited in a joint exhibition with the British artist Augustus John.” She adds: “We grew up with her art all around us. And my mother was very artistic, very clever with colour. She encouraged us, and my father, too — he understood the need to paint and what painting was about; he was always the best to go to with a problem, even with a painting.”
Andrea studied first in Florence
where she stayed with a wonderful family who have continued to be lifelong friends. “Kristin went first and I joined her. I studied with Signorina [Nerina] Simi initially and then with Maestro Giovanni Colacicchi, a very well-known artist in Italy, and I stayed there for quite a number of years. I came and went. I used to come home and help with the harvest, and picking the potatoes. When there was a panic on, we always came back.”
Afterwards, she went to Switzerland to take exams so that she could get into an art school in London and she did a foundation year with the City & Guilds in London. “And then my father said, ‘Come back; enough’. I was always painting, I loved it.”
Andrea firmly committed to art as a way of life after she got the opportunity to have a solo exhibition with the Wellesley Ashe Gallery in Dublin. And almost from the beginning of her career, she has also taught art. While Kristen does mainly woodcuts and Tara specialises in botanical art, Andrea’s delightful works — in charcoal, oils and pastels — are mainly about landscape and gardens.
She lived in Dublin for some years but came back to live in Tourin 20 years ago when her mother became ill, and stayed on after she died. “I’ve been based here but I’ve always travelled. I got commissions all over the world, — New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Painting will take you everywhere; you can take your box of paints and brushes anywhere.”
The three sisters come and go, and between them, they look after the house. “Our parents restored it after they took over. My mother hated the damp Irish weather so she brought over her own wood-burning stove from Norway before anyone here was using them and installed it in the original mantelpiece.”
She also took out all the original windows and put in double-glazed PVC windows but fortunately she kept the originals stored in the shed and Andrea and her sisters reinstalled them when they took over.
Didi also had the rooms painted in brighter colours. “After they restored it, my father insisted on doing some work every year, one room at a time, so we took it over in very good repair and we try to tick it over. We’ve just had the painter in and he painted the whole house, all three storeys. He did a wonderful job.”
The ground floor consists of a
large living room, a sitting room which opens onto the garden, a dining room and a wonderful, light-filled hallway. There’s a kitchen at this level too and various boot rooms and pantries. Upstairs are Kristen’s and Andrea’s bedrooms and that of Tara, who lives in Kerry but spends a lot of time at Tourin. Andrea also has a book-lined art studio on the upstairs level. The bookcases are full of art books containing the work of artists Andrea admires.
“Books are a big thing in my life, I always want to learn,” she says and her various works-in-progress are stacked against the wall, while there is always something on her easel. “Most paintings I start outside and finish in the studio. Whenever possible, I’m outside painting.”
And outside, in the garden, there is ample inspiration.
The original garden was laid out at the same time the house was built and successive generations made their mark including Didi, a passionate plantswoman who added enormously to the wealth of colour and vibrancy already on show. “Her family in Norway had wonderful gardens and she brought that love of gardening here. She really enjoyed being able to grow camellias, magnolias and azaleas here, plants that wouldn’t have thrived in the Norwegian climate.” Andrea adds that she also planted a collection of large trees — species that wouldn’t have been easily found at the time — which have really enriched the garden.
The sisters have continued the
work. Giving credit where it’s due, Andrea says Kristin did most of the work, and got it fit for opening to the public. Both Andrea and Kristin restored the rock garden and pond their grandfather had built. And Tara looks after the planting of the walled garden.
There’s also a meadow, a beech walk, and even a fairyland walk. So there is no shortage of subjects for Andrea to paint. “Painting is an extension of my life. I think and dream about it all the time. And I’m so lucky, I can just paint what’s all around me.”
The Irish Georgian Society presents Stepping Through the Gate: Inside Ireland’s Walled Gardens, Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, until November 26, 2021 at City Assembly House, D2. See tourin.ie and andreajameson.com