Jonathan Myles-Lea, Painter


Jonathan Myles-Lea was born in the English Lake District on January 23 rd 1969. He was educated at Malvern College in Worcestershire and gained his Honours Degree in 'The History of Art & Architecture' from The University of London in 1991.

After working for a time in Arts Broadcasting in London, Myles-Lea assisted a friend for a year in the restoration of two historic buildings in the British countryside. Bettisfield Park, in Shropshire, a Classical house built by Sir James Wyatt in 1760, and Plas Teg a romantic Jacobean mansion in Wales, which was designed by Sir Robert Smythson in 1610. This experience enabled him to become intimate with the structure of historic buildings, their landscapes and their decoration. At Bettisfield, he re-created the original gardens and replanted the parkland using surviving plans from the 18th century.

Whilst living at Plas Teg in 1992, Myles-Lea created a landscape painting which was to launch his career as a professional artist.

Whilst living at Plas Teg in 1992, Myles-Lea created a landscape painting which was to launch his career as a professional artist.

Publicity that he received in 'Country Life Magazine' in 1993 led to commissions all over England. Within months he was receiving requests to paint views of country houses ranging from modest manors to large estates.

In 1995, the eminent writer and garden designer Sir Roy Strong asked Jonathan to produce a painting of his garden 'The Laskett' (below) which he had created over twenty years with his wife, the designer Julia Trevelyan Oman. The picture celebrates Sir Roy's lifetime of achievements in the arts.

With this painting Jonathan established a way of depicting gardens from the air, taking his inspiration from the paintings of the Medici's Villas in Italy and Dutch topographical artists of the 17th century.

Jonathan devised a completely new formula for presenting a combination of plan and elevation in the same image, which Sir Roy Strong describes as “Absolutely unique!”

The painting of The Laskett also saw the introduction of what was to become something of a ‘signature' for the artist – cartouches , which contain scenes from the garden during different seasons and at different times of the day. These cartouches, in combination with the key, which runs around the border of the image, made it possible for the artist to include a huge amount of detailed information about the garden.

It was this radically new approach, developed by Myles-Lea in 1995, which proved to be so useful in his future paintings of gardens and country estates.

In 1996 Jonathan was asked by Simon and Victoria Leatham to paint a series of views of Burghley House ( in Lincolnshire. Burghley is one of Britain's great 'Treasure Houses', a true “Palace of the Arts”. It was built in the late 16th century by Sir William Cecil, 1st Lord Burghley, Secretary to Queen Elizabeth I. The building looks like a city in its own right, its roofline bristling with towers and a church-like spire. It stands within its famous park, landscaped by 'Capability' Brown, and contains the largest private collection of Italian art in Britain .

Jonathan produced two paintings of the house. The view from the west includes a survey of the roof, with its chimneys disguised as clustered classical columns, and the octagonal banqueting-houses. It also permits a glimpse into the courtyard, with its pyramid-topped clock tower.

Beginning in 1997, Myles-Lea was commissioned to create painted views and line drawings of several properties owned by The National Trust in Great Britain.

Hanbury Hall, was exhibited in 'Artists in Paradise - Celebrating the heritage of parks and gardens in Herefordshire and Worcestershire' at the Hall in October 1997. The painting now hangs on public display at the property. It celebrates The Trust's astonishing restoration of the early 18th century formal garden.

Myles-Lea then made an extensive map for The National Trust of Cliveden, Buckinghamshire, one of the great country houses of Britain, designed by Charles Barry occupying a sensational position overlooking the River Thames. It was home to three generations of the Astor family until 1966.

In 1995, Jonathan also created a map of Stowe Landscape Gardens. For this project he evoked the style of an'18th century engraving, with box-views around the margins. Stowe has been dubbed 'the largest work of art in England' and is one of the first and finest landscape gardens in Europe. Its green valleys and vistas are set with lakes, monuments and temples. It was created throughout the 18th century by some of Britain's greatest designers and architects. Myles-Lea was commissioned to create the map to celebrate the end of an ambitious two-year restoration by The National Trust.

In 1997, Jonathan Myles-Lea was awarded the title of Living National Treasure by the editors of Country Life Magazine. The original idea for the award came from Japan where each Spring the government publishes a form of honours list of men and women working in traditional arts and crafts who are seen to be preserving an important section of the country's cultural heritage.

Also in 1997 Myles-Lea's paintings were included in the Sotheby's Exhibition: 'The Artist & the Country House - From the Fifteenth Century to the Present Day', where he was presented to HRH The Prince of Wales.

BBC Radio 4's programme 'Growing Spaces' featured Jonathan Myles-Lea in 1997. It took the form of a 'fly on the wall' documentary following the artist as he made drawings of gardens from the roof of Burghley House and it also included interviews with some of his clients.

The award-winning garden designer Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd commissioned Myles-Lea to create a large painting of her garden in Cumbria, Gresgarth, in Lancashire. In this picture, the artist included roundels depicting features which lie outside the area chosen for the composition. One of these shows a 'mock-ruin' which featured in one of Lady Arabella's designs for the Chelsea Flower Show. After it won its gold medal it was transported to the north of England stone by stone.

In 1998, Myles-Lea began to receive commissions from further afield. Patricia van Roosmalen, owner of the 'Hof van Roosmalen' (link to Roosmalen page in Gallery) near Maastricht in Belgium asked Myles-Lea to paint what she described as her 'momento mori'. She has created a formal garden with various 'rooms' in the English-style since the 1970s. The garden is open to visitors and has had great stylistic influence in the southern Netherlands. It has appeared in many of Sir Roy Strong’s garden design books.

The garden designer, author and broadcaster Ineke Greve commissioned a painting of her garden Huys de Dohm near Heerlen, in southern Holland also in1998. Myles-Lea's picture of the Huys de Dohm is a composite image using his signature approach, incorporating the 'cartouches', which here are decorated with a variety of birds, insects and flowers.

In 1999 Myles-Lea produced a painting of Kasteel Wylre in Holland. This moated castle was built in 1652 and is now home to the art collector Jo Eyck.

The castle and grounds house a large collection of contemporary work from internationally renowned artists from Europe and the USA (Carl Andre, Ad Dekkers, Donald Judd, Richard Long, Juan Munoz, Giuseppe Penone, Peter Struycken and many more). Some of these works appear in Myles-Lea's painting.

Jonathan Myles-Lea began the new Millennium with a commission to paint a house in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. This was the artist's first transatlantic commission. This beautiful house, in Church Street, in the old centre of Charleston, is a typical example of a single-pile Antebellum home from the 18th Century. The house stands end-on to the street and has a long garden plot with formal features in the 'English Style'.

Also in the year 2000, Sir Anthony & Lady Bamford asked Myles-Lea to create a topographical survey of their Gloucestershire estate; Daylesford House. Sir Anthony's company, 'JCB' was established by his father in 1943 and now operates in over 150 countries.

Built between 1788-1798 Daylesford House has claim to be the first house to display the Picturesque Anglo-Indian style of the late 18th Century; a style which ultimately led to the Regent's Pavilion at Brighton. The architect was S P Cockerell. Created by the 1st Governor of Bengal, Sir Warren Hastings, the house was filled with rich oriental fabrics and exquisite furniture. It was the embodiment of Regency fascination with picturesque exotica.

Sir Anthony and Lady Bamford, inspired by the work of Warren Hastings, have instituted extensive works of restoration and research to return Daylesford to the splendour and comfort of its prime. The garden is full of fascinating incidents, including a Gothick Orangery, and elaborate kitchen garden with an orchid house and a magical ' Secret Garden '.

Myles-Lea's aerial view shows the entire garden. The cartouches display the three main facades of the house, each of which has a completely different character.

Jonathan also painted Wootton Lodge in Staffordshire for Lord & Lady Bamford. Wootton was begun in 1607 and is the serene swan song of the great architect Robert Smythson (who also built Plas Teg).

In 2001 Jonathan painted Wartnaby House in Leicestershire. He was commissioned by Lord and Lady King. (Lord King was the Chairman of British Airways from 1993-1997.) The garden is seen in plan and the house and other buildings in elevation.

The same approach to perspective can be seen in his painting of An English Garden in Cologne, Germany which he created for Udo and Kristin Lammerting in 2002. The garden was created in just seven years, and was inspired by various English gardens such as Sissinghurst in Kent.

As a break from his customary plan-type representation of a house and its garden, Jonathan created a triptych of Daneway House (link to Daneway in Gallery) near Cirencester in Gloucestershire. The house lies in a wooded valley and owes its name to the passage of the Danes down the valley in 894, racing to rescue their ships which had been detained by King Alfred. The earliest part of the Hall goes back to the late 13th century.

Daneway is one of the oldest houses in Gloucestershire. Its owners are seen sitting, rather like the donors in Italian Renaissance paintings on either side of a Palladian window. The picture is painted in extraordinary detail on panel and includes inscriptions of many types - on the window panes, the walls and the woodwork. The triptych is an intimate creation whose allusions have private meanings to its owners. The heavy side panels are also doors, which swing closed on ancient bronze hinges, as in ancient triptychs.

Early in 2004, Myles-Lea painted a pair of oil portraits of Bedford House Westchester, on the East Coast of the United States.

Jonathan Myles-Lea is currently based in London, Cannes and New York. He is working on sketches for another architectural commission in the UK whilst also devoting more time to another of his passions - painting profile portraits of people.