Now and Then

A 2023 commission to create a public art installation for the columns of Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham. This large-scale installation used the six columns as a canvas of expression to both introduce visitors to the newly launched culture aims for the site, and for the artist to explore the history and tradition of the original architectural style that Wentworth House is based.

Patrick used bold colours and patterns to challenge people’s perceptions relating to how an ‘heritage’ property can be used in the 21st Century and also to create discussion around how colour and pattern were employed throughout history.


Commission: Wentworth Woodhouse
Place: Rotherham
Year: 2023

Wentworth Woodhouse’s impressive façade is the longest in Europe

Patrick’s designs for the columns

You can see in the images below that the Wentworth Woodhouse portico design is based on classical Greek and Roman styles of architecture (architect Inigo Jones introduced the portico to Britain, it was used widely between 1630 to 1850). During this period the political and economic power of this country shifted to an aristocratic oligarchy fuelled by the Industrial Revolution. Britain’s empire was seen as heir to Rome’s; this confidence visually fused Greek and Roman temple and villa designs as a model for the oligarchy’s power base, the porticoed country house. If you’ve got it flaunt it baby!

Reconstruction of the facade of the Parthenon, 1841, by Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885).

Archaeology and politics combined looking to Rome’s Pantheon and the Parthenon in Greece to provide the blueprints to showcase Britain’s wealth. Indeed Wentworth Woodhouse contains examples of Roman statues within its collection. However this archaeology from this period was unaware of the importance that colour had played to the ancients. The idea that colour is garish, or that the ancients disdained bright colour is the most common misconception or lie still promoted in Western aesthetics and Western art. The Parthenon would have been painted in bright colours (see images above and below). The roman busts and statues would have actually been painted in bright colours and patterns not left in plain marble.

Paint would be applied directly to bronze or marble, as depicted in this recreation of the Prima Porta statue of Augustus (Credit: Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology, Oxford.)

Some statues were ornamented with garments, such as this cuirasse (Credit: Fine Art Museums of San Francisco)

Trojan archer (490-480 B.C.) original (left) restoration (right). Image Alamy/Big Think

Interior view of Durham Cathedral (built 1093–1133) showing decorated piers, the triforium and clerestory in the nave. © Historic England Archive. John Gay Collection

Conwy Castle (built by Edward I, during his conquest of Wales, between 1283 and 1287)

The above images of Durham Cathedral and Conwy Castle help illustrate how pattern and colour played an important part in everyday life. The walls of what are now historic buildings would have been covered in colours and patterns. It was the Reformation (circa 1536) that started one of the greatest destructions of art at any time, anywhere in the world. Churches, Cathedrals and Monasteries and other public buildings were stripped of ornate religious paintings and sculptures, books, wall coverings and ornate glass amongst many other features in preference of bare walls and so the practice of whitewashing church interiors began. This obliteration of our visual history and art of the past either by concerted effort as in the Reformation or by simple weathering and aging of ancient treasures can be seen to have impacted subsequent generations’ ‘taste’ and appreciation of colour in our culture, especially when connected to historical buildings.

It seems this appreciation of colour and indeed our own tastes have continued to be literally whitewashed over the last millennium.